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    Nine people qualify to run for three commission seats

    Potential candidates had until 5 p.m. Friday to qualify for the March 13 ballot to fill three-year terms and a one-year term. Several debates are scheduled.

    By CHRISTINA HEADRICK

    © St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001


    CLEARWATER -- The field of candidates for Clearwater City Commission narrowed slightly and diversified a bit Friday, with nine people qualifying for the city's March 13 ballot.

    Since announcing campaigns earlier this month, Bob Bickerstaffe, a retiree and perennial candidate, and E.J. McNicholas, a semiretired resident who had never been involved with local politics, decided not to run.

    Meanwhile, Jeralne Burt, a longtime resident who owns multiple rental properties in the North Greenwood area, announced that she is running. She will be the only African-American on the ballot.

    Burt, 56, says she thinks some concerns, like a need for jobs and housing in North Greenwood, have not been emphasized by the city. But, she added, she would try to represent the interests of residents citywide, too.

    Candidates had until 5 p.m. Friday to qualify for the ballot, which is done by submitting a financial disclosure report and a few other forms, as well as turning in at least 250 petition cards signed by residents nominating the candidate for public office.

    The race for Seat 3 will pit former Mayor Rita Garvey against beach concessionaire Hoyt Hamilton and municipal attorney Paul Marino. This term is for one year, the remaining part of former Commissioner Ed Hooper's term, which he resigned to seek state office.

    Seat 4 will be contested by former City Commissioner Lee Regulski and community volunteer Whitney Gray.

    And for Seat 5, voters will choose from community activist Bill Jonson, local banker Frank Hibbard, former School Board member Lucile Casey and Burt.

    Winners of seats 4 and 5 will serve three-year terms.

    "We usually don't have the three seats open with no incumbents running," said City Clerk Cyndie Goudeau. It hasn't been common in recent years, "but it's definitely not unheard of" to have nine candidates in an election, she said.

    The candidates choose which seat they want to run for, essentially selecting their competition in the election. The winners will be chosen by residents across the city who register to vote before Feb. 13.

    If you want to see the candidates debate, numerous forums are scheduled, beginning next week. Here are some of the sponsors and venues for upcoming debates:

    7 p.m. Tuesday. Clearwater Friends of the Library forum. Main Library, 100 N Osceola Ave.

    7 p.m. Feb. 6. City-sponsored forum. City Hall, 112 S Osceola Ave.

    7:30 a.m. Feb. 7. Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, 1130 Cleveland St.

    7 p.m. Feb. 21. Clearwater Beach Association. Clearwater Beach Recreation Center. 69 Bay Esplanade.

    7 p.m. Feb. 27. Morningside-Meadows Homeowners Association. East Branch Library, 2251 Drew St.

    6 p.m. Feb. 28. South Clearwater Citizens for Progressive Action. Ross Norton Recreation Center, 1426 S Greenwood Ave.

    - Christina Headrick covers the city of Clearwater and can be reached at headrick@sptimes.com or at 445-4160.

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