BELLEAIR BEACH – Six candidates are seeking to fill four council seats up for election in the city this time. Running are a lively mix that includes a former mayor who won his current council seat in a coin toss, former council members, one candidate who is running to replace his wife who is not seeking re-election and a couple of political newcomers.
The election is March 13.
To further enliven the race, four of the candidates are from one neighborhood, where the undergrounding of utilities has been an overriding issue for some time. That is just now at a critical point where the pieces could be coming together to make it happen, but some are still skeptical.
The election could shake up Belleair Beach city government, or bring little change, depending on the winners. The City Council is composed of seven members, who serve for three years.
The only candidate running this year who has served a full term or more on the current council is Julie “Jewels” Chandler. If re-elected, she will begin her second term.
Rob Baldwin, a former mayor who won a coin toss to gain his council seat, was appointed last month. The coin toss was needed when council deadlocked in choosing between Baldwin and Jody Shirley to fill the seat of Council Member Jeril Cohen, who died in October. Shirley is also running for a council seat.
Council Member Mitch Krach announced he is not seeking re-election, leaving an open seat. Council Member Pamela Gunn also announced she is not running again. Her husband, Glenn Gunn, who frequently speaks on issues at council meetings, is running, hoping to replace his wife.
Also on the ballot will be Marvin Behm, a former council member, and Dr. Nicolas Pavouris. Both live in the Bellevue Estates neighborhood, where the residents have been outspoken on the utility undergrounding issue. Gunn and Shirley also live in that area.
Council members in Belleair Beach do not run in districts, so residents will vote for four out of the six candidates, and the top four vote-getters will win.
The candidates were asked why they are seeking a council seat or why they want to remain on council.
Council Member Rob Baldwin said he wants to make sure no Belleair Beach resident feels excluded or goes unrepresented, that “each of us has an equal voice.” Baldwin feels there is a clear danger that the agenda of a select few could hijack the resources and finances of the city. “I hope to focus our energies on real priorities and serve as a counter-balance to special interest demands, so we can preserve our unique quality of life for all Belleair Beach residents,” he said.
Marv Behm said he sees an opportunity for change in Belleair Beach and would be honored to serve as a city council member “with the new and talented candidates that are running for office.”
If elected, Behm said he will look forward to working with the city council and “creating new plans to move the city forward.”
Council member Jewels Chandler, running for her second term on council, said she brings “experience, honesty and integrity, as well as an open mind, which are important assets needed to benefit our beautiful coastal community and all of its residents.”
“I have considered, and will continue to consider, all the facts, and the interests of all the residents, not just small groups,” she said.
Glenn Gunn believes the city of Belleair Beach is failing to keep pace with neighboring beach communities.
“I represent a group of residents calling for an entirely new council with strategic vision, better stewardship of their tax dollars, and greater accountability,” he said.
Gunn said his 26 years of Coast Guard aviation and command experience have prepared him well “for managing the challenges of improving our city.”
Dr. Nicolas Pavouris said he is running because he feels Belleair Beach is an extraordinary city.
“I want to encourage and facilitate a positive conversation that produces meaningful results. The time is right for a unique perspective to reflect the needs of our city,” he said.
Pavouris said his experience as chief of staff of Florida Hospital, chief medical officer of Tampa Family Health Centers, and as a small business owner, give him the leadership skills “to ensure city council listens and represents the citizens of Belleair Beach.”
Jody Shirley said she wants to focus on quality of life issues, such as utility undergrounding and better maintenance to give the city “more curb appeal.”
As a real estate developer, Shirley said she will work to improve property values and give the city “a clear direction.”
She also said that council “needs a fresh look,” as most members have served for years.
A candidates’ forum is being planned, to be facilitated by the League of Women Voters.