OLDSMAR – After years of quiet election cycles filled with automatic reappointments and little turnover on the City Council, Oldsmar voters will have some decisions to make on Election Day, March 12.
Current Oldsmar City Councilman Eric Seidel announced in August his intention to run for mayor next year.
“I’ve served under three different mayors over the years and have served three times as vice mayor,” Seidel said of his decision to relinquish Seat 1 after the election, regardless of the outcome. “I believe the experiences have helped to prepare me to be our next mayor.”
While Seidel currently has no opposition on the ballot, three candidates have qualified in the race to see who fills his vacant spot.
Matt Clarke, a native Australian known for his selfless acts of community service, and Andrew Knapp, an Oldsmar native who has volunteered for local nonprofits, are a pair of political newcomers dedicated to improving the city they love.
“As new vacancies approach the City Council in the upcoming election in March of 2019, I feel that I am rightly positioned to lend my talents to help improve the city,” Knapp wrote on his campaign Facebook page. “I am an engineer by occupation and a problem solver by nature. I have been doing my homework as to how our city currently works, and I’m ready to put in the effort to make it work that much better.”
Via Facebook messenger, Clarke said, “I believe Oldsmar is looking for a fresh face with a proven track record in the community. It’s time to get fresh minds with common sense solutions and the drive to get things done and possibly start thinking outside the box on some issues.”
He added, “People are excited to see a fresh face, someone who has the energy and passion to work hard and do what is right for Oldsmar. We have such a great city and we need to advance now so our children can have something to be proud of later. America has been so gracious to me, I want to give something just as amazing back”
The pair learned they would be running against an experienced local lawmaker when Linda Norris announced her intention to re-enter public life last month following a three-year hiatus.
“I always planned to run again because I love serving the city of Oldsmar and all the citizens,” Norris, who served two consecutive terms before terming out in March 2016, said by phone in mid-October. “Now that I’m semi-retired, I will have more time to dedicate to the city and moving Oldsmar forward.”
Regarding the competitive field, Norris said she was preparing for a tough but fair fight.
“Everybody should be afforded the opportunity to run for office, and I look forward to the challenge,” she said, noting she would once again donate the majority of her council salary to local nonprofit Oldsmar Cares should she be elected. “I think this is exactly what our democracy is all about.”
To date, the race for Seat 1 is Dan Saracki’s to win, as the incumbent hasn’t had a challenger qualify yet.
“I am honored and excited to announce that I will be running for another three-year term for Oldsmar City Council Seat 2,” Saracki, who was automatically re-elected in 2016, said via email in late September.
“The past three years has been filled with many great learning experiences and exciting accomplishments. I look forward to working with city staff and council to build a downtown area of which Oldsmar can be proud and support all projects that maintain a safe and vibrant community in which to live, work and play.”
The race for Seat 4 features an interesting contrast between the two qualified candidates, political newcomer Katie Gannon and longtime local lawmaker Jerry Beverland.
Gannon, an attorney and mother who does a lot of volunteer work in the city, said on her campaign website she hopes to be “a new voice for Oldsmar.”
“I’m a wife, a mother, and a lawyer. I’m a member of the Florida Bar, the Oldsmar Leisure Services Advisory Board, the Oldsmar Historical Society, the Oldsmar Woman’s Club, and Friends of the Oldsmar Library,” Gannon’s biography page reads. “If we aren’t already friends, I hope to meet you during the next few months to find out what’s important to you and how you feel about the city’s progress.”
On the other side, Gannon’s challenger is no stranger to local politics.
Beverland, who has written four books on Oldsmar’s history, was first elected to council in the 1970s and has served several terms as mayor, vice-mayor and council member over the past 40 plus years.
He came out of a short retirement to win a close race for Seat 4 in 2016, and while he waited a bit longer than the other candidates to announce his intention to run again next year, he said he never planned to sit out.
“I decided (to run) quite a while ago,” Beverland said by phone in late September. “I thought about not running again, but then I thought it would be my last time, so why not?”
The man who is known for never being afraid to speak his mind said he welcomed the challenge from Gannon, whom he has met and said “seems like a nice lady” who “has every right to run.” But he also has never been one to back down and he said he likes his chances to earn one final term.
“I’ve got 52 years of experience in this city,” Beverland said. “I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I know what’s going on and I know the history of this town.”