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Crystal River Mayor

Both candidates in this race hope to ease rancorous council meetings.

By JOSH ZIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Two familiar faces are running for mayor of Crystal River.

Between 1989 and 1993, Sidney Kennedy was a fixture on the City Council. Ron Kitchen entered the political arena in the 1990s, serving one term on the council before losing races for mayor and council.

Now they are running to fill the vacancy created when Curtis Rich decided to step aside after 10 years in office. The job involves running the council meetings -- never an easy job in light of political divisions and personal sniping -- as well as giving the city a face. Kennedy and Kitchen say they are well qualified to meet the responsibilities.

"I'm very concerned and dedicated for Crystal River," Kennedy said. "I have served the citizens in committees and in a councilman's capacity ... which gives me some background as to how local government works. I know a lot has changed but the basics are still there."

Kitchen is just as confident in his abilities. "Have you ever heard the cliche, "If you think you can do a better job, do it yourself?"' he said. "I think I've got some leadership skills that I'm basically wanting to apply in the community."

Infusing city government with a greater sense of order is a goal for both candidates. The city is beginning to move in that direction, Kennedy said, adding that the mayor can serve as a bridge between residents and staff.

"I think that's one of the mayor's major jobs, keeping calm and order," he said. "We have some troubles and turmoil but I think we're overcoming a lot of that," with greater stability at top-level staff positions.

Kitchen, who frequently criticizes the conduct of elected officials at council meetings, is proposing radical measures for creating the necessary "team building" as he sees it.

"I think a big step we need to get beyond in Crystal River is everything being taken so personally," he said. "The very first thing I'm going to do is invite ... all the council members out to dinner. We're not going to talk policy. We're going to talk about hobbies, kids and grandchildren. I'm going to get to the very heart of team building. ... We're going to get to know each other as people."

Applying his business background, Kitchen advocates creating a five-year vision for the city that includes five-year budget planning. He would like to see greater involvement with the Florida League of Cities and the restoration of the city's defunct beautification committee.

Both candidates complimented Rich, although Kitchen has often jumped on Rich at meetings for not cracking down on personal attacks involving staff and council members. Kennedy and Kitchen, despite their jobs, say they will find the time to be a visible leader.

THE JOB

The mayor is an elected official. The mayor represents the city at public functions but also chairs City Council meetings and can break tie votes. The mayor can veto council ordinances, although members can overturn the veto with a four-fifths vote. The position pays $5,428 annually.

* * *

SIDNEY KENNEDY, 61, is a lifelong resident of Crystal River. He graduated high school and took some junior college classes, most recently in environmental science. He is a maintenance man for a local commercial and residential property owner. He is married with two children. ASSETS: property. LIABILITIES: none. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary.

* * *

RON KITCHEN, 44, was born in Spangler, Pa., and grew up in northern Virginia. He earned an associate's degree in specialized business from the Center for Degree Studies in Scranton, Pa. He was in the business of arranging diving tours until the mid-1980s, he moved to Crystal River and joined his father's site construction business, which specializes in golf courses. He became an owner. A former Crystal River city council member, he is married with two children. ASSETS: business, property and stock. LIABILITIES: none. SOURCE OF INCOME: business. E-MAIL: Ron@Barbaron.com

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