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Zephyrhills council member Bussell seeks new term

The incumbent wants to keep working on annexing unincorporated areas.

By CHASE SQUIRES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 4, 2003

ZEPHYRHILLS -- City Council member Mike Bussell announced Monday he will seek a return to the office he has held since 2001.

Bussell, 61, said he learned much from his first term and has goals and projects he wants to see through in the next term, which might be his last.

"We had a family meeting this weekend. It's something I didn't want to rush into," Bussell said. "We taked about me running, and we decided it's something that I could do one more time, maybe, before we start traveling with our grandson."

Bussell picked up qualifying papers at City Hall on Monday morning. Qualifying papers must be turned in between noon Feb. 11 and noon Feb. 18. The municipal election is set for April 8. Qualifying requires the establishment of a campaign bank account, signatures of 25 registered city voters, and $51.

Bussell said despite a rough introduction to politics, he is eager to continue work on annexing unincorporated areas as new shopping areas on the north end of the city flourish.

"That was one of the things I was very concerned about," he said. "We're looking at a shortfall in income, not just in the city, but at all levels. The only way we can look at increasing the income for the city is through annexation."

The incumbent also said he recognizes changes are ahead for the city's Fire Department, as the county takes control of two fire districts outside of the city. The looming loss of revenue the Fire Department counted on will affect the department, he said.

"I don't just want to leave that out there," he said. "I would like to see that through and get it right."

The city is also about to start work on a new police headquarters.

After his 2001 run, Bussell ran into some political trouble when it was discovered he violated state ethics rules by failing to list a house he owned on financial disclosure forms. He paid $500 to settle that issue. It was also revealed that he failed to pay city and county taxes on the house.

Bussell attributed the troubles to mistakes he made as a newcomer to politics and said Monday he is glad to have them settled and behind him. He said he is making certain to double-check state disclosure forms for accuracy this year.

Bussell, a Tampa native, retired from the military in 1985 and moved to Zephyrhills in 1987. He retired last year from a job selling advertising for the Zephyrhills News.

He is running against challenger Celia Graham, 42, a fifth-grade teacher at West Zephyrhills Elementary School.

Bussell predicted an issue-oriented and polite contest and said he respected Graham.

"I even signed her petition," he said.

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