INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – The makeup of the Indian Rocks Beach Commission will not change at all in the year ahead. The qualifying period for candidates for the March 11 election came and went and only the three incumbents, whose seats were up for grabs, indicated they would run again. No one else stepped forward so the three are back for 2-year terms unopposed.
Mayor R.B. Johnson and Commissioners Cookie Kennedy and Jim Labadie had long indicted they would run again, and it turns out they were the only ones when the deadline at noon on Dec. 20 arrived.
For Johnson this will be his fourth two-year term as mayor. He’s finishing up his sixth year in the office. Before that he served for eight years as a commissioner. He said because he was not challenged in the upcoming election means the residents must like what he is doing.
“I hope it means that most of the people here feel the city is going in the right direction, and are generally happy with the way the commission conducts its business,” he said. “I’m pleased with the commission and the new city manager. I like the way we work well together.”
Johnson said what makes it work out is that the commissioners are pulling in the same direction.
“All the commissioners have a good sense of where the people want the city to go,” he said. “We try to maintain the small town atmosphere and yet continue to encourage our businesses and restaurants because we like them. In addition we like our mixture of residences and parks and beaches, it is a real nice atmosphere.”
Johnson said he’s also pleased with how the commissioners work their way through difficulties.
“We have a way to work out our differences. Often we agree to disagree and then we move on. We have a good mixture of personalities and viewpoints on the Commission,” he said. “That’s what makes it successful.”
Commissioner Cookie Kennedy will be serving her fourth term as commissioner. She also served for two terms back from 1999 to 2002. Hers has been an interesting and diverse political career, all in Indian Rocks Beach.
She left municipal politics in 2002 to run for the state Senate. She didn’t win the seat and the city commissioners at the time did not reappoint her to the commission.
“They were all supportive of my campaign for the Senate seat,” she said. “But when I didn’t win they didn’t want me back on the commission, I was a long time getting over that.”
She ran again in 2008 and was re-elected, but in 2012 took another stab at state office, running for the legislative seat. She lost that run but this time was re-appointed to the city Commission.
“I never moved from the commissions,” she said. “I resigned and was reappointed on the same night.”
Now she has been re-elected unopposed and agrees with Johnson that the residents must think things are going well.
“I think overall the citizens of IRB think we’re doing a great job and they are happy with our performance,” she said.
As for her roller coaster political career, Kennedy says that doesn’t play into the way she does business.
“I never even think about it; I don’t put the two together,” she said. “The whole reason I’m on the commission is to help people, I’m in business. People know where I am; I’m always accessible. Wherever I run the people know it is for their benefit. The whole reason I run is to do more for the community.”
Commissioner Jim Labadie is the political baby of the group. He was first elected to the commission two years ago, his first stab at municipal politics. Now he’s about to enter his second term.
“I’m honored that the people of IRB have faith enough to re-elect me,” he said. “I value their trust and I look forward to improving the community where we can and have fun doing it.”
Like the others Labadie said the residents obviously like what the commission is doing as a whole.
“I think the citizens of IRB feel there is harmony in the city and is confident the leadership is there looking out for their best interests,” he said. “As for me, this has been more enjoyable than I anticipated and the reward in this whole process is getting a good feel of the Community.”
City Clerk Deanne Bulino O’Reilly says the fact that there will not have to be an election in March will save the city roughly $4 thousand.
Johnson, Kennedy and Labadie will be sworn in for their new terms at the Commission meeting on March 25, 2014.