MADEIRA BEACH — The 2022 election in Madeira Beach will be remembered for its surprising results. In District 1, a popular incumbent commissioner who has served as a leader during her term in office was decisively defeated by a political newcomer, while in District 2 the outcome needed to be decided by a manual recount.
The end result is two new members for the commission, with David Tagliarini replacing Vice Mayor Helen “Happy” Price, and Ray Kerr barely winning against Chuck Dillon to take the place of Commissioner Nancy Hodges, who did not seek reelection. The election was March 15.
In Madeira Beach, commissioners represent the district they live in, but they are voted on by the entire city. Turnout for the city was a relatively low 31%.
Tagliarini wins big
Tagliarini told the Beacon he was thrilled to see the election results, especially because it had been “such a decisive win with an 11% lead over my worthy opponent.” The vote was 561 to 452.
During his door-to-door visits with residents while campaigning, Tagliarini said he found their No. 1 concern by far was “moderate growth.”
“This aligned perfectly with the priorities of my campaign platform, which called for moderate growth and development, with a strong regard for our natural environment, infrastructure and small-town vibe,” Tagliarini said.
On his website, Tagliarini shows a campaign flyer that said, “I will say ‘No’ to developers who want to get around zoning laws and ordinances by hiding their intentions in a Planned Development.”
Planned development rules allow developers to build projects larger than normally permitted in exchange for adding amenities and civic improvements that benefit the community.
In another document on his website, Tagliarini asks, “Why does this city allow developers to ignore their promises to landscape?” He mentions the newly built Cambria Hotel on Madeira Way, a planned development, as an example of that problem.
Tagliarini also said the planned development for the proposed beachfront Schooner Hotel allows the developer “to avoid existing codes and ordinances which are in place to preserve our environment and infrastructure.”
The Schooner was recently approved as a planned development in a unanimous vote of the commission. A lawsuit then was filed, seeking to cancel that approval.
The building of a high-and-dry boat storage facility at the city marina, a proposal strongly supported by Mayor John Hendricks as a city revenue producer, is questioned by Tagliarini.
“I’m not sure that we need (a high and dry),” Tagliarini said. “We don’t need to destroy an area at our entrance that could be made into a beautiful park or some other community space.”
Tagliarini’s stances on issues related to development appear at odds with the direction the current city commission has been moving, and he will clearly be a voice for change when he replaces Price.
Contacted by the Beacon the day after the election for a comment, Hendricks said, “I hope we are not going back to the old ways in the past where nothing gets accomplished.”
Kerr ekes out a win
In a vote recount Friday, a winner emerged in a tight race for the District 2 seat held by Commissioner Nancy Hodges, who stepped down after serving for 10 years.
Ray Kerr came out the winner by two votes over Chuck Dillon, a reversal of the outcome election night when Dillon led by 1 vote. The final vote count was 492 to 490, which included three added votes that were all for Kerr.
“I am very humbled by the results and the closeness of the election,” said Kerr. “I know I have a lot of work to do to convince half of the voters that I was a good choice.”
Regarding development issues, Kerr noted Madeira Beach is built out, with only redevelopment ahead.
“The controversy is when zoning standards are changed, or when a developer wants to redevelop outside of current zoning standards through the planned development process,” he said. “There would have to be a very good argument to get my vote to change any of the current zoning standards, and each PD has to be weighed on its merits with plenty of community involvement.”
Kerr is a member of the city Planning Commission and was part of a unanimous decision by that board to approve the Schooner Hotel for PD status.
Some of his goals as he joins the commission are to keep the city financially stable, finding new sources of revenue, and expanding utility undergrounding citywide. Kerr also said he supports a citizen-run historical society, with community funding if needed.
Kerr and his wife purchased their home in Madeira Beach in 2010 and moved here fulltime in 2017. He said they plan to live in here for the rest of their lives.
“This is our home, and I am committed to making it the best that it can be,” Kerr said.