TREASURE ISLAND — Mayor-elect Tyler Payne vowed to have the City Commission play an active role in ensuring all city departments provide the best customer service taxpayers and businesses can ask for, while improving the city’s communication skills.
In the March 9 municipal election, Payne beat incumbent Larry Lunn by 634 votes to become the city’s next mayor.
Mayor-elect Payne was elected to the City Commission for a two-year term in 2020 representing District 2, which encompasses Isle of Palms and Sunshine Beach. He resigned to run for mayor, and his commission seat will be filled March 16 by John Doctor, a former Bright House/Spectrum executive who was unopposed.
District 3 Commissioner Saleene Partridge also was unopposed for reelection. District 1 incumbent Deborah Toth will keep her post after defeating two challengers.
Lunn had been elected to a three-year term as mayor in 2018. He also served as commissioner of District 2 from 2017-18 and on the zoning board from 2015-17.
On his Facebook page, Payne told a resident, “My biggest priorities are to improve our building department/city customer service, improve our communication to and from residents/businesses, and improve our economic development efforts. Listening to the taxpayers has always been at the forefront for me in the last three years on the Commission. As an elected official I represent what you want, not what I want.”
In an earlier interview with Tampa Bay Newspapers, Payne said his first priority would be to improve the city’s community development department, which issues building permits, performs inspections and assists with long-term planning.
“I’ve heard far too many times of contractors who will no longer do business in the city of Treasure Island because of the difficulties they’ve had in the permitting process. We are better than that,” he said. “Treasure Island cannot allow negative experiences to ultimately impact our tax base. We are leaving opportunities on the table by not having the highest level of customer service and satisfaction. The city needs a mayor and commission who will make this their priority.”
However, during a recent City Commission meeting Payne heard that negative experiences are not exclusive to the community development department; one hotelier told commissioners the planning department refused her request to modernize the 60-year-old Tahitian Resort by adding a raised pool deck and tiki bar. The hotel owner told commissioners that city planners told her there was no need to modernize and redevelop the property.
At the commission hearing, Payne challenged the planning department’s interpretation of the land development code, noting it does not include a definition of “open space” that was key to the Tahitian case. After a discussion, it was determined that the City Commission needed only to approve off-site parking variances, which allowed the Tahitian Resort to make the improvements.
Payne was also first to object to the recreation department’s proposal to remove a bottle brush tree in Roselli Park that generations of children, including himself, had enjoyed climbing on. Recreation leaders told commissioners the tree had to be removed to safely install a children’s playground. City commissioners agreed with Payne and instructed recreation officials to preserve it and relocate the site of the new playground.
According to the Supervisor of Elections, Treasure Island has 4,537 registered voters, with about half or 2,570 casting votes in this year’s mayor’s race, where Payne received 1,602 votes to Lunn’s 968.