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District 1 County Commission at-Large Pinellas

Field of four: Republicans vying to replace Barbara Sheen Todd find common ground on many key issues.

Published August 24, 2004

What do a former School Board member, a Safety Harbor city commissioner, a popular beach mayor and well-known Republican fundraiser have in common?

They all want the Pinellas County Commission seat that Barbara Sheen Todd is leaving.

J.J. Beyrouti, Neil Brickfield, Lucile Casey and Ronnie Duncan all are competing for the Republican nomination for the seat Todd has held for nearly two decades.

The winner faces Democrat Norm Roche, who stepped down last month from his job as a public relations specialist with Pinellas County Utilities to run in the Nov. 2 election.

The candidates seem to agree on many issues. All say bringing better jobs to Pinellas, improving transportation, redeveloping a county with limited vacant land, keeping the tax base stable and improving soured relations with the county's 24 municipalities are vital.

Beyrouti said improving intergovernmental relations would be his top priority. The mayor of Redington Shores since 1996 is running as a "consensus builder."

Many, including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, credit Beyrouti with helping Pinellas County's Council of Mayors gain credibility as a united voice that now stands on equal footing with the County Commission.

His experience would make him a good choice to end the increased tension that overlaps into much of the county's government business, he said.

"I have the ears and experience with municipalities, 70 percent of our people," Beyrouti said. "I've dealt with all these mayors. I would be able to understand where they are coming from and negotiate a lot stronger."

Casey is a familiar name, having served two terms on the Pinellas County School Board. Twice, she lost bids for re-election. She later ran unsuccessfully for the Clearwater City Commission and the County Commission.

The former teacher said she would involve residents in the decisionmaking process. She also proposed building a county convention center.

"It would help with tourists and jobs," Casey said. "You could bring people in, have meetings, have a nice restaurant."

Brickfield, a Safety Harbor commissioner and owner of a janitorial services company, has been walking neighborhoods and attending County Commission meetings. He summed up his reason for running with a simple statement.

"I believe local government should concentrate on the issues that affect our daily lives," Brickfield said.

What are those issues? Better jobs, improved transportation, redevelopment and low taxes.

Brickfield would push for synchronized traffic signals throughout the county. He said a portion of the county's current gas tax could pay for that expense.

Duncan has never run for office. But he's no stranger to politics.

The commercial real estate developer is chairman of the board for the Southwest Florida Water Management District and well-known in Republican circles for helping raise money for candidates who include President Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush.

Duncan believes Pinellas County is at a "crossroads."

"I am running to ensure the quality of life will be there in the future," Duncan said.

Duncan said the commission needs to focus on transportation and redevelopment. He, too, advocates synchronized traffic signals improved public transportation - including light rail or improved bus lines. And he said the county and cities need to work on sharing a similar vision.

"I grow tired of hearing the comments from the cities and the county," Duncan said. "Everybody has their agendas, and it's quite parochial. While we are infighting, other parts of our region and state are changing the way they are growing. I think we need to have a vision that stakeholders can buy into."

J.J BEYROUTI, 52, has been the mayor of Redington Shores since 1996 and served as a town commissioner from 1994-96. He owns a real estate investment company and the Redington Shores Motel. He moved to Pinellas in 1983. He was president of the Pinellas County Council of Mayors and the Barrier Island Governmental Council - or Big-C - a council for the beach cities. He attended Sacred Heart College in Beirut. He is married with two children . ASSETS: cars, boats, business and motel. LIABILITIES: bank debt. SOURCE OF INCOME: mayor's salary, motel, rental property.

NEIL BRICKFIELD, 41, was elected to the Safety Harbor City Commission in 2000. He owns Black Tie Janitorial Services Inc. He served on the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. He moved to Pinellas County in 1989. He holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from Providence College. He is married with three children. ASSETS: home, business, investments, boat . LIABILITIES: bank debt. SOURCE OF INCOME: business, City Commission salary.

RONNIE DUNCAN, 47, is a commercial real estate broker with a business in Tampa. He chairs the Southwest Florida Water Management District board. He served on the Pinellas Assembly health care task force and the Indigent Health Care Task Force. He holds a bachelor's degree in history and master's degree in urban planning, both from the University of Georgia. He and his wife, Ann Duncan, are active fundraisers for the Republican Party. They have two children . ASSETS: home, cash, investments, business . LIABILITIES: car loans, bank debt, mortgage, property lease . SOURCE OF INCOME: real estate business.

LUCILE CASEY, 62, is a licensed Realtor and former high school teacher. She served two terms on the Pinellas County School Board (1988-92; 1994-98), and was twice defeated in bids for re-election. She ran unsuccessful campaigns for County Commission (2000) and Clearwater City Commission (2001). She moved to Pinellas in 1963. She is married to Don Casey, a Clearwater City Commission candidate in 2004. They have two grown children. She holds a bachelor's degree in liberal arts from the University of Tennessee. ASSETS: home, investments, savings. LIABILITIES: mortgage . SOURCE OF INCOME: Realtor salary and commission.

THE JOB: County Commission District 1 is an at-large seat elected countywide. The commissioner is one of seven who oversee a $1.6-billion budget and set policy in a county with nearly 1-million residents. About 300,000 live in the unincorporated area. The seat is a four-year term and pays $82,978.

[Last modified August 23, 2004, 17:00:22]

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