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Atkinson: I won't run again for Treasure Island mayor

Treasure Island's mayor since 1997 said he had made the decision in April not to run for another term.

By KATHY SAUNDERS
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 22, 2002


TREASURE ISLAND -- Mayor Leon Atkinson will not seek re-election in March.

Atkinson, 70, has served as mayor since 1997, when he vacated his seat as District 4 commissioner to run for the job that had been held by Walter Stubbs for 20 years.

"I am totally comfortable with my decision," Atkinson said Thursday, adding that he made up his mind in April not to run. The commission's decision that month to settle the $2-million Land's End lawsuit was his final goal as an elected official, he said.

Atkinson asked City Clerk Bonnie Williams to read a sealed letter he sent to her home April 1.

In the letter, Atkinson pointed to a list of issues he wanted to address as mayor. They included: the Land's End condominium zoning dispute; jetty construction at John's Pass to stop beach erosion on the north end of the city; buying the former Bedrox bar to develop the Sunset Beach park; buying the Dilley property to build Sunset Vista Trailhead Park; improving morale among city employees, especially in the police department; widening the beach sidewalk; improving downtown redevelopment; and completing a master plan of city buildings.

When he wrote the letter, the city had not begun amending the land use regulations -- a process that would become a political firestorm.

Atkinson said the fight over beachfront development had nothing to do with his decision to relinquish public office. In fact, he said, the controversy nearly prompted him to ask Williams to trash the letter.

With Commissioner Mary Maloof and former Commissioner George Makrauer already declaring their candidacies, Atkinson said if he ran, the campaign would be "the nastiest race this city ever saw."

Qualifying for the March election opens at noon Jan. 2.

Maloof said she did not agree with the residents who opposed higher hotels on the beach, but she nonetheless sided with them when Atkinson and two other commissioners passed legislation to supersede the residents.

Makrauer also disagreed with the Save Treasure Island group, but he blames much of the city's unrest on City Manager Chuck Coward.

If Atkinson ran for re-election, he said "I would be doing it for spite." Atkinson said he is angry with Maloof and determined to save Coward's job.

Instead, Atkinson said he has two new goals for the near future.

First, he wants to convince residents that they were "hoodwinked" into voting to stop taller hotels from being allowed on the beach.

Atkinson also wants to take on the state's Sunshine Law requiring elected officials to discuss issues in public.

"It is just something that is very frustrating," Atkinson said. "Have I broken the Sunshine Law? Sure. How in the world could you not break the Sunshine Law?"

With the development regulations, Atkinson said, "I would have loved to have talked openly to Mary Maloof and maybe presented some thoughts that I had. It's very difficult to always be in public."

Maloof recently acknowledged that she phoned Atkinson after one commission meeting to discuss her vote on those land regulations.

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