Want to help steer Pinellas Park?
By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
PINELLAS PARK -- Starting today, candidates can sign up to run for mayor or one of two City Council seats.
A change in representation could sway the power balance on the five-member council. The election is March 5.
Mayor Bill Mischler has said he will run again, but voters appear to be guaranteed at least one new face on the council.
Chuck Williams announced in September that he did not plan to seek a third term, though he said he reserved the right to change his mind.
The other open seat belongs to Ed Taylor, who has decided to seek re-election, ending speculation that he might run for the Pinellas County Commission.
"I enjoy the people I work with. I love our city," Taylor said.
He said the council has accomplished a lot in the past four years, but still has a lot to do. "I want to be part of it."
One of the council's challenges is affording the best employees. The salaries are not the problem, Taylor said. It's the benefits, particularly medical insurance.
The council has agreed to pay the increase in medical insurance premiums for all employees for the past two years. That decision will cost taxpayers about $600,000 in the 2001-2002 fiscal year, he said. Costs are likely to go up again in the next budget.
"That's a huge challenge for us," he said. "How do you get the best and how do you afford that employee for the long term? ... It's going to be a heck of a challenge to us. It's not just our city. It's going to be all cities."
Another challenge is managing the city's growth, Taylor said. As land becomes more scarce, the council needs to be more selective in the development it permits, he said.
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