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Businessman decides to join council race

By BRADY DENNIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2001


ZEPHYRHILLS -- Dale Barnett isn't shy about his disappointment with the City Council.

"If I ran my business like they run the city, I wouldn't be in business," said Barnett, the 63-year-old owner of Telephone Man on Seventh Avenue. "The people on there have no idea how to deal with the business end of things."

He saves his harshest criticism, however, for City Manager Steve Spina. He says Spina should be beholden to the council's wishes, not vice versa.

"The city manager should be representing the people in the city and should be doing what they say instead of telling the council what he's going to do," Barnett said, "and that's not happening."

Barnett's solution?

"We need to replace him," he said. "He can't run everything his own way. Steve might be good at some of the jobs he does, but I don't think he can deal with everyday talking to people. He can't communicate with people.

"The city manager has never been reviewed. I think the city manager and all the department heads need to be reviewed."

Barnett picked up his papers Thursday and will toss his hat in the ring against sitting council president Clyde Bracknell.

It isn't Barnett's first go-round with politics. Before moving to Zephyrhills in 1986, he was active in the Republican Party for 20 years in Illinois, his home state.

And he isn't scared about being behind on the issues in Zephyrhills. He said he hasn't missed a council meeting in years.

Until recently, he lived outside the city limits and wasn't eligible to run or vote for city office. But when he and his wife separated, he moved into town.

Bracknell served on the council from 1977 to 1985, and again from October 1987 to the present. He said it was too early Thursday to speculate about his coming face-off with Barnett.

"I'm one of those who thinks if you're doing a good job, you hate to see people jump in and try to mess things up," Bracknell said. "I don't know what his issues are or if he has something against me or the city in general."

Either way, Bracknell said he wouldn't give up his seat easily.

"I won't be sitting back waiting," he said. "I'll be out there getting people to vote. If I have to fight for the position, I'll fight."

- Brady Dennis covers the city of Zephyrhills and police in east Pasco. His phone number is (352) 521-5757, ext. 23. His e-mail address is dennis@sptimes.com.

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