Veterans vs. newcomers in New Port Richey races

One City Council seat and the mayor's job are at stake.

By Jodie Tillman, Times Staff Writer
Published February 20, 2008

NEW PORT RICHEY - This year's City Council election is shaping up to be a mix of familiar faces and political newcomers.

Former council members Bob Langford and Tom Finn this week entered the race to replace outgoing Mayor Dan Tipton. Lawyer Scott McPherson had previously been the only name in the hat.

Meanwhile, former council member Susan Clark is competing against Greater New Port Richey Main Street Executive Director Judy DeBella Thomas and health care consultant Glenn Hanff for the lone council seat up for grabs. Ginny Miller, who currently serves as deputy mayor, has decided to run for a County Commission seat.

Tuesday was the last day to qualify to run in the April 8 elections. Here's a brief look at the candidates:

- Scott McPherson, 43, is making his first run for public office. He earned his law degree in 1995 and purchased his father's downtown law firm, which he runs today as Scott McPherson, PA. He is active in Rotary and the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce and has served on the city's land redevelopment advisory board. He is married and has three children. He has said redevelopment and the budget are two of his key issues.

- Bob Langford, 65, served on the council for three years before narrowly losing the mayor's race to Tipton in 2006. A music producer, Langford has remained active in community organizations, such as the Marine Institute. His wife, Janice, died of lung cancer last month. "I believe people deserve a choice," he said, explaining why he jumped into the race on Monday. "I have lots of experience to offer. I don't have a whole lot to catch up on."

- Tom Finn, 52, served on the council from 1999 to 2005. He is the owner of sign company Neon Delights. Finn ran for City Council last year but lost in a field of seven candidates for three open seats. He said Tuesday that he decided to run again in part because one of his major platforms, reducing the city's personnel costs, is especially relevant now with the passage of the property tax amendment, which is expected to reduce city revenue by about $500,000. "Once again the city is talking about getting rid of the sacred yard debris pickup," said Finn, referring to a potential cut that administrators have discussed. Finn said the city should instead investigate cutting staff.

- Glenn Hanff, 33, is an independent contractor who does billing for the health care industry. A native of New Port Richey, he earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Emory University in 1996. He is active in the Community Service Council. He said recently that he wanted to bring a young voice to the council and take a more aggressive role in attracting businesses.

- Judy DeBella Thomas, 56, has served at the helm of Greater New Port Richey Main Street since 2002. Her husband, Ted, is a former City Council member. Thomas said recently that she has time to serve as a council member now that her youngest child is off at college. She said she's interested in promoting redevelopment as a council member, and would continue to work at Main Street as well. Main Street gets about a $45,000 grant from the city each year to promote the downtown. As a council member, Thomas said, she would recuse herself during those discussions.

- Susan Clark, 58, served on the council from 2001 to 2003, when she lost her re-election bid to Langford. She is the widow of former Pasco County Commissioner David "Hap" Clark, who died last December. She works in real estate - F.I. Grey and Blackwell Investments - and cared for her husband until his death. She said she's heard from residents encouraging her to run. "I have time to devote to this job," Clark said. "I loved it. I just wanted to get involved again."

Times researchers Carolyn Edds, Shirl Kennedy and Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or 727 869-6247.