Challenger Terri Finnerty, left, faces incumbent Lorraine Huhn for the District 1 seat on St. Pete Beach Commission.
Newcomers James Anderson, left, and Gregory Premer are seeking the District 3 seat on the St. Pete Beach Commission.
ST. PETE BEACH – Four candidates are seeking two seats on the St. Pete Beach City Commission in the March 11 election. Challenger Terri Finnerty faces incumbent Lorraine Huhn for the District 1 seat. Newcomers James Anderson and Gregory Premer are seeking the District 3 seat.
The Beach Beacon takes a look at the candidates with a series of questions designed to help voters make a better decision on Election Day.
• James Anderson
Marital Status: Married Age: 50. Education: Accounting degree, University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Number of years in St. Pete Beach: 8 years. Activities/employment: Career firefighter, Arlington County, Va.; served on Retirement Board, Arlington, Va.; former Lions Club president, former president of Pimmit Hills Citizens Association.
• Terri Finnerty
Marital status: Married to former Mayor Mike Finnerty Age: 69 Education: Bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in education Number of Years in St. Pete Beach: 32 years Activities/employment: Ten years teaching, University of Houston, Houston, Texas; six years as manager of training for three companies – Jack Eckerd Corp., Innisbrook Resort and Konica Corp.; vice president of St. Pete Beach Support Our Troops for seven years.
• Lorraine Huhn
Marital status: Widow Age: 84 Education: Graduate of Marycrest College, Davenport, Iowa. Number of Years in St. Pete Beach: 34 years Activities/employment: A former school educator in the Chicago suburbs, also worked in marketing for financial services companies. Participated in fundraising walks for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, served as course marshal for the St. Pete Classic distance run events; served more than 20 years as a board member at the Yacht and Tennis Club.
• Gregory Premer
Marital status: Married to Melissa Lynn Age: 57 Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration, Western Michigan University Number of Years in St. Pete Beach: 21 years Activities/employment: State sales director for Nevco Inc. Scoreboards, Video and LED displays; vice president of Belle Vista Civic Association, board member of St. Pete Beach Recreation Advisory Board; volunteer at St. Pete Classic; PTA vice president at Gulf Beaches Elementary School, Lakeview Fundamental School, Thurgood Marshall Middle School and Boca Ciega High School; coach and volunteer at Southwest Little League.
Why should the voters of St. Pete Beach elect you?
ANDERSON: I will be an effective leader representing the interests and residents of the district.
FINNERTY: I have lived here for 32 years and recognize clearly that the resident’s problems are my problems. I believe my political background coupled with my in-depth education and extensive work history will allow me to be the best choice for Commission of District 1.
HUHN: I believe that the St. Pete Beach taxpayers should vote to re-elect me to the City Commission because of the dedication and progress that I have already achieved.
PREMER: I have excelled in my professional career by practicing the art of negotiation and compromise while my opponent relies on litigation and confrontation. Working with dozens of cities throughout Florida has given me a unique insight as to how city governments work and what it takes to get things done. I also have the local knowledge of our city that one can only learn from raising a family here. My three children all attended Gulf Beaches Elementary where I was honored to work with hundreds of local families and businesses working the annual fish broil fundraiser. I’ve been to every SPB park, marched in the holiday parade, visited every beach, attended most of our local city events and helped our community in countless ways over the last 22 years. In short, I consider myself a dedicated family man who can best represent the residents of SPB.
What are the biggest issues the city faces in the next two years?
ANDERSON: Upgrading and modernizing the infrastructure in all parts of the city without placing unfair costs on the taxpayers. These are, in my opinion the most pressing issues for our city. This includes upgrading drainage and sewer systems and paving neighborhood roads while maintaining a healthy tourism to support our business owners.
FINNERTY: Promote the renaissance of Corey Avenue, ensure infrastructure supports our vision of redevelopment, work with legislatures to control sky rocketing premiums for flood insurance, demand transparency in government – fairness and openness.
HUHN: With a CRA, the city can begin to consider potential funding (for redevelopment) from the tax dollars paid to the county. Also, redevelopment of our business and resort properties will provide additional revenue as the result of improvement with competitive operations.
PREMER: Upgrading the aging city infrastructure, particularly the roads and sewer system. Strengthen and strictly enforce the city code enforcement rules. Implement the comprehensive plan that the vast majority or our citizens approved in 2008.
What is your stance on these issues and how would you approach them?
ANDERSON: My stance is that these issues should be addressed before any major development is started and we need to find ways to help finance these issues so that everyone, residents and businesses, pay their fair share.
FINNERTY: Our aging roads and sewer system have been a serious concern for quite some time. This year a substantial amount of money has been dedicated to upgrading these two areas. I will continue to support allocating funds for future improvements, until we can prove to residents our infrastructure will be able to handle our vision of redevelopment. First, I support a moratorium and a roll back to premiums a year ago for flood insurance and will further explore legislative privatization initiatives. I also support the National Catastrophic Fund that has been suggested. I will hold the commission to the principals of transparency and open government and will not support discussions behind closed doors. I am committed to making sure every citizen’s voice is heard.
HUHN: Redevelopment will provide enhanced benefits to property owners. By creating a thriving community we will be able to expect maximum benefits without excess financial burden on the taxpayer. When we work together we will thrive together.
PREMER: When elected, I will immediately investigate the fastest possible way to ensure the problems with our sewer system are corrected and work with the city management to plan the repaving of the roads where needed in District 3. Regarding the comprehensive plan, my professional experience has been very successful due to my learned ability to negotiate and find solutions to my client’s needs. I will take this same approach to help implement a balanced comprehensive plan that protects our residents while encouraging growth in our tourism industry.
What are your thoughts on Corey Avenue redevelopment?
ANDERSON: Corey Avenue needs to redevelop. While it is not in my district, I would work with the other commissioners to see how this can be accomplished.
FINNERTY: I support the redevelopment of Corey Avenue. I believe this is the key to growth and prosperity for our city and look forward to hearing about the recommended changes and improvements from The Baker Group study.
HUHN: Corey Avenue revitalization is an economic imperative. Providing a business friendly environment is a natural start. Our downtown should become the economic engine that drives our community forward. The natural energy will take place when Corey Avenue unfailingly displays opportunity for the right redevelopment. We should look for the right mix of retail, food and beverage with the possible re-introduction of entertainment via The Beach Theater (when that family issue is resolved).
PREMER: The Corey Avenue development is perhaps the most exciting opportunity our city has ever seen. I attended and saw first-hand the presentations from the Baker Group study and am anxiously awaiting their formal presentation in March. I believe the potential exists to make this a focal point for our residents and visitors alike and will look forward to working with the business owners to make this a reality.
What are your thoughts on what should be done with the city’s former police station?
ANDERSON: I understand there are several ideas currently. The one I find interesting is to convert it to an aquarium, which would be an attraction for our residents and visitors, and aid local schools in research. I would have to see more specifics before supporting any decision.
FINNERTY: The mayor should appoint a task force to explore alternate uses for the former police station since it cannot be used as a police station. We should evaluate viable alternatives and do what is best for the city of St. Pete Beach.
HUHN: It is still a possibility that Secrets of the Sea is considering repurposing the police station. That would be an ideal gateway facility. The PD is almost a “single purpose” building. Therefore, the opportunity will require some very creative thinking.
PREMER: The former police station is a very unique property that, due to its obvious location next to the Community Center, should be utilized to further enhance the Corey Avenue redevelopment if at all possible. The possibility of the former Pier Aquarium is quite intriguing if the details can be worked out.
What are your thoughts on finding ways to finance reconstruction of the city’s aging infrastructure?
ANDERSON: This is an important and complicated subject. Upgrading and modernizing our infrastructure needs for the future will be expensive and time consuming. We will have to explore various sources of financing and not rely solely on our residents and businesses. There could be grants, bond issues, short-term fees, etc., or more likely a mix of financing sources. It will require prioritizing projects, setting up schedules and dealing with the costs as each project comes up. What we have to avoid, if possible, is putting “band-aids” on the serious projects, which will have to serve us far into the future.
FINNERTY: We should guarantee the money we are collecting currently is consistently put towards financing infrastructure issues.
HUHN: St. Pete Beach is on track to resolve the infrastructure problems that have built up these past few years. Failed streets and alleys also are on target to be restored. The problems are being resolved in the most cost effective and reasonable way possible. Careful planning and proper budgeting have made the process more clearly manageable.
PREMER: In my opinion the best way to help finance the reconstruction of the aging city infrastructure is to encourage investment in our city by implementing the comprehensive plan, finding an equitable solution to the lawsuits, increase our commercial tax base and impact fees while protecting our residents from any increased taxes and revitalize, update and beautify our downtown and neighborhoods.