City commissions and councils around Pinellas County met for the first time since the Nov. 3 general election this past week, and some new faces made their first appearance with their respective boards.
And the uniqueness of 2020 was on full display in Largo on Nov. 17 as three masked elected officials stood side by side while taking their oath of office from the city attorney who was attending the meeting virtually.
It was Commissioner Eric Gerard’s first time sitting with the commission after defeating incumbent Curtis Holmes. And it was also the first time someone else sat in Holmes’ Seat 3 since 2009.
“I think Largo is an outstanding city,” said Gerard, a longtime Largo resident was vice chair of the city’s Planning Board and a past president of the Greater Largo Library Foundation. “I think we are actually a leader in so many things in Tampa Bay that I’m so proud of, and we have an outstanding staff and outstanding commission.”
Gerard also went to praise the help of his family, including wife Pat, who is a former Largo mayor and is current chair of the Pinellas County Commission.
“Pat, who’s been an elected official both in Largo and countywide since 2000, frequently looked at me throughout this election and this campaign and said, ‘Now you know,’” he said. “She’s very sage about that. Her wisdom is immeasurable.”
Also, receiving pats on the back were Mayor Woody Brown and Commissioner Jamie Robinson, who were also reelected to four-year terms when no one qualified to run against them.
“I’m so excited for the next four years,” Brown said. “I think we have … a real great team both on the staff side and administration side, as well as up here. We don’t agree on everything but we have a similar vision for the future of Largo, and I think we’re doing great things and really leading the way in the whole region on many, many things.”
In addition, Robinson was appointed to the role of vice mayor for the next term, taking over the role from Commissioner Donna Holck.
According to the city charter, the vice mayor “shall exercise the powers and perform the duties of mayor during the mayor's temporary absence or disability.”
New Councilor Tom Christy joined incumbent Roger Edelman in taking the oath Nov. 17. The day was a long time coming for Christy, who had run for a seat on the council nine times.
Christy thanked the council and staff for the welcome and praised voters who still managed to make their voice count even during a pandemic.
Christy, 69, is replacing Jim Quinn, 81, who had served on the council since 2010.
During the meeting, the council also appointed Councilor Thom Barnhorn to the yearlong post of vice mayor.
— Chris George, Tampa Bay Newspapers
Shortly after being sworn in to her third term in office as mayor, Julie Ward Bujalski on Nov. 16 noted the challenges that lie ahead for commissioners, including the pandemic, affordable housing and the Douglas-Hackworth property.
"And traffic, traffic, traffic, just to name a few things we have to tackle," said Bujalski, who defeated Heather Gracy in the Nov. 3 general election.
Also taking office that evening was John Tornga, who had served a four-year term on the commission before losing to Jeff Gow in the 2018 election.
Tornga said he is constantly reminded of all those who have helped make "Dunedin Dunedin," including all the mayors, commissioners, organizations and residents in the city.
He described at length the the value of the city's waterways, Caladesi and Honeymoon island and parks and recreation
— Tom Germond, TBN Correspondent