Pinellas elections: Tarpon Mayor Alahouzos wins second term; Pinellas Suncoast Fire raises taxes

by on 14 March 2019

Residents of six Pinellas cities and the Pinellas Suncoast Fire District went to the polls on Tuesday to decide a slew of elected offices, referendums and charter amendments. A roundup of results.

Residents of six Pinellas County cities and the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District went to the polls on Tuesday to decide a slew of elected offices, referendums and charter amendments. Here is a roundup of results:

Tarpon Springs

Mayor Chris Alahouzos won a second consecutive term on Tuesday, besting former Mayor David Archie by earning about 56 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

Alahouzos said he ran a campaign based on the record of his first term, which was defined by being in touch with residents and advocating for city services. About 25 percent of voters turned out.

Alahouzos, 68, a retired Verizon Wireless networks operations manager, said his priorities for his second term will focus on completing the massive dredging of the Anclote River and investing in infrastructure, like getting the city completely off septic tanks.

Archie, 65, who served two terms as mayor from 2010 to 2016 before leaving office due to term limits, said he ran again for mayor because he never really stopped wanting to serve his community.

With $27,710 in campaign contributions, Archie out-fundraised Alahouzos by $2,450.

During his campaign, Archie blasted the city’s nearly $1 million purchase in 2018 of the crime-ridden Sunbay Motel, a purchase he said should have been decided by voters through a referendum.

Madeira Beach

In 2017 Madeira Beach voters changed the balance of power, putting into office a trio of candidates who opposed large-scale developments. Once in office, they fired the city clerk, pushed the city manager out and began questioning nearly every decision made by the prior commission.

One of those candidates, Nancy Oakley, was recently found to have violated state ethics rules after sexually harassing the now former city manager and has since resigned.

On Tuesday, Former Recreation Director Doug Andrews, who was also fired from his post when the new council took office, won Oakley’s District 3 with 53 percent of the votes cast. He defeated J. Robert Pryor, chairman of the city budget committee.

Andrews, 52, who owns a convenience store in the city and holds a degree in business administration from Stetson University, ran against both his opponent and the current commission, which he says has done a poor job running the city, particularly relating to an attitude focused on “settling vendettas” and failing to improve city infrastructure.

Unofficial results showed District 4 incumbent John Douthirt, one of the trio that changed the balance of power on the commission two years ago, maintaining his seat by 14 votes in a challenge by former two-term commissioner, Steve Kochick. Douthirt won 600 votes over Kochick’s 586.

Douthirt defended the actions of the current commission, saying it has made “important strides” in “correcting the mistakes of the past.”

Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District

Residents serviced by Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District voted Tuesday to increase their fire fees, green-lighting the latest attempt to increase revenue for a district plagued by financial issues.

The district has long been funded by a flat fee for homes and businesses, an impact fee for new construction and money from the county for emergency medical services. Most districts rely on property taxes.

Nearly 53 percent of the approximately 4,000 votes cast were in favor of the fee increase. The district is made up of 13,648 registered voters in Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore, Indian Rocks Beach and unincorporated Oakhurst.

Former fire chief Salvatore D’Angelo made the pitch to voters in 2016 to authorize the district to start collecting a property tax, saying that the current revenue sources couldn’t sustain district operations.

The referendum passed but was later thrown out by a judge who said the wording was misleading amid a bitter battle between district leaders and a vocal group of residents.

That sent district officials, facing budget shortfalls and an unclear future, back to the drawing board. Chief Mike Burton formed a citizen task force to help work out the district’s financial woes. Members ultimately recommended the $100 a year increase in the flat fee.

Tracey McManus – tampabay.com
Staff writer Kathryn Varn and Times Correspondent Sheila Mullane Estrada contributed to this report