Election Interest Starts to Get Traction in Largo As Arntzen Says She’s In
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO – Election heat is growing as it was learned this week that Commissioner Gigi Arntzen, along with colleagues Mayor Pat Gerard and Rodney Woods, will seek another term on the City Commission.
The election is more than 5 ½ months away, but already the lineups are forming, with former mayor Bob Jackson indicating he will oppose Gerard and Curtis Holmes lined up to challenge Woods.
Talk is that John Mandujano, who ran a losing race against Commissioner Harriet Crozier in 2007, may enter the race against Arntzen. In his campaign two years ago, one of Mandujano’s themes was to privatize the city’s solid waste collection and the golf course operation.
No one has officially or formally announced yet.
This would be the first test for Gerard as mayor. She defeated Jackson in 2006 in an election that raised some questions.
Jackson, who had spent more than 30 years of service on the commission, has remained a visible but quiet figure in the city and has not publicly criticized Gerard. He has appeared from time to time at commission meetings to speak at Citizen Comment, usually on a citywide issue.
Holmes is regularly seen at commission meetings and follows city developments closely, seldom criticizing individual officials or staff members, but zeroing in on spending and spending priorities.
He did that as recently as last week when he pointed out that spending $235,000 to demolish the present clock tower area on the southwest corner of Bay Drive and Seminole Boulevard was an unneeded expense and put “cosmetics before public safety.”
What he was referring to is the city’s lackadaisical action on sidewalks, sadly lacking in many areas of the city. Sidewalks is one of those things much talked about for years but on which little is done.
“All you’re talking about is tearing up about 30 yards of concrete, hauling it away and doing some plantings. There is no plumbing, no electrical stuff. The public works department could do it very inexpensively,” Holmes told the commission last week.
Arntzen said that she had planned to announce her intention about June 1, but the cat got out of the bag on Monday.
“It will be only for one more term,” she said. “I don’t intend to make this a lifelong venture – and I intend to let folks know that. Perhaps someone could start now to prepare themselves – assuming I am re-elected – for my seat. I’d like to see a qualified person take over,” Arntzen said, emphasizing the word “qualified.”
One of the drawbacks in the small towns and cities is that some people – who are well meaning – get elected but have no idea of how governments work, the relationships with county and state government and lack the broad experience necessary to make prudent decisions.
Too often, a person seeks office – and gets it – and has something like his or her hobbyhorse to get into law (witness Woods and the Martin Luther King foofoofurrah).
One happening at last week’s meeting was very curious. The meeting chamber was full, chiefly with the families of those fire officers who were being promoted.
When that was done, Gerard, in effect, urged everyone to leave the chamber.
“As an elected official, I thought she would be more likely to encourage people – especially the kids – to stay and see their government in action. That was very weird,” a former elected official, who asked not to be identified, said.
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