SEMINOLE – A field of four candidates is on the ballot for two Seminole City Council seats this year.
Like in past years, city residents will be voting over the next couple of weeks with mail-in ballots or by going to the polls on March 12.
The field includes incumbents Thomas Barnhorn and Jim Quinn, along with challengers Thomas Christy and Matt Nilssen, who are seeking the two at-large, nonpartisan seats for a term of three years, eight months.
Today the Seminole Beacon takes a look at three of the four candidates with a series of questions designed to help voters make a better decision on Election Day.
No information was available on Nilssen, who chose not to respond to Beacon inquiries.
Marital status: Married to Rayma for 10 years. The couple has a daughter and two grandchildren. Age: 57
Activities/Employment: Operates Barnhorn Financial Services at 8333 Seminole Blvd. Bio: A native of Illinois … graduated from Dunedin High School in 1974 … earned bachelor’s degrees in information systems management and finance from the University of South Florida … a member of the Seminole Lions and Kiwanis clubs, Knights of Columbus, Exchange Club and Seminole Business Masters … a member of St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church … Worked five years as a manager of Sambo’s Restaurant in Polk County and four years in sales with Pulte Homes … worked in pest control for Pinellas County Schools and was manager of a waterbed store … worked as a regulatory compliance officer for Capital One Financial before getting into financial consulting with A.G. Edwards … the immediate past president of the Suncoast League of Cities … a board member on the Florida League of Cities and is currently running for second vice president of the Florida League.
Activities/Employment: Semi-retired, works for Largo-based Zhone as an inventory analyst.
Bio: Native of Tonawanda, N.Y. … 1975 graduate of Bryant and Stratton College … Served twice on the Tonawanda City Council … worked 30 years for children’s book publisher Carlton-Craft Corp. in Buffalo, N.Y. … Lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus … Moved to Seminole in 2005 … resident of Seminole Gardens … member of the Seminole Gardens Men’s Club … member of St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church … served on the Seminole Charter Revision Committee in 2009-10.
Marital status: Married to Jean for one year. Age: 73
Activities/Employment: Retired. Member of the Seminole Gardens Men’s Club, serves as Pancake Breakfast Committee chairman.
Bio: native of the South Bronx, N.Y. … served in the U.S. Navy 1956-60 … worked in construction in New York City and Enfield, Conn. … worked for the city of Enfield as a rubbish collector, Highway Department laborer and Highway Department crew chief before being named assistant highway superintendent and highway superintendent … worked 10 years for the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority, a public-private effort for recycling … moved to the area in 2004 following the death of his first wife … helped to form Concerned Citizens of Seminole Gardens … elected to Seminole City Council in 2010.
Why should the voters elect you to the City Council?
BARNHORN: I believe I’m the most experienced and the best candidate on the ballot. Also, I bring a love of city and community to the table.
CHRISTY: I’m someone who cares. I previously served on the Charter Review Committee. I understand public service and I like listening to folks and getting ideas on how we can move the community forward.
QUINN: What I’ve accomplished as a City Council member. We knocked $900,000 off the city budget and haven’t decreased any services. We’ve enhanced the use of the recreation center by setting up payment now with credit cards. The city is going forward and it is run great.
What are the biggest issues facing Seminole?
BARNHORN: Decreasing property values. As far as city government is concerned, inflation has caused an increase in costs. More and more businesses are closing their doors. Part of it is the economy and part is social, such as the Internet tax. We need to get people to buy local.
CHRISTY: Public safety. People love the sheriff’s office and the fire department, and are very tuned into response times. They don’t want to see that changed. Part of public safety is also safe sidewalks and crosswalks.
QUINN: Getting the mall redeveloped because it’s the center of our business district and the hub of our city. Overall, things are moving along pretty smoothly.
How would you improve Seminole?
BARNHORN: I’d have the Recreation Center open more hours. Also, beautification of the older parts of Seminole and getting businesses along the corridors to beautify themselves.
CHRISTY: In listening to folks, we would facilitate their issues and needs. I’m all for making the community a safer place. Quite frankly, I’d like to have speed limits down more.
QUINN: Growth is going along at a slow pace. We have voluntary annexation and that’s the way we grow. I’d like to see expansion of our city and development of the industrial area. Overall, we’ve got a great city with great schools and great kids.
If budgets cuts are necessary in fiscal 2014, what areas would you trim?
BARNHORN: We’re as lean as we can get and our department managers are doing a good job towing the line. We may have one more year of a decreasing budget.
CHRISTY: That’s a big if. Seminole is very well managed. I’m a big believer in looking at the top down. I’m all for elected people doing their jobs and taking a more active part in the budget process. Then, as a group, you can sit down and decide what areas you can trim. There’s always fat in budgets that can be trimmed.
QUINN: If we need to cut, say 3 percent, I’d go to the department heads and say you’ve got to trim 3 percent of your budgets. There’s always wiggle room, but you don't want to eliminate services to the residents.
Would you be in favor of a millage increase to balance the budget?
CHRISTY: Probably not. I would look to see what can be eliminated.
QUINN: Not unless we have to do it. The starting point is cutting the budget. A millage rate increase would be the last resort. I favor a millage decrease once the (home) values come back.
BARNHORN: I want to thank Seminole residents for allowing me to serve. I provide a voice at the state level and the national level. I have seven years previously on the City Council and I’m going into my third term. I want to thank everyone for that honor.
CHRISTY: I’ve been active in the community and will remain active to move our city forward. We need to grow particularly in the areas that enclaves are surrounded by other city property, such as the Mystic Mobile Home Park. We need fresh minds and fresh ideas on the City Council. Term limits are near and dear to me.
QUINN: I originally wanted to have a voice for the community I live in. Now, since I’ve had a chance to work with community leaders, I’ve met a lot of great people. And most of those people seem to be pretty happy with the direction the city is going. We’re very lucky to have the city manager and staff we have.
Revised statement by Jim Quinn, who prefers that budget cuts not affect services to residents.