By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
INDIAN ROCKS -- The Pinellas Suncoast Fire District, which serves several mid-Pinellas beach and adjacent mainland communities, saw two very different elections Tuesday, with one seat won by a single vote and the other won in a landslide.
Bill Ripley beat Fire District Chairman Ed Piniero with nearly 70 percent of the vote in the race to represent Indian Rocks.
In the squeaker, Janet Hoppe beat her perennial political rival Robert McEwen by just one vote in a contest for the Indian Shores seat on the Fire District board of commissioners.
Because of the closeness, there will be an automatic recount.
Hoppe and McEwen ran against each other three times before for mayor of Indian Shores. Hoppe, 69, won the job in 1988, but lost to McEwen, 71, in 1990 and again in 1998. She was elected to the Indian Shores Commission in 1992 and served six years. Hoppe also previously was the Fire District Board chairman.
The winner replaces retiring commissioner Ed Murphree.
"One vote really does count," Hoppe said.
Ripley successfully defended his seat against Piniero, but had to give up his at-large seat when the district reorganized its board to allow more representation for mainland residents.
The fire district, formerly the Indian Rocks Fire District, serves 12,000 homes and businesses.