Four seek office in beach city
By AMY WIMMER, Times Staff Writer
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- Four candidates are vying for two spots on the City Commission here, where beautification of Gulf Boulevard and protection of the dunes are top issues.
Two of the four candidates are incumbents first elected to the commission two years ago; the other two are political newcomers facing their first bid for elected office.
Yet the challengers are not picking apart the current administration or proposing sweeping changes on the City Commission. They say they're just looking for a chance to serve the community.
"Across the board, all the candidates are equally important. They put their best effort forward," said Jeremiah Carmody, one of the newcomers. "As I sit in some of the meetings, I would have thought differently in some cases, possibly siding with one decision and not with another."
The city election in Indian Rocks Beach is March 12. Voters also will cast ballots on referendum questions.
The other challenger is Jayne van der Voordt, 37, the community involvement assistant at Largo Middle School and a mother of four. Van der Voordt, who has lived in Indian Rocks Beach for six years, could not be reached for comment last week.
Carmody said he is running this year because his schedule as an account manager for an electronics company will allow him time.
"I sincerely believe in my heart that I can devote the time to both jobs," Carmody said.
The two incumbents, R.B. Johnson and Thomas "Toby" O'Brien Jr., say they are excited about the direction Indian Rocks Beach is headed.
Johnson, best known for his work planting sea oats and native vegetation along the beach, said he is eager to see the city's Beach Management Committee complete its work, which will focus on what Indian Rocks Beach should do to maintain its beaches.
"We need to be able to have a cohesive vision of what we want our beach to be," Johnson said. "We need to preserve the beach environmentally. I've been pushing for having a dune zone established, not to mention preserving the beauty out there."
O'Brien, who was a member of the city's Parks and Recreation Committee before he was elected to the City Commission two years ago, said he focused on improving city parks when first elected to the commission. Now he wants to get to work on Gulf Boulevard and other portions of the city, and is excited about the contributions of local group Action 2000, which developed a plan to beautify and improve Indian Rocks Beach.
"Now that our parks are cranking, I've kind of shifted to focusing on the Narrows, Gulf Boulevard and our gulf waterfront and Intracoastal water frontage," O'Brien said. "Our water frontage is why everyone lives in Indian Rocks, as far as I'm concerned."
Carmody said he is worried about the construction of boxy condominiums along Gulf Boulevard and is worried about maintaining the character of Indian Rocks Beach, but he wants to keep an open mind when dealing with residents' concerns.
"My platform is the platform of the citizens and what they want me to do," Carmody said. "My opinions, what I want, is now shelved. I really can't taint my opinion for the citizens. It's really similar to business. To be in business, you have to serve your customer."
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