Voters will pick mayor in Belleair Bluffs today
By CHRISTINA K. COSDON, Times Staff Writer
BELLEAIR BLUFFS -- Incumbent Chris Arbutine and former city Commissioner Carol Cortright will vie for the mayor's seat in an election today in this municipality of about 2,200 residents.
Arbutine, 37, said he has represented the city well on boards such as the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. Such appointments, he said, have placed him "in a position where I can affect some good changes for the city on a county level."
"I've worked hard to get on those boards. I'm the voice of the small cities (on those boards). We have to be involved at the input level," he said.
Arbutine said he wants to make sure the new Belleair Beach Causeway bridge is aesthetically pleasing and that the bridge's night lights don't disrupt residents living nearby.
During Arbutine's two-year term, a new Community Center/City Hall was built, as well as a new children's playground. The city purchased a firetruck and emergency equipment.
Arbutine is the single father of a 14-year-old son. He and his family have owned and operated Silver Queen, Belleair Coins Gold and Diamonds business for 30 years. It was in Belleair Bluffs until recently, when the family built a facility just east of the city in Largo.
Mrs. Cortright, 34, who was a Belleair Bluffs commissioner from 1999-2001, said she "has a lot of ideas" for the city. In the past couple of years, she has been working on a degree at Eckerd College.
Public safety is one of her concerns. Pedestrian crosswalks across West Bay Drive and Indian Rocks Road are hazardous, she said.
"I discovered this while out campaigning door-to-door," she said. "People walking to our shopping centers and restaurants take their lives in their hands when crossing those roads."
She said she also would like to see an improvement in library access for Belleair Bluffs residents. Currently Bluffs residents pay $100 for a library card and the city reimburses $85 of that. Some residents can't afford the $100 upfront charge, she said.
Mrs. Cortright has worked more than a dozen years at the Largo Library, coordinating special events and doing marketing, publicity and programming. A native of West Palm Beach, she has lived 14 years in Pinellas County and nine years in Belleair Bluffs.
Belleair Bluffs has a mayor/commission form of government, which means the mayor is the day-to-day administrator. Four commissioners are each assigned to a city department -- police, fire, public works and administration/finance -- as liaison between the departments and the commission.
Police commissioner Hunt K. Brand and public works commissioner Robert P. Russo were up for re-election today, but their seats were uncontested and they were automatically re-elected.
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