In Indian Rocks Beach, the times they are a-changing. And some of the faces, too, filling key commission chairs.
Very visible in this scenario is the man who now occupies the center seat on the dais, replacing one of the most popular political figures in Pinellas County.
Mayor Bob DiNicola has gone. Some thought -- with good reason -- he was destined to be mayor for life. But lifestyle changes intruded and he and Renie are now ensconced in The Villages, up there just south of Ocala.
The new face in that middle position on the dais -- but not new to Indian Rocks Beach or the commission is Bill Ockunzzi, now mayor-designate, but as of next Tuesday the mayor.
There's something different about Ockunzzi. The best way I can put it in my awkward way is that he is definitely not run of the mill.
He's been on the commission since 2003 where his demeanor, intelligence, preparedness, skill in dealing with subjects as they came along became obvious.
With his advent on the commission, things started to change in Indian Rocks Beach. Ockunzzi demurs on this, but significant items like restricting density and building heights and requiring super majorities on tax increases emerged in his time.
You get the impression that Ockunzzi is a consummate professional and a look at his background explains this.
A product of Kent State University in Ohio (he graduated the year of that National Guard troops shot at students protesting the Vietnam war), he soon found himself in Florida where he was working on the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council as a planner.
He took a master's degree at Univesity of South Florida in 1977 and served from 1981 to 1985 as executive director of the planning council.
That was followed by stints in private industry dealing in environmental planning, engineering services and architecture. Since 1992 Ockunzzi has directed his own consultant company, largely centered on environmental and land planning along with infrastucture and transportation planning.
This work exposed him to plenty of governmental operations and he was a familiar face in Tallahassee.
Obviously, Ockunzzi brought an impressive background to office when he became a commissioner in Indian Rocks Beach. His professional credentials make a long list.
While in the Indian Rocks Beach system of government the mayor has putatively no more power than any other commissioner, the role of mayor will put Ockunzzi into prominence in circles of his peers in the county.
One of his big aims for the city, is that more money flow back from the county to the cities along the beach, the raison d'etre for tourism. Take away those beaches and their attraction for vacationers and visiters and you take the guts out of Pinellas County.
Within the city itself, Ockunzzi says his main goal is to preserve the character of Indian Rocks Beach as a "small town." Consequently he wants new development to be small scale and mixed with appropriate architectural design that fits into the existing ambience of the city.
Because all of this is based on planning -- environmentally, architecturally, and in terms of development -- there couldn't be anyone with better credentials than Ockunzzi brings to the game.
And he believes in citizen involvement, a quality not lacking in Indian Rocks Beach. Ockunzzi has his ears tuned to that citizenry. The restrictions on development and taxes went to referendum and had heavy support from the voters.
Indian Rocks Beach lost an outstanding figure in DiNicola. Now comes Ockunzzi and the city will not suffer as it enters a crucial time of growth.
Ockunzzi and his wife, Jan, have two grown daughters.
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