BELLEAIR BEACH – Though there will be no election in Belleair Beach this spring, the city will have a new leader.
Mayor Kathy Mortensen chose not to seek a second term, and Council Member Rob Baldwin decided to step up to the mayor’s chair. No one else qualified to run for the job, so Baldwin faced no opposition and will be sworn in as mayor at the April 1 City Council meeting.
Council Members Jeril Cohen, John Pietrowski, and Wanda Schwerer also were up for election this term. All decided to run again and had no opponents, so they will keep their council seats.
Though Baldwin will be serving his first term as mayor, he has been a familiar face on council. He served two terms as council member beginning in 2007, then took a year off and came back in 2011.
Baldwin was best known in his earlier terms for leading the building of the new city hall. He was a member of the city’s code enforcement board when asked by then City Manager Reid Silverboard to help with the city hall project.
Baldwin said, “I worked with the architect to re-site the building, simplify the design and keep it adjacent to the water.”
“The committee I led got the project back within budget; I joined the council in March of 2007, and we broke ground on the new city hall in October of 2008,” Baldwin said.
During his tenure on council, Baldwin has used his experience as a construction executive to manage the design and construction of city hall, the Harrison Street and 22nd Street bridges, and other city projects.
In his latest term, Baldwin has been outspoken in his opposition to reconfiguring Gulf Boulevard to add about 30 public parking spaces as a condition to qualify for beach renourishment funds. He said that solution, which was proposed by the county, would destroy the city’s residential character.
The city has enough public parking spaces, but they are not evenly spread throughout the city as required.
The parking issue threatened Belleair Beach’s participation in the renourishment of local beaches this past year. The city is currently seeking a variance from the parking requirements, and Baldwin has been a leader in that effort.
As mayor, Baldwin said he plans to continue the fight to prevent added parking “which I feel is not required, and unnecessary.”
“I want to work with the county on a solution (to the beach renourishment issue), but it needs to be one that does not include added parking,” he said.
Looking forward as mayor, Baldwin said he wants to make improvements to the city when needed, while working hard to maintain Belleair Beach’s unique residential character.
“That is where my passion is, and that will be my focus as mayor,” he said.