Clearwater's mayor won on critics' turf

By Times Staff Writers
Published February 20, 2008

CLEARWATER - During his campaign, Mayor Frank Hibbard took a lot of flak from his challenger, who accused him of playing a major role "in tearing up the beach."

Opponent and former Mayor Rita Garvey said Hibbard and the rest of the City Council were shortsighted and gave in to big development on Clearwater Beach.

During his first term, beach residents were frequently critical of Hibbard, chastising him and the council members for planning to consolidate a library and recreation center and failing to eliminate many of the short-term rental operations in affluent areas.

In the end, though, Hibbard captured one of the most important sections of the city when he resoundingly won the Jan. 29 election: the beach.

Political observers say Hibbard's position as an incumbent, as well as his large campaign war chest - at least $51,000 to Garvey's $6,100 - helped him win. But even some who criticized beach development say Hibbard is progressive and popular and moved the city forward during the past three years.

Mike Donila, Times staff writer


Wal-Mart will expand

While environmentalists and Wal-Mart representatives battle over a proposed Tarpon Springs supercenter, the company is moving forward with plans to expand its existing Palm Harbor store.

Wal-Mart plans to transform its discount store at U.S. 19 and Alderman Road into a supercenter, spokeswoman Quenta Vettel said.

The building will expand to the west, increasing by 26,000 square feet, to 118,640 square feet.

The expansion has no bearing on the fate of the proposed Tarpon Springs store, Vettel said. "They're completely separate," she said.

There is no timeline for the expansion of the Palm Harbor store, but Vettel said Wal-Mart is working with Pinellas County officials to secure permits. The upgrade would include adding a grocery as well as landscaping the parking lot.

Elena Lesley, Times staff writer