The election winners are from left, Pinellas County Commissioners Ken Welch, Charlie Justice, Janet Long, bottom, Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark and Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
Four Pinellas County Commissioners will be sworn into office Nov. 20 – two incumbents and two newly elected.
Incumbent Commissioner Karen Williams Seel, who represents District 5, was elected without opposition. The other incumbent, Kenneth T. Welch, who represents District 7, took in nearly 70 percent of the vote Nov. 6 to win a fourth term in office.
“I’m honored to have received such strong support from Pinellas voters in both the primary and general election,” Welch said. “This is a critical time for Pinellas. We face many complex challenges and opportunities. I look forward to continuing my work with the commission, and the broader community, to build a brighter future for Pinellas.”
Welch’s challenger and political newcomer Buck Walz was gracious in defeat.
“I knew I had an uphill battle from the beginning,” Walz said. “I am very glad I ran. Mr. Welch has been a well-respected community leader here in Pinellas for a long time. It was a clean race and Mr. Welch has been respectful and pleasant from the beginning. I have a new appreciation for what our elected officials go through on a daily basis.”
Walz sent a “big thank you to all who supported me for the last year,” while expressing disappointment about the outcome in two other commission races.
“It was a great race,” Walz said. “I am sad we lost two great leaders on our commission through.”
The leaders Walz is referring to are Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield, both first-term commissioners, who were defeated in their bid for a second four-year term.
Brickfield, like Walz, also was gracious in defeat and thanked his constituents for his four years of service.
“It was an honor to be one of the Commissioners for Pinellas County,” Brickfield said. “I enjoyed every day of my service. I hope I’m leaving Pinellas County a greater place than I found it. It was a great four years and I was excited to be elected.”
As to his future, Brickfield said there were many opportunities out there for him and his family.
“God has a plan,” he said. “There’s a lot you can do to help your community without being an elected official.”
“I am thankful to everyone who supported this campaign in so many ways,” Bostock said the day after the election. “Unfortunately between the national tide for the Democratic ticket and the relentless tirade from the (other) local newspaper over a single issue (fluoride), we came up short. I regret that I will be unable to continue to serve our community in this same role and promote limited government and individual freedom on our County Commission.”
Bostock also is looking toward the future.
“I was active in the community and active volunteering in the political process long before my first election to the School Board, and I will continue to serve our community. In some ways, it is exciting to think about what might come next.”
Brickfield was defeated by Janet Long for the District 1 at-large seat on the commission. Long received just over 55 percent of the 421,903 votes cast in the race.
“I think the voters of Pinellas County spoke loud and clear yesterday that they want moderate leadership on their County Commission,” Long said. “I am honored, excited and very humbled by the overwhelming support. I look forward very much to working on the solutions to the challenges facing our county and bringing common sense to the County Commission.”
Bostock was defeated by Charlie Justice for the District 3 at-large position. Justice received just over 52 percent of the 422,929 votes cast.
“I am grateful for the support and confidence that our neighbors here have shown in me,” Justice said. “I appreciate our volunteers sharing their time, talent and treasure with the campaign. I will work hard to continue to earn Pinellas citizens’ trust during my term on the Commission fully knowing that public service is a gift from the public to the elected official.”
The agenda for the Nov. 20 Commission meeting will not be released until Friday, Nov. 16. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Incoming commissioners are sworn in prior to the official start of business; however, a time for the ceremony has not been announced.
Gualtieri wins race for sheriff
Bob Gualtieri won his first term as Pinellas County Sheriff, picking up just over 59 percent of the vote against opponent Scott Swope. Write-in candidate Greg Pound brought in less than 1 percent.
Gualtieri was appointed to the job in 2011 after former Sheriff Jim Coats took early retirement. Gualtieri’s first foray into the politics came when he defeated former sheriff Everett Rice in the August primary.
“I am thankful to the voters of Pinellas County for their confidence in me and to all of our volunteers and supporters for all of their help over the past 18 months,” Gualtieri said. “This was a long, hard race and it is because of the tireless work by a lot of people that we were successful yesterday.
“I look forward to moving the Sheriff’s Office forward, continuing to reduce crime and navigating continued budget challenges. Pinellas County is a safe place to live and work and we will make sure it says that way.”