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Belinda Livingstone was sworn in on Nov. 28.

 

BELLEAIR BEACH — The city council has picked Belinda Livingstone to replace former council member Glenn Gunn, who resigned with a little more than a year left on his term.

There were four candidates who qualified to fill the open council seat: Mark Chester, Brad Greer, Michael “Todd” Harper, and Livingstone. At a special meeting on Nov. 28, each candidate gave a short presentation and answered questions from the six council members who would make the selection.

The agreed-upon process was to vote by paper ballot, until someone obtained a four-vote majority. Or, in the case of a tie, there would be a coin flip.

On the first ballot, there were 3 votes for Livingstone, 2 for Chester, and 1 for Harper. A second ballot brought 4 votes — and victory — for Livingstone, when council member Mike Zabel switched his vote from Harper to Livingstone.

The 4 to 2 decision had Mayor Dave Gattis and Council Members Frank Bankard, Lloyd Roberts and Mike Zabel voting for Livingstone, while Council Members Jody Shirley and Leslie Notaro chose Chester. A motion to appoint Livingstone to the seat was approved unanimously.

Livingstone was the only one of the four candidates who is currently serving in a volunteer role in the city, as a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee. She works in the health care field, has a masters in nursing leadership and administration, and her job includes a regulatory compliance background.

“My passion is looking at regulatory guidelines — which is a little strange — but I love regulations. It’s a harmony of regulations (from different sources) and bringing it all together,” she said. “I’ve served on various policy and procedure committees in my career, looking for what are the best practices. I want to be able to do that for the city of Belleair Beach.”

Asked about her ability to dedicate time to council responsibilities while still employed in a career, Livingstone said she works from home and her work schedule is very flexible.

“As far as doing the legwork and the research (on city issues), that’s definitely a passion of mine, and I’m willing to take that on,” she said.

Livingstone will serve until the next council election, which will be in March 2024, and at that time she can run for a full three-year term.

This seat became available after Glenn Gunn resigned for personal reasons in October. Gunn was a leader on the council from the outset, as part of a group of residents who ran for council seats in March 2018 on a promise to finally get the utility wires undergrounded in the Bellevue Estates Island neighborhood. That was successfully accomplished, on time and under budget, with the project becoming a model for future undergrounding in the city.

Gunn told the Bee, “The planning and success of that project became the impetus for developing a Strategic Plan for the city,” another of his key efforts.

“Working alongside (City Manager) Lynn Rives and his staff to support the residents of Belleair Beach has been a highlight of my professional career,” he said. 

 

City manager contract approved

After a months-long search for a city manager to replace Rives, who retired in June, the city finally has a new chief executive. Kyle Riefler, who has been serving as interim city manager, was recently chosen for the job, pending approval of an employment contract.

That contract was approved unanimously by the council at the Nov. 28 special meeting, with the effective date retroactive to Nov. 21. It is a three-year contract that can be terminated at any time.

Some of the terms agreed to between the city and Riefler were a salary of $115,000 for the first two years, with an increase possible in the third year based upon a performance evaluation. Riefler, who served as community services director at Belleair Beach prior to becoming interim city manager, is obligated to make a good-faith effort toward completing on-line or in-person educational training to become credentialed with the ICMA (International City/County Management Association).

There are also specific objectives for Riefler to address, such as implementing a grant policy and updating the city’s personnel policy.

 

Foundation will handle events

A nonprofit organization called Belleair Beach Community Foundation was recently established with the idea it could fund community events that in the past were sponsored by the city. The mission statement broadens the purpose to include “good works, community improvement projects and social gatherings.”

Some members of the foundation spoke during citizen comments at the Dec. 5 city council meeting with an update on their initial activities. Nicole Sussman told about the engraved brick program that allows people to order personalized pavers that will be installed in front of city hall, a fundraiser for the foundation. 

Secondly, the organization is participating in the “Adopt a Mile” program, a part of Keep Pinellas Beautiful, to clean up the Belleair Bridge on the third Saturday of every quarter (January, April, July and October), 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., starting Jan. 21.

Tammie Levenda, chair of the Community Foundation, said she is sure the organization will be successful, but currently they are just getting started and do not have funds available.

“We’re more than happy to take over whatever projects the city wants us to take over from the Parks and Rec Board, from the merchandise to the social events, but until we get some capital built up in our account, we really can’t do any of that,” Levenda said. She said tax deductible donations can be given at BelleairBeachCommunityFoundation.org.

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of the CITY OF BELLEAIR BEACH

Belinda Livingstone was sworn in on Nov. 28.