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Council member is moving on

The city official leaves a year before his term ends, leaving three seats open for the March 13 election.

Published September 19, 2006

CLEARWATER - Hoyt Hamilton announced his resignation from the City Council on Monday, saying he has a potential business opportunity in the Atlanta area that could "possibly include expanding the family business."

Hamilton, 47, will step down at the end of November, more than a year before his term expires. The council is expected to appoint someone to fill his seat until the March election, when voters would choose someone to serve the remaining year of Hamilton's term.

His resignation means the five-member council will have three seats up for grabs in 2007. The terms of Bill Jonson and Carlen Petersen expire in March.

Hamilton, a Clearwater native who has lived most of his life in the city, declined to elaborate further on the potential business opportunity. His family owns the Palm Pavilion Inn and the Palm Pavilion restaurant on Clearwater Beach.

His announcement came during Monday's council work session. Hamilton said "the word had gotten out ... and it was time."

"There are a couple of interesting possibilities, but I'm not prepared to say what they are yet," he said. "But the time is right for me to possibly take advantage of this."

Hamilton said his last official day with the city will be Nov. 30, and he and his wife will move to Smyrna, Ga., just outside Atlanta, a few days later. The couple closed on a house this weekend.

"I'm going to miss the community ... but we're going up there to start a new chapter in our lives," he said. "It's pretty exciting."

Hamilton, a registered Republican, has long been an advocate of beach redevelopment, and has pushed for midsize hotels rather than focusing only on big resorts. He's also been outspoken on parking issues, saying that the city needs more spaces, but maybe not as many as other council members say.

Hamilton joined what was then called the Clearwater Commission in March 2001, when he defeated longtime politician Rita Garvey by a slim margin to serve out the remaining year of Ed Hooper's term. Hooper had stepped down to run for the state House.

A minor league baseball sports agent at the time and a political newcomer, he went on to capture a seat again in March 2002.

Because no one else qualified in late 2004 to run for the then-open council seat, Hamilton automatically sailed into office for a third time.

"It won't be the same without Hoyt; he always brought a lot of flavor to the council and a very candid viewpoint," Mayor Frank Hibbard said. "He also has tremendous corporate knowledge of the city's history."

Hamilton said two of his brothers will continue running the family businesses on Clearwater Beach.

Hamilton, who owns a home in Countryside, said the only time he moved from Clearwater was to attend Georgia Tech, where he majored in industrial management. His two sons are now enrolled there.

"I still have a lot of great friends up there and my wife and I always said that the only place we'd ever live other than Clearwater is Atlanta," he said. "And if the boys, being in school, are there and the business opportunity pans out, then the time would be right."

He said once he moves, then "politics would be out of my blood," and he wouldn't seek office.

During his political career, Hamilton has received endorsements from the city's police, firefighter and general employee unions, as well as political action committees formed by Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce members and beach business owners.

He has supported redevelopment in downtown, the beach and North Greenwood to keep the city's business community and its neighborhoods healthy, "but not at all costs," he said.

Because he's served two consecutive full terms, he would not have been able to run again for his council seat when it expired in 2008.

The council talked briefly Monday about appointing someone to fill Hamilton's spot until the March election. Hibbard said it "would be bad policy" to appoint someone who planned to run for the seat. But he didn't rule out talking with someone who used to serve on the council.

A spot on the nonpartisan council is considered a part-time job and pays $17,735 a year.

[Last modified September 18, 2006, 23:06:22]

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