LARGO — For the first time since 2009, someone else will be seating in Curtis Holmes' Seat 3 on the Largo City Commission.
Challenger Eric Gerard defeated the incumbent Nov. 3 after capturing 54.19% of the votes (20,000) compared with Holmes’ 16,907.
Holmes was elected to the City Commission in 2009, and was reelected in 2012 and 2016.
Gerard, who has lived in Largo for 35 years, is vice chair of the city’s Planning Board and a past president of the Greater Largo Library Foundation. He is also a former journalist and small business owner, founding his own marketing agency. He is married to Pat Gerard, chairwoman of the Pinellas County Commission and a former Largo mayor.
Gerard said his campaign took on a different tone than the current divisive political climate, which is why he thinks he was able to prevail.
“My message was one of mutual respect and consensus building. I spent a lot of time talking about what unites us rather than what divides us,” Gerard said on Nov. 5.
He said his top priorities moving forward are helping the city navigate two crises: the pandemic and climate change.
As evictions begin to increase, he said the city needs to do all it can to help residents in need.
He also wants to address a lack of diversity on advisory boards and committees.
“We need the membership of those committees to better represent the makeup of our city,” he said.
Leading up to the election, Holmes touted his fiscal conservatism and 11 years of experience on the commission and said it produced results in saving millions of dollars of taxpayers' money.
Gerard said the city has been doing good work, but it needs to be a leader in Pinellas on issues such as affordable housing and efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“I love this city,” he said last month. “I’m very proud of it. I’m proud of our forward thinking and the initiatives that we take to continually increase the standard of living for all of our residents.”
Gerard maintained the financial edge from the start and raised $71,495 in donations from a variety of well-known contributors, according to campaign finance documents.
Some of those contributors include colleagues of his wife, who also served as his treasurer.
Holmes, however, didn't back down and managed to raise $32,639 of his own.
Gerard said the money he was able to raise proved he was serious about the role and people were excited to see him run.
“I took the campaign very, very seriously and people all over the county were happy to see me step up,” he said. “So they were happy to contribute to me. They liked my message, and I’m really grateful for all the support that I did get. It really is humbling to see the support I got.”
Mayor Woody Brown and Commissioner Jamie Robinson were reelected to the City Commission when no one came forward to challenge them by the end of the candidate qualifying period July 30.
Commissioners are elected to four-year terms and are paid $13,453.60 each year.