LARGO – Largo’s next mayor and the commissioners in Seats 1 and 6 might already be decided, if no one else declares intentions to run before the qualifying period ends Aug. 15.
Only two of the five seats to be decided in the Nov. 4 election are contested so far, with two political newcomers squaring off for an empty seat and another new candidate facing off against longtime incumbent Harriet Crozier for Seat 5.
But so far, Woody Brown, who has been a Largo commissioner since 2007, is the only declared candidate for mayor. Former Largo police chief John Carroll is the sole candidate in the seat Brown is vacating. And Michael Smith, vying for his second term as Largo commissioner, also has no opponent.
According to the city’s records so far, the candidates for Seat 2 are Samantha Fenger and Daniel Ruffner.
Fenger, 35, was a land use and rezoning planner for Pinellas County and Tampa governments before handling social services and community outreach for the nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters. She attended the Tampa Bay Public Leadership Institute last year, and has since dedicated herself to full-time campaigning.
She’s served on Largo’s Community Redevelopment Advisory Board for several years, but most recently began serving on the Planning Board.
She’s lived in Largo for 10 years, moving back to the state to pursue her undergraduate degree at Eckerd College. She has an MBA in sustainable management from Marylhurst University. She has been married to Eric for nine years.
Her goals will be to attract economic development to Largo, especially in the downtown area, and “promote sustainable growth and provide most efficient and effective city services.”
Ruffner, 47, is a vice president of a BB&T branch in Largo who said he realized, after serving as a timer during a Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce debate, that he was just as qualified as the Largo candidates he was timing.
“My clients have approached me saying that they don’t think they’ve been fully represented in the city of Largo,” Ruffner said.
The Largo High School graduate, who has lived in Largo since 1972, has a banking and finance degree from University of South Florida. He’s served on the city’s Code Enforcement Board. He said he wants to apply his financial know-how to be a “good steward of the taxpayers’ dollars and plan for the future.”
He and his wife, Laura, have a 15-year-old daughter, Rachel.
Donna Holck plans to challenge Crozier for Seat 5. Another political newcomer, G. Raymond Raulerson, declared before the qualifying period but has since told the Largo Leader that he doesn’t intend to pursue the candidacy.
Holck, 51, owns a small tax consulting firm, but has also worked as a nail technician and trainer for several years. She’s lived in Largo for 20 years and said she’s running because, despite thinking Crozier has done a “fantastic job,” thinks it’s time to bring a new face to the commission.
“I believe in term limits, whether it’s big governments or small,” she said. “I just feel like after a certain amount of time … that you kind of lose a little bit of perspective.”
She’s been married to Gary for 15 years.
Crozier, 70, has served as a Largo commissioner since 2000, 20 years total, adding in six years as a commissioner prior to that year.
She is retired, but used to work as an office manager for Serenity Gardens funeral home as well as teach computers.
Along with serving as a commissioner, Crozier has served on the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Pinellas Planning Council and the county’s Intelligent Technology System, roles that she said help her better serve the residents of Largo.
“I still have the enthusiasm and the drive to continue to move Largo forward,” she said.
Crozier has been a Largo resident since 1971. She has been married to Bobby for 34 years and has an adult daughter, Lisa.
Smith, 32, has worked in the Pinellas County Library System for 11 years, currently as a library assistant for the Pinellas Park library. He was born in Largo, raised throughout Pinellas County and has lived in Largo since 2009. He and his partner of four years, Eric Hutton, purchased a house in October of last year.
He is currently a member of the Largo Historical Society, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority Board of Directors and the Largo Historical Society, to name some of his community involvement.
“I have enjoyed being out in the community, learning about what our citizens need and want,” Smith stated.
Carroll, 55, retired as police chief last year, ending a 33-year career with the Largo Police Department. He’s lived in Largo since 1967 and graduated from Largo High School, joining the police with the U.S. Army before becoming a civilian police officer.
Even as he retired last year, Carroll told the Largo Leader that he would be considering a run at the Largo commission.
“It would be another opportunity to serve,” he said at the time.
Carroll has been married to Linda for 33 years. They have two adult children.
Brown, 43, decided to run for mayor after its current mayor, Pat Gerard, declared her intentions to run for county commissioner.
Brown is a chiropractor with an office in the city’s downtown West Bay Drive district. He’s lived in Largo since 2000, but said he grew up on Indian Rocks Beach and was a Largo High School graduate.
He currently serves on the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and the Clearwater Jazz Force, among other organizations. He said he first ran for commissioner in 2007 because he didn’t feel like the perspective of a young professional raising a family was well represented on the commission.
“I’m not alone in that capacity now,” he said. “I want to keep Largo a great place to live.”
He and his wife, Jenny, have two sons: Sawyer, 3, and Wyland, 5.
To qualify as a candidate for office, those interested must obtain petition signatures from 200 registered Largo voters, open a campaign account and designate a treasurer. Candidates must have lived in the city of Largo for at least one year.