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Clearwater City Council member David Allbritton at Emily’s Restaurant in downtown. “I don’t feel like I got a full term in,” he said, referring to the pandemic that dominated much of his time in office. “There’s lots more to get done.”

CLEARWATER — There are two years of David Allbritton’s first term on City Council that he wishes he could do over.

The coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, the halfway mark of his four-year term, which put several city initiatives on hold as officials faced virtual meetings, budget uncertainties and priority shifts.

As a result, Allbritton said some of the goals he planned to accomplish had to be changed into promises in his campaign for reelection for Seat 4 in the March 15 election.

In a second term, Allbritton said he intends to push for reforms in the building department to make permitting more customer friendly and less cumbersome. It was an initiative he said he began in late 2019 through meeting with building officials about department culture. He said he had talked to former City Manager Bill Horne about hiring a consultant to overhaul the department operations, but then the pandemic put that idea on the back burner.

“I don’t feel like I got a full term in,” Allbritton said. “There’s lots more to get done.”

In his campaign, Allbritton is touting his role in municipal milestones the city did accomplish despite pandemic disruptions: the reopening of Crest Lake Park in April after a year-long, $5.7 million renovation and the groundbreaking in July of Imagine Clearwater, an $84 million renovation of the downtown waterfront. Allbritton also notes he was part of the council that hired a new city manager and city attorney last year, following the more than 20-year tenures of Horne and former city attorney Pam Akin.

Allbritton, 71, a retired contractor, is being challenged for Seat 4 by community activist Maranda Douglas, 31, and retired technology specialist Gerry Lee, 74. The race has so far been civil, but Douglas has based part of her campaign on her critique that Clearwater politics is dominated by what she describes as the “establishment,” made up of well-connected insiders who have overlooked the needs of underrepresented residents. She includes Allbritton in that camp.

Allbritton doesn’t hide his support from developers, business owners, attorneys and other politically active figures, who have contributed much of the $21,395 he has so far raised, according to treasurer reports. By supporting a strong business community, Allbritton said he has helped enrich the quality of life for all residents in the city.

He earned endorsements from the Clearwater Firefighter Association Local 1158, the Pinellas Realtors Organization and the political committee representing Amplify Clearwater, the city’s chamber of commerce.

“I have a lot of support from a lot of people in business and in this community and it shows in the amount of (campaign) signage out there,” Allbritton said. “I’m not talking yard signs, I’m talking about commercial properties all up and down U.S. 19, the beach. If it’s done properly and in the right way, development is good for the city, it’s good for the people that live in the city, it brings vibrancy.”

When discussing city issues, Allbritton often begins sentences with something along the lines of, “I was born and raised here.” He said that passion for Clearwater drove him into public service in the late 1990s, when he was first appointed to the municipal code enforcement board.

He grew up first on Eldridge Street near downtown and then the Harbor Oaks neighborhood. He spent much of his career as a contractor in Pinellas County but also built nearly 150 Checkers restaurants across the U.S. beginning in the 1990s.

He was inspired by the career of his late father, Owen S. Allbritton III, who served as an assistant Clearwater city attorney, municipal judge and then Circuit Court Judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit. He remembers when downtown was packed with clothing shops, movie theaters, eateries and felt like a center of civic life.

To foster downtown redevelopment, he said he supports the ongoing negotiations between City Manager Jon Jennings and Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige in order to bring life to empty, church-controlled buildings in the struggling downtown.

Late last year, Jennings began discussions with Miscavige regarding downtown redevelopment. In an in-person meeting on Nov. 29 and subsequent phone calls, Jennings has been negotiating a potential deal for the church to redevelop portions of property it controls downtown. Any deal will require City Council approval.

“I’m not scared of the Church of Scientology,” Allbritton said. “Parishioners at the direction of the church have bought up all this property and if we don’t talk to them we’re idiots. I think we need to be having meaningful conversations with them, and if (a deal) is something that would benefit Clearwater, I would be for it.”

Allbritton said another priority is to see through the construction of a new City Hall, a process that dragged since early 2019 when officials vacated the former City Hall on the bluff to make way for the downtown waterfront renovation. City offices have since leased temporary space in One Clearwater Tower. Jennings is preparing a financial package to present to the council that will detail the feasibility of building a City Hall on city-owned vacant land on Myrtle Avenue and Pierce Street next to the municipal services building and police headquarters, a plan Allbritton backs.

Allbritton said he will also advocate for the construction of a parking garage on the current site of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus station, which will provide parking for the Imagine Clearwater park renovation.

“In my next term, City Hall is going to be built and we’re going to be in it,” Allbritton said.