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    Safety Harbor commissioner gets a late arriving challenger

    Jan Tracy had expected to quietly finish the term she was appointed to in July. But now a neighborhood activist has qualified for the March ballot.

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001


    SAFETY HARBOR -- About two weeks ago, it looked as if Jan Tracy would be allowed to finish the remaining year of a commission term she was appointed to last year without opposition.

    But neighborhood activist Robin Borland declared her candidacy one day before the qualifying deadline, so Tracy will have to campaign for the seat.

    "I wish I didn't have to run a campaign," Tracy said. "But it's necessary for the job, and I'm pleased to do so."

    Tracy hoped to be automatically elected to the seat she was appointed to in July, when no one threatened a challenge. Tracy replaced Commissioner Rollin Yanchar after he resigned in June and moved out of the city.

    Borland, however, obtained the necessary 100 signatures to qualify and committed to the race on Jan. 18.

    "I have attended almost all of the commission meetings for the last year and a half," Borland said. "And after going before the commission, trying to get something done and not being able to, I finally decided I can make a difference by running for office, getting myself in there and listening to what the people want."

    The special election came about because in 1993, officials made an addition to the City Charter that explains what to do when a commissioner prematurely vacates a seat.

    Until then, according to City Clerk Bonnie Haynes, the city had no way to name a successor when a seat became open. In July, the city received 11 applications, including one from Tracy, for the appointment she received by a vote of 3-1.

    "I didn't expect to (hold an election), but you never know until it happens," Haynes said. "That's why I don't like to say anything until it's a done deal and qualifying is closed."

    Haynes is recruiting poll workers for the city's five polling places. The election is March 13.

    Mayor Pam Corbino, who was one of three who voted to appoint Tracy to the commission seat, said Borland lacks experience.

    "Jan has a big involvement in our city and in different organizations throughout the community," Corbino said. "And I always say experience counts a lot."

    Borland, president of the Harbor Woods Village Homeowners Association, has been vocal in the push to get the city to solve the erosion problem along Bishop Creek. She accuses the city of "dragging their feet" on fixing the creek's erosion while it spends money on the Marina Park beautification and gazebo projects.

    Commissioner Neil Brickfield cast the lone vote against Tracy and is a neighbor of Borland.

    "I was as surprised as anyone when I found out my neighbor went down and submitted her application," he said. "But there are a lot of people who, regardless of who they chose, are happy there will be a choice."

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