CLEARWATER – On the evening of Jan. 15, Clearwater voters got to meet the five men vying to fill the two Clearwater City Council seats that are up for grabs in the upcoming election.
It wasn’t quite standing-room-only, but there were few vacant seats in the Salvation Army’s Joy Center.
Incumbent Councilmember Bill Jonson is defending his Seat 4 against challenges from David Allbritton and Konrad McCree Jr. Hoyt Hamilton and Jon-Paul Rosa are competing for the Seat 5 that Councilmember Paul Gibson is vacating because of term limits.
Jonson, 69, is a Countryside resident, Vietnam-era Army veteran and retired Honeywell project manager. He gained a reputation as the city’s most ardent crusader against unsightly billboards and, except for a three-year hiatus required by term limits, has served on the City Council since 2001.
He is president of the Suncoast League of Cities, chairman of the board of the Courtney Campbell Scenic Highway organization, vice-chairman of the board of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, and serves on the boards of the Florida League of Cities and Science America, Inc.
He lists basic city infrastructure, economic development and transportation among his top priorities.
Allbritton, 63, is an Island Estates resident who was born in Clearwater and has his own construction company. He is president of the Clearwater Historical Society, vice-president of Prospect Towers and the Island Estates Civic Association, and chairman of the Clearwater Downtown Development Board. He also serves on the board of Clearwater Senior Citizens Services, Inc. and is a member of the Clearwater Neighborhoods Association.
His priorities include making sure that Clearwater has a “strong environment for business and jobs,” healthy and vital neighborhoods, a stronger transportation network, and “effective and efficient city services.”
McCree, 29, is a Clearwater native, businessman and pastor. As the father of three young children, he worries that “Clearwater is a very different place than when (he) grew up here,” so he decided to run for the seat currently occupied by Jonson in hopes of seeing that Clearwater remains a place that families are able to afford and call home. As an African-American, he would also bring diversity to the council, which is currently all white.
Attracting small businesses, aiding in downtown development, ensuring that the city allocates sufficient funding to its parks and recreational facilities, and bringing “fresh vision” to city government are among McCree’s priorities.
Hamilton, 55, has family roots is Clearwater that extend back nearly a century. He and his brothers are partners in the Palm Pavilion and Palm Pavilion Inn on Clearwater Beach. He recently returned from Atlanta, where he had lived for the past four years while his sons were in college there.
He served on the Clearwater City Council from 2001 to 2006 and has served on numerous boards, as well as coaching Little League Baseball.
He said that fresh ideas come from the residents and his priority as a councilmember would be to implement those ideas for the purpose of making Clearwater “a safe, healthy environment for families and businesses alike.” Curtailing the spiraling cost of flood insurance and keeping neighborhoods safe were among the other priorities he mentioned.
Rosa, 30, is a Pinellas County native and a recent Army veteran who served three tours as an intelligence analyst in Afghanistan. He says that if elected to the council, he will “promote an environment where businesses can prosper, opportunities are created and all families are treated with dignity and respect.”
Improving public transportation, bettering parks and community centers, and promoting an environment where business can prosper and opportunities are created are among Rosa’s other priorities.
The election is Tuesday, March 11. The winners will serve for four years and be paid $20,225 a year.