Six Qualify for Clearwater Election
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - Clearwater's citizens are getting a Christmas present that hasn't been seen for years, an opportunity to elect two City Council members in next year's municipal election.
In a flurry of activity last week, six candidates qualified to run for the two seats that will be up for grabs in March, four for Seat 4, the seat being vacated by term-limited Carlen Petersen, and two for Seat 5, currently occupied by Paul Gibson.
The Seat 4 race pits former Councilmember Bill Jonson against three political newcomers, Herb Quintero, Joe Paige and Wayne Carothers. Incumbent Paul Gibson will face Mike Riordon in the Seat 5 contest.
Seat 4 Candidates
Bill Jonson, a 64-year old Countryside resident, is well known by Clearwater residents as a 2-term City Council member who always did his homework and was full of questions for city staff.
Asked why he decided to again seek elected office, Jonson said, "I've been very blessed in my life and a lot of folks have invested in me. I'm at a point in my life that I can continue to give some of that back. It's a lot of fun and I get a chance to work with a lot of fantastic people." He also takes a long-term view of what's best for Clearwater's future; "I have 3 grandchildren and I'd like for them to choose to live in this area 20 years from now," he said.
A retired 30-year employee of Honeywell, Jonson would take a business-like approach to city operations. He wants to initiate a continuous improvement process in Clearwater, improving efficiency. "The city should function as if we had a competitor," he said, "Are we providing the best service for the least cost and doing what the citizens really want?"
Jonson also wants to work on improving Clearwater's economy, and not just the city's tourism industry. "I want to attract other businesses to the area, including technology and clean industries that will provide jobs that will make our kids want to stay here as they establish their careers."
Jonson said that he has been gratified by the response to his candidacy; "The public has a lot of trust in me and they are looking forward to me being back on the Council again."
North Clearwater resident Joe Paige, 52, is familiar to many Clearwater voters from his involvement in the city's budget hearings for the last several years. Paige is hopeful that he'll be participating from the other side of the dais next year.
"I feel that the city is on the wrong fiscal path," Paige said describing why he decided to run; "we need to get our fiscal house in order."
Paige moved to Florida from his native Wisconsin in 1980, and worked in aircraft and automobile maintenance businesses as a certified mechanic. He started Diversified Builders, a residential remodeling business, in 1990.
A self-described Conservative, Paige said, "I will never vote to increase the millage rate. That's a promise," Paige said, "I will work to identify the proper role of government in every city department, and every department will get a haircut, some closer than others."
Herb Quintero, 41, emerged as a public figure this year with his successful battle with the city over the murals of sport fish painted on the exterior walls of his bait shop, The Complete Angler, on North Fort Harrison Avenue.
While his bait shop has garnered the public attention, Quintero's primary career is in the commercial construction industry, where he has been employed for 23 years, most recently as owner of ASI Construction.
Quintero's motivation to run for office came from his unhappiness with the way Clearwater treats its business community, what he called "the whole attitude of us versus them that seems to exude from the city." He wants to make the city more business-friendly, and as a by-product increase Clearwater's tax revenues.
Quintero opposes efforts to relax the State of Florida reverter clause that limits redevelopment of the Municipal Marina property on Clearwater Beach.
A Clearwater native, Quintero has resided on Island Estates for the last 16 years.
South Clearwater resident Wayne Carothers is a happy Clearwater resident; "I wouldn't live anywhere but here," he said, "It's time to give something back; the city has been good to me."
Carothers grew up in Connecticut, moved to Clearwater with his parents in the late 1960's, and graduated from Clearwater High School in 1969.
After spending two years in the Army, one in Vietnam, Carothers returned to Clearwater and began working in the Air Conditioning business. He has owned Carr Air Conditioning and Heating for 21 years.
Carothers is concerned with the ongoing issues between the city and its firefighters, and thinks that a city of Clearwater's size should have a center that serves the needs of its senior citizens.
Carothers would be an advocate for small businesses; "The City needs to be more open to small business. We need jobs; that's the bottom line," he said.
Seat 5 Candidates
Paul Gibson, a Clearwater Beach realtor, has served on the City Council since March 2007. A resident of Clearwater Beach, the 61-year old native of Virginia has lived in the city for 12 years.
Gibson originally ran for office after being challenged by Mayor Frank Hibbard during the 2006/07 budget debate; Gibson was arguing for budget-cutting measures and lowering the tax rate. Gibson explained his reason for seeking reelection; "I can see the results of my last term, I'm pleased with the accomplishments and there's more I'd like to do."
In addition to exercising fiscal restraint during each of the three city budgets that he's voted on, Gibson cites his involvement in supporting the Jolley Trolley and Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the ongoing effort to build a Beach Parking Garage, the city's implementation of a 5-year General Fund Forecast and expanding the city's real estate tax base as major accomplishments of his first term.
For his second term, Gibson said that he would continue to seek Efficiency Studies of all major city departments, continue to exercise fiscal responsibility, prioritize spending for public safety and establish a one-stop social services center for the homeless in partnership with non-profits.
Mike Riordon, 50, grew up in a Baltimore suburb and came to this area so he could train year-round for triathlons. He now lives in the Country Club Addition neighborhood near downtown and the Clearwater Country Club.
Riordon spent time in the Healthcare and Executive Recruiting industries before owning his current business, City Cycle and Supply in downtown Clearwater. It was his effort to open the bicycle shop that started Rierdon thinking about running for office.
"I wasted numerous hours to get my sign up on Court Street, then even more time to get my telephone number on it," he said of what he called the city's unfriendly attitude toward small businesses. He is still fighting to display rental bicycles on his Pinellas Trail frontage.
Rierdon was also motivated by his belief that "the city is extremely poorly managed." He thinks that taxpayer dollars have been wasted on attorneys' pursuit of losing cases, and efficiency studies that should have focused on city administration, not the police and fire departments.
Rierdon believes that money has also been wasted on high-profile capital projects, like the Royalty Theater purchase and building the Downtown Marina. Riordon said that he would use Penny for Pinellas to benefit all neighborhoods, not over-emphasizing the beach and downtown.
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