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    Clearwater rejects comeback bid


    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 2001

    Former Clearwater mayor and longtime political figure Rita Garvey lost her bid to return to the City Commission on Tuesday.

    But Garvey, who won 47.4 percent of the vote in losing to political newcomer Hoyt Hamilton, said she was encouraged by her showing. Hamilton, who won by 614 votes, will serve a one-year term.

    Garvey's involvement made her bid for a City Commission seat the most high-profile race Tuesday in Pinellas County, where nine municipalities elected commissioners and council members and voted on referendum issues.

    In South Pinellas, elections were held in Kenneth City, St. Pete Beach and Redington Shores.

    Kenneth City voters selected a community activist and an incumbent council member to fill two seats on the Town Council.

    Newcomer Teresa Zemaitis took the highest number of votes, 35.23 percent, among the field of three candidates. Incumbent Al Carrier also won a council seat with 34.81 percent, and Russ Dumont, who was appointed last year to complete another council member's unexpired term, came in third with 29.96 percent of the votes.

    Voters also approved changing the town's charter to require residents' approval before the council can dissolve the town's Police Department. The referendum passed with 83 percent of the vote.

    St. Pete Beach's District 4, which includes the Pass-a-Grille and Vina del Mar neighborhoods, had the highest voter turnout in the county Tuesday, with 39 percent voting in the election.

    The race had two political newcomers, Laura "Lolly" Kreider and Sherry Travis, vying for a seat vacated by Commissioner Rachel Crepeau. Kreider received 69 percent to Travis' 31 percent.

    In Redington Shores, voters approved two referendums but refused to raise the mayor's and commissioners' salaries.

    A referendum that would increase the number of petition signatures required to get a candidate's name on the ballot passed, with 70 percent of voters approving it.

    A referendum to approve selling the old Town Hall property in Redington Shores passed by a four-vote margin, with 128 voters approving the sale and 124 voting against it.

    A referendum to increase the mayor's salary from $500 to $800 a month and the commissioners' salaries from $400 to $450 a month failed, with 59 percent voting against.

    Garvey, 55, spent 18 years on the Clearwater City Commission. In 1999 she lost a bid for a fifth term as mayor in a race that followed revelations of alcoholism.

    Garvey, who pleaded guilty in 1999 to a drunken driving charge stemming from an accident in which she hit a parked van, said her personal problems probably were on some people's minds.

    "There are some people that will assume I could not overcome them," Garvey said. "I was hoping they would realize everyone deserves another chance.

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