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Pinellas

PINELLAS COMM 3

More work to do? Republican incumbent Bob Stewart says he's running again to take care of unfinished business. Democratic challenger Maria Scruggs-Weston says change is needed.

By ROBERT FARLEY
Published October 26, 2004

The race for an at-large seat representing District 3 pits a 10-year incumbent who says he has some unfinished business against a newcomer who promises a more accountable County Commission.

Democrat Maria Scruggs-Weston, 47, a former candidate for mayor in St. Petersburg, criticized the County Commission and her opponent, Bob Stewart, saying they failed to fully investigate possible fraud by the contractor hired to administer welfare-to-work services.

She said a list of placements included a topless bar and an Arby's restaurant.

"I'm not sure that's what the public had in mind," she said.

Here was a case of potential fraud, she said, and the county agreed to settle with the company behind closed doors.

"That was not in the best interests of the public," she said.

Scruggs-Weston worked 12 years with three Florida law enforcement agencies, four as a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. She was most recently employed as a community partnership coordinator for St. Anthony's Healthcare. She resigned in September to commit to her campaign full-time.

Scruggs-Weston said she would like the county to embark on a comprehensive planning process aimed at measurable improvements of quality of life issues.

She said she wants to develop policies and ordinances to assist small businesses. Too many of the jobs coming to Pinellas are low-paying, she said. She also proposes creating an insurance pool for small businesses.

After 10 years in office, Bob Stewart, 66, said there was one crusade left on his agenda.

He said he would like to see through plans to bring a Job Corps center to Pinellas County. Job Corps, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, would provide vocational training to people ages 16 to 22.

"It's desperately needed, in my opinion," Stewart said.

It was the most crucial factor in his decision to seek another four-year term.

"We are close to accomplishing that," he said. "We've been working on that for more than four years."

There's another piece of unfinished business.

A longtime member of the Tampa Bay Water Authority, serving the last two years as chair, Stewart said he would like to see through plans for a desalination plant.

On the transportation front, Stewart said improvements to the bus system are needed. He said he's committed to studying light rail service, but isn't convinced enough people would use it to make it cost-effective.

Road priorities include overpasses to make U.S. 19 a limited access highway throughout the county and building a connector between the Bayside Bridge and the interstate.

Stewart said another priority is attracting high-paying, clean air industries to the county, perhaps through tax incentive programs; and maintaining existing companies by nurturing a developing relationships between the county government and business leaders.

THE JOB

County Commission District 3 is an at-large district. The candidate must live in the district, but it is voted on countywide. The commissioner is part of a seven-member body that oversees a $1.6-billion budget and sets policy. Commissioners serve four-year terms and earn $84,242 a year.

REPUBLICAN

BOB STEWART, 66, of St. Petersburg has been a county commissioner for 10 years. He also served on the St. Petersburg City Council for seven years. He moved to Pinellas County in 1965. Prior to serving on the County Commission, Stewart was president and CEO of St. Petersburg Family YMCA and was vice president of marketing for 10 years at Landmark Union Trust Bank in St. Petersburg. He serves on the board of trustees of St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts; as a member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization; and as chair of the Tampa Bay Water Authority. Stewart earned a bachelor of arts degree in business administration at Rollins College, and a bachelor of science in broadcasting from the University of Florida. He is married and has three grown sons. ASSETS: homes in St. Petersburg and in Colorado, rental property, insurance, county deferred compensation plan, stocks and annuities, trust. LIABILITIES: home mortgage, auto loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: commissioner salary, rental property, Social Security, stocks and annuities.

DEMOCRAT

MARIA SCRUGGS-WESTON, 47 of St. Petersburg resigned in September from her job as community partnership coordinator at St. Anthony's Hospital to run her campaign full time. Her prior work experience includes 12 years in law enforcement (including three years as a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Tampa); six years with the juvenile justice system; four years in community planning/neighborhood development. She is president and co-founder of Source of Health Inc., a nonprofit that seeks to address health disparities affecting African-Americans. She is a member of the Florida Holocaust Museum board of trustees; the Lakewood High School Advisory Committee; and the National Council of Negro Women. Scruggs-Weston earned a bachelor of science degree in criminology from Florida State University. She is divorced and has two children. ASSETS: Home, retirement account. LIABILITIES: Home loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: None.

[Last modified October 25, 2004, 12:24:00]

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