Later picked to fill open Redington Shores commission seat

Kenny Later

REDINGTON SHORES — The Town Commission has chosen a replacement for Michael Robinson, the District 3 commissioner who recently resigned after being reelected with no opposition.

Kenny Later, a Redington Shores resident for the past 15 years, was chosen for the seat. Later, who is retired, told of his qualifications for commissioner, citing his background in sales management in the health care industry.

Later is familiar to residents as a musician who has played at the annual town picnic for the past 10 years, donating his talents.

Two residents of the district submitted applications to fill the position for the remainder of the term — almost two years. Both had corporate backgrounds and are longtime residents. The unsuccessful candidate was Ken Smith, also well-known in the district and backed by over 100 residents who signed a petition in his favor.

Commissioners spoke individually with the candidates in the week prior to a special meeting on May 9 to make their selection.

Later said his skills include excellent business and people skills, contract and negotiation abilities and excellent public speaking capabilities.

“I would like to improve on the relationship and transparency of government with our residents,” Later said.

He plans to hold town hall meetings with residents to get their opinions.

Later said that after retiring a year ago, “I now have the time to participate in our town.”

Smith is semi-retired, as he maintains some accounts as a federal sales manager for a technology company.

Born in Tampa, Smith has lived part-time in Redington Shores throughout his life and became a full-time resident in 2019. He said his long residency in the town gives him unique insight.

“My professional expertise, augmented by my extensive personal experience and historical knowledge of Redington Shores will enable me to serve our town with a valuable perspective only a life-long member of the community can offer,” said Smith in his application for the commission seat.

The commission members gave few reasons for selecting Later over Smith. Commissioners Jennie Blackburn, Cinda Krouk, Bill Krajewski and Mayor MaryBeth Henderson all said they liked both candidates.

“We have two very good candidates,” said Krouk. “Both have a sales background and strong people and listening skills.”

Henderson, the only “no” vote for Later, said while she liked both candidates, her reason for voting no was to respect the residents who had signed the petition supporting Smith.

“That was the will of the people,” she said.

Following his selection, Later said he wants to help Redington Shores stand out “as one of the most desirable beach communities to live in in Pinellas County.”

In explaining his surprise resignation, Robinson said that he had handled a number of difficult situations during his career in public service, but “working with the current Board of Commissioners is an uphill battle, one that I am no longer willing to fight.”

Seat turtle lighting

The town’s updated sea turtle lighting ordinance passed unanimously on second and final reading at the regular commission meeting on May 11.

The focus of the new law, Blackburn had said when the ordinance was discussed and approved on first reading, is to minimize harm to endangered sea turtles by reducing artificial light visible from the beach.

Criteria from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for light bulbs and fixtures were used in the updated regulation.

Jessica Bibza from the National Wildlife Federation in St. Petersburg was at the meeting and told the commission, “Thank you! I am so excited! You are the first municipality in Pinellas County to adopt an updated sea turtle lighting ordinance since (the state) updated the standards in 2020.”

The NWF worked with the town to ensure the new ordinance aligned as much as possible with state guidelines, Bibza later told the Beacon. She credited the efforts of two local residents, David and Emily Grimes, and Blackburn on the commission for getting the ordinance done.

Bibza also told the commission there is funding available to create some outreach materials, such as postcards or brochures, to inform people about the new regulations.

Residency requirement adjusted

A requirement that the town’s new administrator live in Pinellas County had left the commission’s new hire without an affordable place to live.

Jeff Shoobridge, who is relocating here from Minnesota, had described the great difficulty he was having in his search for a residence in Pinellas, in a real estate market with limited availability of homes and sale prices going way above asking price. He had asked that the provision in his contract requiring him to live in Pinellas be changed to allow him to live within an hour’s drive of Redington Shores, so that he could consider homes in Manatee County.

The commission had agreed by consensus at the previous workshop to make that contract change. However, Town Attorney Rob Eschenfelder later advised that a more enforceable standard would be to require the administrator to live within 50 miles of town hall, as drive times could vary.

Shoobridge said at the May 11 meeting that he has found a home that meets his requirements 36 miles from Town Hall, which he can drive in 45 to 50 minutes. He said the home is just outside of Pinellas in Pasco County.

The commission followed the attorney’s advice and changed the residency requirement to say that Shoobridge must live within a 50-mile limit. The change was approved unanimously.