Belleair Bluffs Commissioners Taylour Shimkus and Joe Barkley.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS – Commissioners Joe Barkley and Taylour Shimkus held off challenger George Lawton to keep their seats on the Belleair Bluffs commission.
According to the unofficial results posted on the Supervisor of Elections website, Barkley received 428 votes, 36.36 percent. Shimkus took in 406 votes, 34.49 percent. Lawton received 343 votes, 29.14 percent. Results showed that 1,177 voters participated. Belleair Bluff voters returned 64.9 percent of 676 mail ballots requested as of March 10. Twenty-eight cast their ballots during early voting.
Turnout was much higher compared to last year’s City Commission race, in which Commissioners Suzy Sofer and Jack Nazario were opposed by Lawton. A total of 1,177 votes were cast this time versus 680 a year ago. The congressional race that was also on the ballot this year may have increased turnout.
The contest was a barometer of voter satisfaction with city government. Both Barkley and Shimkus had messages that said the city is well run and fiscally sound, and suggested the incumbents should be re-elected to continue current policies.
Lawton ran a campaign focused on what he said were problems at city hall. He accused the city administration of a lack of planning, communication and transparency with the citizens. That message garnered him about 30 percent of the vote in the three-person field, but not enough to oust either Barkley or Shimkus.
Following his victory, Barkley thanked the voters in Belleair Bluffs “who were able to determine that I had the best message for moving the city forward.” Barkley said he appreciated all of the people who helped in his campaign and was glad to see Commissioner Taylour Shimkus also win re-election.
Barkley pledged to work with the other commission members “to keep the city moving in the same direction.” He thanked challenger George Lawton for running “a spirited campaign.”
Shimkus said she appreciated the support she received from the residents in giving her another term on the commission.
“I look forward to continuing to represent all the people of Belleair Bluffs as I have in the past,” she said.
Shimkus said she had crisscrossed the city, speaking with residents about their opinions and needs. She believes she won re-election because “I know my city, and what the residents want and don’t want.”
Shimkus’s message to the voters, she said, is “I will continue to represent the residents. I don’t have an agenda. I will do what’s right.”
Lawton sent his congratulations to the winners, and said the voters had spoken. Lawton said he hopes the commission will change course and start putting the citizens first, speak up and start discussing their ideas, insist that citizen inquiries be heard and acted upon, and most of all, that “a leader will emerge that will show the way for these things to be accomplished.”