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Rich says five terms as mayor are enough

By JOSH ZIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 20, 2000


CRYSTAL RIVER -- While looking through some personal files the other day, Curtis Rich said he came across an old newspaper clipping going back to his first run for city mayor.

It quoted him as saying he wanted to "make a difference."

That was a decade ago. Rich, 72, was bidding to fill the shoes of Mayor Herb Williams after deferentially asking Williams if he was opting out of elected office. On Monday, Rich chuckled at the story and his own decision not to run for a sixth two-year term. The position involves running City Council meetings, breaking tie votes and representing the city at public affairs. "I looked at this thing two years ago and I almost didn't run that last go-around," he said. "I let people talk me into it. But I pretty well made up my mind . . . this would be the last turn. I've enjoyed serving."

Announcing his intentions now gives other potential candidates the opportunity to launch campaigns well before this year's elections in November. Crystal River residents used to vote in mid-December but approved the change in election dates in a referendum last year.

"Give 'em time to run; that's the main thing," said Rich, a master of the public handshake.

Rich's plans basically revolve around simplifying his life, he said. Although he intends to remain active in community affairs -- he is, for example, a longtime member of the Rotary Club -- he said he will be trying to liquidate his property holdings and travel some with his wife, Vangie.

Rich has been openly disgusted with the protracted squabbling among council members, which he tends to blame, however, on members Alex Ilnyckyj and Paula Wheeler. He said the political divisions did not influence his decision not to run but did contribute to raising his blood pressure.

"You have to look at age, even though I don't feel old," he said, praising his wife for supporting the many hours he spent at meetings and ribbon-cuttings. "I'd be 74 when I finish. I feel I need to back off and spend more time with my wife. I work all over the county with this job. I'd like to spend some time to kick back . . . enjoy life a little bit with family.

Mayoral candidate Ron Kitchen, defeated by Rich in 1998, could not be reached for comment.

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