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© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001
This year's Largo election won't tax city voters: The ballot contains only one race. Incumbent City Commissioner Harriet Crozier is being challenged by newcomer Sal Gattuso for a three-year term.
A second seat on the seven-member City Commission was filled automatically when no one filed to run against veteran Commissioner Marty Shelby.
The lack of interest in this year's election is surprising, considering that this is an important time for Largo. The commission is struggling to hit its stride under new Mayor Bob Jackson, who has a less forceful style than former Mayor Thom Feaster. The widening of West Bay Drive soon will be completed, transforming the downtown landscape. The commission is working to create a coordinated approach to downtown redevelopment. A new library planned for Largo Central Park still must be designed. And a new police chief has arrived in town, expected to address continuing problems in the Police Department.
Crozier, 56, was a city commissioner from 1993 to 1999, when she was defeated in an upset by newcomer Mary Laurance. Crozier got appointed to the city planning board and waited for her next chance to regain a commission seat. Last year, she was elected to finish out the one year remaining in Jackson's term after he ran for mayor. In this year's election, she is seeking a full three-year term.
Sal Gattuso, 50, moved to Largo in March 1997 from Illinois, where he was born. He and his family settled in the newly annexed Pineforest subdivision in southeastern Largo, and Gattuso soon concluded that the city government was not responsive enough to his neighborhood's needs.
A civilian who works clearing runways at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Gattuso said in an interview with the Times that he wants to provide better representation for southeastern Largo. His platform includes a call for single-member commission districts, in which members of the City Commission would be elected to represent districts rather than all seven members representing the city at large.
Gattuso also wants the city to hold more referendums on important issues, rather than leaving those decisions to the City Commission. Conducting public hearings on those issues is not enough, he said.
Gattuso has never held public office. He said he has prepared himself by watching City Commission meetings on TV, being on the city's Code Enforcement Board for a year, and serving as an officer in his homeowners association.
But we found Gattuso had superficial answers for questions on some important issues, and he has not voted in city elections since moving to Largo. He is not yet ready for the job.
For the important months and years ahead, we believe Harriet Crozier is the better choice.
Crozier, who is a computer instructor at the Pinellas Technical Education Center and a 29-year resident of Largo, has some weaknesses. In this term, she has struggled to find her voice after formerly taking cues from Feaster. She doesn't have a lot of creative ideas and she tends to be a follower instead of a leader. As a commission veteran, she should be contributing more than she is.
She is aware that the City Commission has been criticized for talking issues to death, and said that if she is elected, she will try harder to be a commissioner who busts up the logjams and makes her voice heard.
To her credit, Crozier works at being a commissioner. She asks questions at City Commission meetings. She is active with several organizations, including the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and the Area Agency on Aging. She attends events all over town and encourages residents to tell her their needs.
Crozier is a supporter of downtown redevelopment and wants 50 percent to 75 percent of the area reserved for commercial/retail development rather than residences. She said Largo should continue to work on getting the state to reroute Alt. U.S. 19 off West Bay Drive so the city can control the road and slow down the traffic.
She wants the new police chief to institute community policing throughout the city and the city to do a better job citing people for code violations that make areas unattractive. With residents clamoring for reclaimed water, she wants to find a way "to bring more money to the table" so the city can expand its distribution system more quickly.
Crozier said that if she is elected, she plans to be the commissioner who spearheads a state Elder Ready program in Largo, much like the one Dunedin has instituted to improve the quality of life for senior residents.
The Times recommends a vote for Harriet Crozier for Seat 5 on the Largo City Commission.
AT STAKE: One seat on the Largo City Commission.
TERM, SALARY: Commission members serve three-year terms and are paid $10,010 a year.
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