The election is expected to serve as a referendum on the direction of the city. The mayor's seat, as well as two commission seats, are up for a vote.
By CHRISTINA HEADRICK
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2001
CLEARWATER -- First-term Mayor Brian Aungst officially launched his re-election bid Thursday by opening a campaign account and holding a subdued kickoff party at the Island Way Grill.
On the first day that candidates could begin collecting money, Aungst was the only candidate who stopped by City Hall to pick up a packet of obligatory paperwork and open his contribution account.
"I want to continue to move forward, balancing neighborhood needs with the needs of the business community, intelligent redevelopment, seeing projects like the library through and finishing other projects that we have on the drawing boards," Aungst said.
The next step for potential candidates is to obtain 250 petition signatures supporting them between Dec. 12 and Jan. 25. The election is March 12.
The mayor's seat, as well as commission seats held by Hoyt Hamilton and Ed Hart, are up for a vote. The election will serve as a referendum on the direction of the city now, with the current commission and City Manager Bill Horne in charge.
Hamilton has said he will run for re-election, while Hart has not yet publicized his intentions.
Other candidates haven't stepped forward, although beach resident and former candidate Bill Kirbas has said he would run to make sure no incumbent was elected without opposition.
Aungst announced this summer that he was running for a second term. He jumped into the political scene in 1999 as a newcomer who ousted longtime mayor, Rita Garvey.
Aungst is Time Warner Communications' government relations director for the Pinellas County region. He also has worked as a sportscaster for years, does play-by-play coverage of Tampa Bay Storm Arena football and is host of the Buc's Extra Point talk show. He lives in the Countryside area with his wife and son.
Aungst said he considered canceling his kickoff reception at the Island Way Grill on Island Estates, in light of the terrorist attacks Tuesday and a hurricane brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.
But friends suggested that they wanted a break from watching bad news on television so they could get together and reflect, even blow off a little steam, Aungst said.
Besides, he added, so many people had heard about his proposed party that it was impossible to call everyone and tell them not to come. Aungst said he expects "hundreds of people will help him with his campaign.
"We certainly understand if everyone can't make it," Aungst said.