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Inverness City Council Election

Police pay, city hall key issues in race

SEAT 1: Brian Snapp, 39, stresses his youth in his faceoff with the council's president, John Sullivan.

By SUZANNAH GONZALES
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2003


INVERNESS -- On the ballot Tuesday, residents will choose between City Council veteran John Sullivan and first-try politician Brian Snapp for Seat 1.

Two-term incumbent Sullivan, the council's current president, said he wants to complete projects in progress, such as downtown redevelopment, park improvements and building a new city hall.

"I like this city," said Sullivan, 56. "I think it runs well."

But his opponent has a different opinion.

The way Snapp sees it, the council should have given police officers the requested 8 percent raise, especially in light of the city's estimated 2002 $400,000 surplus, which includes one-time revenues.

Sullivan pointed out that the contract has been ratified and no one has left their positions.

Like Sullivan, Snapp would oppose eliminating the city's police department.

But unlike Sullivan, Snapp isn't sure a new city hall is necessary in an area that's already crowded with limited parking. The shuffleboard courts should remain in place, he said.

He also is concerned about litter on the city's streets, water quality and delay in replacing 80-year-old water pipes.

Snapp, a 39-year-old live-in maintenance director for the Inverness Club, a retirement facility, prides himself on coming from a different, younger and non-business background, which can bring a fresh perspective to the council -- one that will put people first, he said.

Sullivan, the court director for the county, previously was a district manager for Kash n' Karry in Tampa.

Snapp also criticized City Manager Frank DiGiovanni for running the show. The council is in agreement with DiGiovanni, instead of setting policy, he said.

Sullivan sees DiGiovanni as an "excellent manager." He said, "Everything goes through Frank as it should." Sullivan noted that council members give DiGiovanni advice.

As for himself, Sullivan thinks he is a productive, strong leader, who's willing to take the heat. "The public doesn't always have to agree with me, but I think they respect me," he said.

Along with his interest in bringing a fresh face to the council, Snapp also brings to the table an eight-arrest record, the most recent of which occurred in 1995 when police charged him with violating probation stemming from a prior battery charge.

Snapp called his arrests "youthful indiscretions," and noted that he never made it past a holding cell. But a Florida Department of Law Enforcement record identified the incidents differently: driving under the influence, possession of marijuana and harassing phone call charges among others.

Snapp said that while he regrets the choices he made during those times, he has learned from the incidents and said they have helped shape the person he has become.

Says Sullivan, "I'm going to run on my record."

Sullivan pointed out that his opponent has never voted in city elections and does not pay property taxes.

Asked why he didn't vote in the last city election two years ago, Snapp said, "I have been content. . . . At that time, I thought they were doing a wonderful job." However, in the last 18 months, Snapp said, he grew unhappy with the council's performance.

As for not paying property taxes, Snapp conceded he doesn't because he lives at the Inverness Club, but added that he had in the past, before coming to Inverness. Snapp said he'd feel comfortable making decisions on them.

Besides, Snapp thinks his current job at the Inverness Club has prepared him for the duties of a council member. The responsibilities are similar, he said, but on a smaller scale. In the position, which he has held for three years, Snapp says he oversees a staff, three budgets and makes decisions that affect hundreds of retired residents.

According to Snapp, those on the council now have grown too comfortable in their roles, to the point where they no longer listen to the citizens they represent. They need to show more respect for residents, business owners and employees, he said. "I think they believe the city works for them."

Sullivan said the controversy over hanging American flags along Main Street to honor victims of Sept. 11 was "the only thing I don't think I handled very well." He said it wasn't that city officials didn't want to hang flags, they just wanted to make sure it was done right. But even when they agreed, Sullivan said, they were "attacked" and couldn't get past people's emotions.

Sure, there have been bumps, he said. "Small ones."

-- Suzannah Gonzales can be reached at 860-7312 or sgonzales@sptimes.com.

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