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Tiger Bay Club shifts its focus

Accused of catering too much to St. Petersburg, the political group hopes to hold more meetings and candidate forums in North Pinellas.

By ERIC STIRGUS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001


Accused of catering too much to St. Petersburg, the political group hopes to hold more meetings and candidate forums in North Pinellas.

Hoping to shed its image as an organization that caters only to St. Petersburg, the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club -- that feisty bunch known for asking politicians the tough questions -- is trying to reach out to mid Pinellas residents.

The club's last two meetings were held at venues on Ulmerton Road. On Thursday, the club has invited Ed Turanchik, the man leading Tampa Bay's effort to host the 2012 Olympics, to speak at its meeting at the Bayou Club near Largo.

The idea to hold more meetings outside St. Petersburg came in response to complaints from some North Pinellas County members that the organization focuses too much on St. Petersburg.

"If we are going to be the Suncoast (Tiger Bay Club), we have to cover the entire Suncoast," said Keith Bailey, who is expected to be named president of the 25-year-old political club this evening.

Bailey, who has been a member of the club for about 10 years, said the perception that the political club is geared toward St. Petersburg began about five years ago. The club held most of its events in St. Petersburg simply because most of its members lived there, said Bailey.

"I dropped out because I thought it was (geared) too much to St. Petersburg," said Largo Mayor Bob Jackson.

Board member Mike Mayo said some Clearwater merchants have told him they cannot go to the meetings because it is too far.

"It's very difficult in the middle of the day to drive to St. Petersburg and drive back to Clearwater," said Mayo, director of government affairs for the Greater Clearwater Association of Realtors.

About one-quarter of the club's 500 members are from North Pinellas, Bailey said.

Board members hope their effort will bring more people to the meetings and spark greater interest in local government. Bailey and others envision a North Pinellas subcommittee that would put together candidate forums in North Pinellas.

"I think Tiger Bay should be the forum for city candidates in Clearwater, Largo and Pinellas Park," said Bailey, a former Pinellas County Commission candidate who manages several mobile home parks from an office in Largo.

Jackson said he would love to see that vision come to fruition.

He repeatedly complained about the lack of candidate forums during Largo's recent City Commission election. Turnout was 6 percent.

Bailey said the current campaign has had mixed results. Attendance at those meetings has been "average" and some St. Petersburg members have grumbled about being the ones who now have to travel during the middle of the day.

"You get used to a routine," Bailey said. "All of a sudden, you are taken miles away. It's a change."

Bailey would like to have at least 30 percent of its meetings north of St. Petersburg. Mayo suggested every other meeting be held north of St. Petersburg.

Bailey said there is only one requirement for whoever comes to the club's meetings: Ask with razor-sharp questions.

"That's the name of the game," he said.

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