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Voters find comfort in known quantities for council

gulfport An incumbent and a familiar face from city hall win, but their opponents each garner more than 40 percent.

By NICK JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
Published February 3, 2008


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Gulfport voters went with the familiar faces for City Council on Tuesday, re-electing incumbent Bob Worthington in Ward 3 and electing longtime city employee Judy Ryerson in Ward 1.

The results speak to either the community's satisfaction with the status quo, or as some suggest, an unwillingness to elect representatives who are not plugged into the city's political network.

All of the current members of the City Council are serving, or have already served, more than one consecutive term, including Mayor Michael Yakes, who has held his position for more than two decades.

While Ryerson will be entering her first term replacing Ted Phillips, who didn't seek re-election, she's no newcomer after being employed in the city's personnel and risk management department for 20 years.

"Ms. Ryerson is part of the old-Gulfport machine and that seems to be a big part of Gulfport elections," said Rick Gilbert, after running against Ryerson and getting 42 percent of the votes.

"I know a lot of people in this town, and I have worked with a lot of people on civic associations and boards," Ryerson said, but she thinks her experience held more weight with voters.

"I'm probably more familiar than any other candidate with how the city functions," she said.

Both Gilbert and Angela Leiner, who managed to take about 43 percent of the vote from Worthington, ran on the platform of bringing fresh faces and an independence from the sway of special interest groups to the council.

But the high percentage of votes that went to the newcomer Leiner, who at 27 years old is about 30 years the junior of the other candidates, speaks to residents wanting some change, Worthington said.

"Since the people decided they wanted me to represent the city, I will do so with as much enthusiasm as always and try to do as much as I can," he said.

Worthington plans to make this upcoming term his last, but not his least. He's already working on plans to propose legislation that would standardize rules for boaters along area waterways.

Boaters are often faced with the conflicting jurisdictions of the Coast Guard, Florida Wildlife Commission and local police.

"You could get stopped by every organization and they all have some differences in regulation," Worthington said.

He named balancing the city's budget during impending cutbacks as another major concern, one Ryerson also named.

As for concerns expressed by Gilbert and Leiner that a portion of the community goes unrepresented, Worthington said he is always available to his constituents.

"If people want to reach me or talk about any issue, I'm open to that."

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8361.

[Last modified February 3, 2008, 00:39:03]


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