OLDSMAR — With the 2022 municipal election just a few days away, many Oldsmar voters have either mailed in their ballots or already decided who they plan to vote for on Tuesday, March 15.
For the mayor’s post, voters can choose between incumbent Mayor Eric Seidel or his challenger, council member Dan Saracki. Doug Bevis and Jarrod Buchman are running for City Council Seat 2.
And after an arduous, nearly yearlong campaign marred by dissention, allegations of impropriety and enough mudslinging to fill an Olympic-sized pool, it’s safe to say most residents, as well as the four candidates, are more than ready for it to be over. So, as the calendar creeps closer to Election Day, we sent five questions to the mayoral candidates to provide residents with a last-minute look at where they stand on the important issues affecting the city, including the controversial proposed downtown density increase. Their responses are reprinted here. For more information on the election, visit votepinellas.com.
Please state your position on the downtown development, specifically the proposed density increase, as well as the project in general.
Eric Seidel: I support building a walkable downtown area for Oldsmar. Over the years, the city has considered multiple proposals — all would have required a density change. If we are going to have a downtown, this is undoubtedly a requirement the community and council will need to consider. The proposed density incentive will not change the height of any project. The current allowable height is six stories — this will remain the same. What changes is the city’s ability to require the developer to build ground floor retail — no office space, and more living units. I support more retail and living space.
Dan Saracki: I support thoughtful growth of the downtown area of Oldsmar without a density increase. I would like to develop a walkable downtown that includes community event space, attracts vibrant businesses, and offers residential ownership such as condominiums and townhouses, rather than high-rise apartments.
This election became very contentious, mainly due to the density issue. What would you say to the Oldsmar residents about the tone of the race?
Seidel: Our citizens are passionate about their city and the building of a downtown. The election came in the middle of an important debate. It stands to reason the temperature would get raised. But I also know Oldsmar is still a special place. We can argue, debate, vote, and at the end of an election still be good neighbors with each other. We will not lose that feeling of Oldsmar — the community is much stronger than any one issue or elections.
Saracki: This election has raised awareness of the Oldsmar citizens’ desire for a downtown development that honors our hometown feel, and a local government that listens to their voices. I am disappointed by malicious acts such as stealing signs and false accusations. I am an honest and positive person who does not condone rude behavior. Oldsmar is a friendly community, and we can’t let the actions of just a few people spoil the overwhelmingly positive attitude of our citizens.
Should you be elected on March 15, what changes would you propose to foster more unity in the community following the divisive campaign?
Seidel: A great thing about important issues/elections being debated is how many more citizens get engaged. There are many more projects we can do together to keep the level of civic involvement high. The Mayor’s Challenge To Save The Bay is an example of bringing the community together for a common goal. I would also like to see the city continue to expand its efforts to improve direct citizen communications. We currently offer a lot of different tools to stay current on what is happening in the city — making sure the community knows where to go to get that information is important.
Saracki: As chair of the People’s Centennial in 2016, I worked to foster fellowship and community involvement. As Mayor, I will focus to regain unity and encourage public workshops to build a downtown of which we can all be proud. I have enjoyed speaking with many hundreds of residents as I walked door-to-door during the campaign. I look forward to working together to achieve greatness in Oldsmar.
Aside from the downtown development, what other issues would you like the council to address after the election?
Seidel: The city always has changing needs, but a few areas stand out. Black box theater: This is something the community wants for our youth. A community theater can also fill a need as a rentable location for indoor events. Save Our Bay Program: Plans are already underway to expand this program to help improve the water quality in the bay. Expanding investment in infrastructure: The city will need to grow our annual investment in rebuilding infrastructure to be more sustainable. Oldsmar on the bay is beautiful, but it also requires that we prepare for future generations to be more resilient.
Saracki: I want to focus on enhancing the activities that Oldsmar residents desire, such as outdoor events and activities. This includes completing the Douglas Road infrastructure and bike trail project, ensuring success of the BMX track, improving drainage at the ball hockey rink, and researching a boat ramp into Old Tampa Bay for Oldsmar residents to enjoy.
Any final words?
Seidel: I am grateful to be your mayor. This first term in office has had many unexpected challenges, but yet we have made it through them all and have come out stronger on the other side. We still have work to do and finish. I humbly ask for your support for a second and final term. Visit www.Eric4Oldsmar.com for more information.
Saracki: There has not been a mayoral election in Oldsmar since 2009. The late Vice Mayor and my friend, Janice Miller, said there should always be an election and never be afraid to run against the incumbent. I will be termed out in my current seat. For the past seven years I have been educating and preparing myself to become the next Mayor. I ask for your vote so I can continue my work in Oldsmar, throughout Pinellas County and Florida. This election is about giving the people a voice. As Mayor, I will always provide service to the citizens.