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Politics

Familiar face vs. fresh face

A longtime resident runs against a relative newcomer in Oldsmar's only contested City Council race.

By DEMORRIS A. LEE
Published March 1, 2007


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OLDSMAR - On many levels, it's a battle about time: old Oldsmar vs. new Oldsmar.

Loretta Wyandt, 76, has been a resident of Oldsmar since 1967, served on the City Council from 1979 to 1981, and is a staunch advocate for preserving the city's history.

Greg N. Rublee, 42, moved to Oldsmar with his wife 21/2 years ago. He has a lot of governmental management experience from Washington, D.C., and since last fall has served on the board of the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve.

Wyandt and Rublee think they can better represent residents as the Seat 1 representative on the council.

"I really don't know much about him, and no one else does," Wyandt said during a recent interview. "He's not been here long enough for anyone to know him, and I don't vote for people I don't know."

Rublee says it is time for a fresh approach to city leadership. He said that he may not be a longtime resident, but he was raised with the same small-town values.

"You don't have to be a longtime resident to understand [Oldsmar's] fundamental goals," Rublee said. "I want open space, and you don't have to be here 40 years to do that.

"It's about skill set. Hers [Wyandt] is old school. I'm a modern leader for modern times."

Wyandt and Rublee faced each other Tuesday night at a candidate forum at City Hall. With about 30 people in attendance, the two tried to separate themselves on the issues.

Both, however, agreed that having a YMCA in town would be a good thing, that keeping taxes low is important, and that the city should seek to draw its own water by building a water treatment plant, though Wyandt has some environmental concerns about the project.

They disagreed on whether the city should build a conference center and whether Oldsmar has an affordable housing problem.

"If we can afford to build it, I think we should," Wyandt said of a conference center.

But Rublee, who called himself a fiscal conservative, said the city should be cautious about spending taxpayers' dollars and should focus on bringing the rest of the city forward.

Meanwhile, Wyandt said she didn't see affordable housing as an issue, while Rublee said that it absolutely was a problem facing working-class families in the town of fewer than 15,000 residents.

Rublee, a science teacher at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg, said he wants to have more public input in all city business by having public workshops and making the city's Web site "public friendly."

He also stressed a need to upgrade roads and stormwater controls in older parts of the city. He stressed smart growth practices and safety, and he promised not to raise taxes.

Wyandt, a real estate agent, wants the city to re-evaluate its parking ratio to create more parking for the new businesses coming to town. She, too, wants good growth management and thinks the city should step back and assess things.

"We have a lot of projects going," Wyandt said. "We need to step back and assess where we are going. We have too many irons in the fire."

The Seat 1 battle is the council's only contested race for the March 13 election. Current council member Jim Ronecker is running unopposed for mayor; incumbent Suzanne Vale is unopposed for Seat 2; and Eric Seidel is unopposed for Seat 4.

Times staff writer Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com.

[Last modified March 1, 2007, 06:53:50]


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