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Voters along Gulf Beaches have their say March 14
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Voters had their say in a number of municipal elections up and down the beaches March 14. In Madeira Beach, it was a clean sweep by opposition candidates, while two new city commissioners were elected in Treasure Island and a new mayor in St. Pete Beach.

The message was clear from voters in Madeira Beach. Opposition candidates, Maggie Black for mayor, Nancy Oakley for District 3 commissioner, and John Douthirt for District 4 commissioner, each won more than 55 percent of the vote. Mayor Travis Palladeno, seeking a third term in office, was defeated by Black in a 771 to 619 vote, a 55 percent to 45 percent margin.

Meanwhile in Treasure Island, newcomer Deborah Toth defeated longtime commissioner Phil Collins with 52.8 percent of the vote and Ralph Kennedy defeated incumbent District 3 commissioner Patrick Jeffares with a landslide victory.

In St. Pete Beach, Alan Johnson captured the mayor’s race with 1,799 votes, defeating interim mayor Deborah Schechner who collected 1,030 votes. John-Michael Fleig was a distant third with 112 votes.

“I had great support from so many in the city,” said Johnson. “It was truly a team effort. I look forward to working with our group of commissioners to handle the city’s challenges for the next three years.”

In Treasure Island, Kennedy credited his neighbors for support.

“I’m pleased the people have spoken out,” said Kennedy, who garnered nearly 64 percent of the vote. “I know a lot of people on the Island and I think people are comfortable with that. We have a great city and some real critical issues ahead. We have too many opportunities to get better.”

Kennedy credited a “three-tiered stool” for his victory.

“The (causeway bridge) toll and how it impacts taxes and the poor planning we put in place (were factors),” he said. “Also, Treasure Bay and how we treat those services. People don’t want to see them change.”

Toth credited her District 1 neighbors.

“I am extremely appreciative for the vote of confidence I received from my neighbors,” she said. “I think our electorate is on board with moving together and building our community in the future. I feel that was the biggest impetus for my win. I hope to be an effective leader and I plan on listening to my constituents’ concerns, developing them into workable proposals.”

In Madeira Beach, Black credited her victory to the people of the city.

“I ran on a ticket to be mayor of the people and the people have spoken,” she said.

Black vowed she and the other winners “will make a change.”

“I am so proud of all the people for standing up and making the right choice,” Black said. “The people’s voices needed to count and they did tonight.”

Oakley, who represented District 3 for six years before leaving the commission in 2013, will be returning to the seat. She easily defeated appointed Commissioner Ingrid Ferro-Spilde, winning 821 to 536, for 60 percent of the vote.

In District 4, Douthirt, making his first try at public office, had 744 votes, 55 percent of the total, in a three-person race, defeating businessman David Hitterman and contractor Housh Ghovaee.

Hitterman ran second with 338 votes, 25 percent of the total, and Ghovaee had 267 votes or 20 percent.

Ghovaee served on the commission for seven months before being removed earlier this month because of a court case that ruled the city violated the Sunshine Law in appointing him.

“I want to thank all the people who backed us and supported us, who really busted their ass for us,” Douthirt said. “I knocked on doors and talked to the people, and listened to them. It comes down to the people, and I’m glad they were behind us.”

Douthirt said he is ready to go to work on the commission.

“This is no time to sit back,” he said. “We need to get in there and do what we promised we would do, and do what is right for the city.”

Oakley said she is happy all three candidates for change won.

“We all worked really hard, and had a great group of volunteers. Now we can make a change in Madeira Beach,” Oakley said.

Oakley said she and the others had run “a really straight forward campaign. We wanted to listen to the people and make their voices heard.”

“I’m so proud of everyone,” she said.

North Redington Beach’s 1,175 registered voters had only one decision to make – to keep incumbent Richard L. Bennett, who has held Seat 1 on the commission since 2003, or to replace him with challenger Jeff Busch. It seems everyone is pleased with the way Bennett has been doing his job. He received 57.83 percent or 240 of the 415 votes cast. Busch received 42.17 percent.

Redington Shores’ 476 registered voters also had only one race on the ballot. Voters were asked to choose between Jeffery C. Neal and Jason E. Schrimsher to fill the position for District 2 on the commission left vacant by incumbent John Branch. Neal was on top with 73.96 percent or 125 of the 169 votes cast. Schrimsher received 26.04 percent.

In Gulfport, voters choose between two to serve as a councilor representing Ward 2. With all seven precincts reporting and mail ballots counted, incumbent Christine Anne Brown was way ahead of challenger Linda Bailey.

Brown had received 80.96 percent, or 1,407 of the 1,738 ballots cast, to Bailey with 19.04 percent of the vote.

Incumbent Michael Fridovich, who currently serves as vice mayor, also took the lead in his race for the Ward 4 seat picking up 54.15 percent, or 959 of the 1,771 votes cast. Challengers Bobby L. Reynolds received 21.96 percent, Ernest Stone had 16.49 percent and Richard Fried garnered 7.0 percent.

South Pasadena’s 3,864 voters picked from a list of three names to fill two commissioner seats. The candidates were Dan Calabria, Gigi Esposito and David Magenheimer. Esposito received the most votes, 45.75 percent or 764 of the 1,670 votes cast in the race. Magenheimer won the second seat with 35.87 percent of the vote and Calabria picked up 18.38 percent.

Pinellas County Editor Suzette Porter contributed to this report.

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