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Inverness City Council Election

SEAT 3: Political newcomer Ken M. Hinkle is running against two-term incumbent Henry 'Ted' Stauffer.

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

INVERNESS -- Incumbent Henry "Ted" Stauffer is battling political newcomer Ken M. Hinkle in the race for City Council Seat 3.

City officials' handling of police negotiations prompted Hinkle to seek office.

"I'm not really a politician. I'm a concerned citizen," said the 52-year-old ultrasound consultant for Citrus Cardiology Consultants and Family Care.

He thinks Inverness police officers should have been given a better raise than the 1.5 percent boost city officials decided on, -- perhaps more of "a happy medium," as he called it, between 1.5 percent and the 8 percent raise police requested.

Hinkle insisted that Inverness officers are underpaid compared with other Florida communities that have similar populations and similar size police forces. And he cites the force's high turnover rate as an issue that needs to be addressed.

An Inverness resident since his high school days, Hinkle said he has been campaigning door to door, listening to what's on the minds of other residents.

His other concerns include city officials' plan to build a new city hall during shaky economic times on a site that would eliminate the shuffleboard courts, increase congestion downtown and further limit parking spaces.

In addition, Hinkle is encouraging better care for the city's streets, stating that mowing and tree trimming should happen regularly.

Hinkle said he would bring a new voice to the city's political arena.

Stauffer, 58, is seeking re-election to continue work on the projects already set in motion during his eight years on the council.

A Citrus County court-appointed guardian, he would like to see the improvements to Cooter Pond and the connection between the city's parks come to fruition. He'd like to see the downtown renovations through, as well as the construction of the new city hall. And he'd like to keep the city's reserve fund strong.

"We have enough money to keep the city running for a year," Stauffer said.

He counted initiating an antilitter program, his involvement in other beautification efforts and obtaining grants for the city among his individual accomplishments as a councilman.

And he boasted that he's "usually the first one to ask questions."

Stauffer noted that he questioned census results to make sure the city receives the proper federal revenue sharing payment.

Still, Stauffer sees room for improvement. He hopes for increased attendance at council meetings and better communication with residents through the media. He also wants to begin periodic surveys of city employees' salaries as well as the code enforcement program.

Stauffer defended how the council dealt with some of the city's most emotional issues, such as the police negotiations and flags along Main Street. "We are very tight, cheap, conservative fiscal managers," he said.

And he defended the effectiveness of the current council, insisting that council members do control the city, and not City Manager Frank DiGiovanni, as some have suggested.

"Do we have questions?" Stauffer asked. "Of course we do."

The council does not merely rubber-stamp DiGiovanni's agenda, Stauffer said. The group benefits from DiGiovanni's thorough research of issues under consideration, he explained.

"What do you want me to say? Frank is too good?"

Hinkle said his decision to run for Seat 3 had nothing to do with Stauffer. Born on April 3, Hinkle simply likes the number.

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

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