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    Municipal elections toss out incumbents

    Relative newcomers will take seats in Belleair Beach, Safety Harbor and Clearwater.

    By MONIQUE FIELDS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 2001


    Northern Pinellas County voters rejected some deep-rooted candidates and endorsed a few political newcomers Tuesday night.

    Incumbent commissioners in Belleair returned to office, while Belleair Beach and Safety Harbor will soon be governed by relative newcomers.

    And in Clearwater, former mayor and longtime political figure Rita Garvey lost her bid to rejoin the City Commission. She was disappointed by Tuesday night's loss but said she was encouraged by her showing against Hoyt Hamilton for a one-year term in Seat 3 of the City Commission. Hamilton won the race by 614 votes.

    "It was a close comeback," Garvey said.

    Garvey spent 18 years on the Clearwater City Commission, starting in 1980. In 1999, after a DUI arrest, she lost a bid for a fifth term as mayor to Brian Aungst. Garvey said her personal problems probably were on some people's mind in this race as well.

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

    Clearwater's Seat 4 was won by Whitney Gray, who defeated former Commissioner Lee Regulski. In Seat 5, Bill Jonson bested three opponents.

    In all, 19,197 ballots were cast in Pinellas County -- a turnout of about 21 percent. But the turnout rate was much higher for races in the county's smaller towns and cities.

    BELLEAIR: Incumbents Stephen Fowler and Gary Katica defeated a stay-at-home mom and a critic of the town's management in a race defined by utility, Police Department and Belleair Creek concerns. Fowler and Katica won two-year terms on the Belleair Town Commission, receiving 35.9 percent and 33.6 percent of the vote, respectively.

    BELLEAIR BEACH Mike Kelly and Bob Park garnered 63.5 percent of the vote and beat incumbent Mayor Kaye Woolcott and Vice Mayor Douglas Prescott for the mayoral and vice mayoral posts in Belleair Beach.

    Woolcott and Prescott had served for only a short time. Both were appointed last year after Roy Cougle left the Belleair Beach vice mayor post in May and Bill Atteberry resigned as mayor in September after pleading guilty to a felony money laundering charge.

    Voters also made it clear they do not want to create a city manager position and have the mayor serve as the presiding officer of the City Council.

    BELLEAIR BLUFFS: Chris Arbutine Sr. cruised by Wallace F. Witham with 64.5 percent of the vote and became the next mayor of Belleair Bluffs.

    The position was vacant because Mayor Hunt Brand decided to retire from public service. Brand later changed his mind and made a successful bid for one of two vacant commission seats. Voters also elected Robert Russo to a two-year commission term.

    Voters overwhelmingly decided a contract for fire services will not be replaced or eliminated without first holding a referendum on the matter.

    INDIAN SHORES: Voters elected Irene Anderson and Joan Herndon to the commission for three-year terms.

    OLDSMAR: Voters returned former Mayor Jerry Beverland to that office, favoring him 61 to 39 percent over City Council member Ed Manny.

    In one of two City Council races on the ballot, voters selected local activist Don Bohr over Dale Renbjor by a 2-1 ratio. In the other council race, Marcelo Caruso won 43 percent of the vote, enough to defeat Jean Jorgenson, who got 38 percent, and Deborah Chapman, who got 18 percent.

    SAFETY HARBOR: Political newcomer Robin Borland beat incumbent Jan Tracy. Borland, who won with 55.9 percent of the vote, attributed her victory to hard work. Appointed to the commission last August after Commissioner Rollin Yanchar moved out of town, Tracy said she will consider running again next year.

    - Staff writers Deborah O'Neil, Leon Tucker and Ed Quioco contributed to this report.

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