Candidates share ideas for council
By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
KENNETH CITY -- Four familiar faces go before voters March 12 in pursuit of two Town Council seats.
Incumbent Fran Luke is seeking her second term in office. Also running is Russ Dumont, who briefly served on the council in 2001 when he was appointed to finish out Chuck Webber's term. Buddy Boudreau and Ted Wiesner are running for office for the first time, but they have made their presence known around town.
Boudreau is former director of the Kenneth City Public Works Department, which he ran for about eight years. He is the brother of Marie Boudreau, who died last May. She was a longtime community activist who unsuccessfully ran for the council.
Wiesner regularly attends council meetings and often has addressed members about his concerns. He collected about 450 signatures last year, about 10 percent of the town's population, on a petition asking council members to reconsider their decision to automatically sign another garbage contract. Wiesner had advocated advertising for bids to try for lower rates.
Wiesner's experience with the garbage issue sparked his decision to run. He believed that signing a contract without asking for bids was "just bad business," but he was especially angered by council members' decision to ignore the wishes of 450 residents.
"Whether or not legally they were required to pay attention to (the petition), morally they were," Wiesner said. "It really bothered me that we have a council that would ignore the will of the people."
He also disagrees with the council's reluctance to allow public comment.
"The big reason I'm running is because we should have people who want to know what others think," he said.
That shortcoming became most egregious, he said, when the future of the Police Department was at stake. So many people attended that meeting that it was "one step shy of a mob," he said. The vast majority wanted to keep the department. Yet immediately after hearing their pleas, the council made a motion to contract for police services with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
"I was appalled," Wiesner said. "I don't know how you can justify ignoring a room full of people."
If elected, Wiesner would like to concentrate on issues such as annexation. Annexing businesses and other property, he said, would help keep taxes low.
Boudreau, like Wiesner, sees many improvements that can be made in Kenneth City.
"I'm primarily concerned with the infrastructure. Roads are my pet peeve," he said.
Drawing on his experience in the Public Works Department, Boudreau said the streets are not being properly maintained. "If those roads go, we're in deep trouble," he said.
At one time, he said, public works employees built walls and ditches, replaced storm drain pipes, planted trees and helped repair the roads. Now, much of it goes undone, he said, or is contracted out for lots of money.
"Everything is going to pot," Boudreau said.
Dumont and Luke are more content with the status quo.
Dumont said he is running because "I enjoy it. . . . Plus, I've got the time to devote to the job."
For Dumont, the biggest issue is annexation, "trying to square off our boundaries, to obtain more commercial business to retain our low tax rate."
Luke said, "I think they need somebody with experience on the council and somebody who's honest and who votes like the people want."
As for issues, Luke foresees a peaceful year now that the council has agreed to change the town's pension plan so that police officers will be covered by the Florida Retirement System. Luke cast the swing vote in favor of the officers.
"I can't think of anything that will be a big issue since this is settled," Luke said. "This could have gone on forever."
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