CLEARWATER - Six years is a long time in the minds of most people. But not outgoing Councilmember Bill Jonson, who has completed two 3-year terms of service to the City of Clearwater.
Time flies when you're having fun, as the saying goes, and that has been true of Jonson's City Council service. "It's been a lot of fun, "Jonson said, "and part of the fun has been learning about new things and serving the community."
Johnson is proud of the role he played in the Council's action to update the city's Vision statement, and having solicited public input as part of that process.
Jonson is also pleased with the Council's efforts to catch up with the maintenance of city's infrastructure during his two terms. "It's made such a difference," he said, "I think about Ft Harrison, Myrtle, North MLK, and the Mandalay Streetscape. The key thing that the city provides is infrastructure, and you just have to keep that up in good shape, otherwise the city looks like heck."
Jonson included support for neighborhoods in his election campaigns, and he is proud of his follow-through efforts. "When you think about it, the most important thing to Clearwater's citizens is having a nice street to live on, where their kids can play and they can be safe," he said; "What that has meant is you have reasonable code enforcement, you have traffic calming, you have the police come out and catch the speeders occasionally."
Jonson doesn't have many regrets. He wishes that the city could have done more for historic preservation, and points to the demise of the downtown Calvary Baptist Church Chapel as something that he wishes could have been avoided. And while he is not unhappy with the city's land development code as it now exists, he thinks that is has been mis-applied more than once, especially as it relates to applications that requested infill flexibility based on outstanding design.
Jonson was known for his ability to understand both sides of contentious issues, and to find outcomes that everyone could live with; a good example was the passage of the Island estates Neighborhood Overlay Conservation District (NCOD) several years ago. "I think that's the basic essence of a Councilmember's job," he said; "You do try to find a point where the majority rules without churning up the minority, and you want to serve the majority but not create too much of a burden on the minority. That applies to everything we do in the city."
He was also unafraid to delve into technical issues and take action for the benefit of Clearwater's citizens. Last year's Council action to put some teeth into the city's regulation of sound levels at Coachman Park concerts was a direct result of Jonson's study of audio propagation and his insistence that the city's then informal guidelines be replaced by a written Council Policy.
While he is stepping down from the dais, Johnson's activity level will not diminish. He remains involved with the Citizens for a Scenic Florida, and has just returned from a trip to Tallahassee to oppose pending billboard legislation. Jonson remains concerned with regional transportation issues, and hopes to be appointed to a citizens board where he can continue to have impact.
Jonson was non-committal about any interest he might have in running for elected office in the future, saying that he would wait until later this summer before considering it. While he did not rule out returning to the City Council after sitting out for a year, Jonson said, "It would be premature to be targeting something this far out."
But don't expect Jonson to remain out of the public spotlight. "I'm going to be looking for opportunities," he said, "I don't know what those opportunities might be."
The city will be saying farewell to Jonson during the April 4th City Council meeting. Members of the public are welcome to attend and express their gratitude for Jonson's six years of public service.