ST. PETE BEACH – The City Commission will take on a new look beginning March 25 when Maria Lowe takes over as mayor and two new commissioners begin two-year terms.
In addition to Lowe, Terri Finnerty will take over the District 1 seat previously held by Lorraine Huhn and Greg Premer will fill the District 3 seat previously held by Marvin Shavlan and interim commissioner Ward Friszolowski.
They will be seated next to existing commissioners Jim Parent, who represents District 2, and Melinda Pletcher, who represents District 4.
Lowe won a three-year term as mayor with 52 percent of the vote over former mayor Steve McFarlin. She credited her campaign workers and supporters for her victory.
“The biggest contributing factor was my volunteers and supporters,” she said. “I had a lot of people around me and they all came together for me.”
Finnerty, the wife of former St. Pete Beach Mayor Mike Finnerty, credited the help of her husband who she called “the ideal coach.”
She also credited the voters of St. Pete Beach for due diligence and making the right choice.
“I have a combination of feelings,” said Finnerty. “I’m thrilled and honored at the same time. The residents of St. Pete Beach do their due diligence and I think they realized I’m open-minded and want to be sure every person’s voice is heard. That’s not something that has been going on in the past.”
Premer, a neighbor of Friszolowski in Belle Vista Shores, credited Friszolowski, a former St. Pete Beach mayor, for his work on his campaign.
“Ward Friszolowski was my No. 1 supporter and was tireless knocking on doors and helping to put out mailers,” Premer said. “Family and friends were equally important.”
With three new members, the City Commission will take on a new look but Finnerty said the direction would still be the same.
“I’m not sure it’s going to change the direction,” Finnerty said. “I do know we’re all strong people and want to do the right thing for the city.”
“The next couple of years will be great for the city,” Premer said. “The economy is on the up-tick and everybody seems to be ready to put the nit-pickiness aside and move forward.”
He pointed to Corey Avenue redevelopment and better code enforcement as a couple of his top priorities.
Among the biggest issues for the city, Lowe said, is to find a way to repair aging infrastructure. She said it would be an ongoing process and she would rely on the Public Works Department to formulate a five-year plan.
“There is no way to do all the repairs necessary all at once,” she said, “but the immediate need is wastewater management.”
The city is also in need of repairing or rebuilding many of its streets, as well as the drainage systems.
“The roadways are an issue but what is under the roadways is important too,” Lowe said. “We will be prioritizing in such a way that they can be handled effectively.”
In addition to the general fund and the city’s enterprise fund, the City Commission will be reviewing a variety of funding methods, she said.
“We will look at all options,” Lowe said.
Finnerty said the city’s enterprise fund has $2.4 million and the emergency reserve account has another $4 million.
“So it’s not a money issue,” Finnerty said. “It’s a procedural issue.”
Once the city gets past emergency repairs to a pair of pump stations, Finnerty said the city can get back to the plan Public Works Director Steve Hallock has put in place to systematically replace the infrastructure.