ST. PETE BEACH — Experience serving as a member of the city’s planning board since 2019 gave Mark Grill, a candidate vying to fill the city commission seat vacated by District 2 Commissioner Doug Izzo, the upper hand over another candidate, Rachel Ciliberti.
Izzo recently resigned his post to become executive director of the Englewood Chamber of Commerce. City commissioners met on Jan. 26 to interview the two candidates, both retired after long careers at IBM. They sought to fill the commission seat until an Aug. 24 election can be held. That date will piggyback on elections scheduled in St. Petersburg and Seminole.
Ciliberti, who moved to St. Pete Beach in November 2019, told commissioners she has ideas to foster more community involvement, such as starting a community garden and promoting a beach concert series.
She told commissioners she wants to help fix issues faced by the city, “to get involved in the community and continue to help bring the city, which I love very much, just to what it needs to be.” She added, “My parents always told me you can’t complain, you need to get involved; you need to put your energies and your passion to the things that you can change, and be part of that change.”
Grill, who has been a resident of the district since 2017, said he wanted to be a commissioner because he “believes one must do more than just reside in a community. I think it’s important for people to participate in the community to make it successful and a great place to live, and a great place to be.”
He added, “And I don’t mean to be a prolific poster on social media. That’s too easy and, unfortunately, happens far too often. What I mean is for people to take positive actions to implement positive change in the community, and to contribute to an overall sense of living in a community.”
Grill added he “tries to do just that.” He noted he has directed traffic as a volunteer at the St. Pete Beach Classic and served as a member of the planning board. He added he participated in the city’s strategic planning sessions, and is president of his homeowners association.
Grill lived all over the world as a financial officer for IBM. When he and his wife decided to return to the U.S., a friend in Dubai advised them to stay at the friend’s home in St. Pete Beach and to look around the city.
St. Pete Beach “had a sense of community, which was very important to us,” he said.
When it comes to issues facing the city, Grill said, “I think we have to have clearly some redevelopment. I know there was a moratorium. We need to have development but balanced development. From residents that I have spoken with, people don’t want another Clearwater.
“We need to make some reinvestment. We need to keep it attractive,” he added. “We need to allow the businesses to develop.”
After the interview session, Commissioner Chris Grause said “it was a tough decision because both of them bring so much to the table.”
Mayor Al Johnson said, “The good news is we have two great candidates, and the bad news is we have two great candidates and we have to choose.”
The mayor noted he, too, liked the fact that Grill has a background with the city.
Grause noted Grill has already dug into the issues that are going on in the city. “He knows what’s going on and is pretty much up to speed on everything that has happened here.”
Johnson noted that with Grill leaving the planning board to serve on the commission, Ciliberti would be a great candidate to replace him on that important board.
With the interview session taking place at 4 p.m., Grill was unanimously voted interim commissioner at 6 p.m. and seated for the regular meeting.