PINELLAS PARK – Four candidates have qualified to run for City Council in the March 13 general election. 

Voters will choose between incumbent Sandra Bradbury and challenger Donna Saxer for the role of mayor. 

Meanwhile, incumbent Councilor Patricia Johnson and Keith Sabiel have qualified to run for two open council seats. Because they run unopposed, their names will not appear on the ballot and they have already been declared elected.

Bradbury, 53, was originally elected to council in 2002. She was reelected in 2006 and 2010 before being elected mayor in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

“I have a personal interest in this community,” she said. “I grew up here. I’m raising my son here … I want to continue to be a voice for this community.”

She’s proud of her accomplishments on council, including helping to bring LED lighting to city properties and fixtures.

“It was a lot of hard work, but it’s more energy efficient and more cost effective for our community,” Bradbury said.

She also points to the significant work done to improve drainage throughout the city over the years. The city “still has a long way to go,” she added, but “doesn’t it look so much better?” 

Another point of interest for her is continuing to work closely with small businesses throughout the community.

Saxer, 57, a 24-year veteran of the Pinellas Park Police Department who retired earlier this year, said she was approached by numerous city residents who pushed her to run for mayor.

“I’ve had so many people contact me telling me that they miss me and need me, and they encouraged me to run,” she said. “They told me, ‘There needs to be a change, and we want you.’”

She has several key areas of focus for her campaign. The first is public safety, she said. 

“The city has grown in size but hasn’t kept up with its police officers, firefighters and paramedics,” she said in an interview with the Beacon.

In a document outlining her campaign, she said police officers “are stretched way too thin.”

She wrote, “Statistics may be used to show an increase or a decrease in crime. What matters most is perception and whether the citizens believe they are safe. Too many of our citizens have expressed to me that they perceive that the city is not the safe place that they once believe that it was and worry that they will become the victim of a crime.”

Saxer also plans to focus on improving public transportation throughout the city, and traffic in the Gateway area, which she called “a mess.”

Other issues on her radar are term limits for those sitting on council, which she supports because of the diversity in Pinellas Park, which she would like to see better represented, and also transparency in government.

“I would like to set up a way for citizens to follow the money [spent by the city,] especially in the Community Redevelopment Area,” she said.

More about the candidates

A resident of Pinellas Park since 1968, Bradbury is a second-generation mayor of the city. Her father, Cecil, also previously held the role.

She’s long been active in the community, serving as chair for the Suncoast League of Cities and as an ambassador for the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce. She’s also a member of the Mayor’s Council of Pinellas County.

In Pinellas Park, Bradbury has mentored students at Skyview Elementary School, assisted with fundraising activities for the Pinellas Park Police Explorers Post 912 and has been involved with Community Spirit in the Park, a nonprofit organization that purchases and installs holiday decorations along the city’s main roads.

For 27 years, Johnson has lived in Pinellas Park, where she owns the Amber Glen Equestrian Center and Amber Glen Feed Depot.

An advocate for the elderly and the handicapped, she opened Freedom Village, a HUD-assisted housing development for those demographics, in 1982. She also managed similar housing for the city of St. Petersburg Housing Authority, and has worked with the AARP and National Caucus and Center for Black Aged to train seniors to manage their own apartment complexes and property matters.

She’s also always been involved in community organizations, she said. Over the year, the various groups she’s worked with include the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast Board of Directors, Pinellas Park Boys & Girls Club Unit Advisory Council, the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Pinellas Park Board of Adjustment, the Pinellas Park Code Enforcement Board and the Pinellas Park Police Department Volunteers Mounted United.

As a council member, she represents the city on three committees: the Pinellas Park Medical District Board of Directors, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority Board of Directors and the Florida League of Cities Finance, Taxation and Personnel Committee.

Sabiel worked for the city’s Public Utilities Department for 39 years, the last 14 of them as division director, before retiring in 2014.

Growing up in New Jersey, he moved to the area when he was 15 and attended Dixie Hollins High School. When he graduated in 1974, he began working for the city as a utilities worker, repairing lines and operating meter tabs. He eventually became head of the Reclaimed Water Division before taking over as director of the department.

He’s been active with the Pinellas Park Thunderbirds football league and Pinellas Park Nationals baseball, and is also a member of Pinellas Park Church, where he served as deacon. He’s also served on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission Board and volunteered with People Helping People and Pinellas County Foster Care.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Saxer attended St. Petersburg Jr. College and Eckerd College.

During her career with the Pinellas Park Police Department, she served as a member of several professional, business and community groups, including: Pinellas Park Chamber of Commerce (serving two terms on the Board of Directors), Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Bicycle Safety Committee, MPO Pedestrian Safety Committee Enforcement and Licensing Officials Networking Group, Pinellas Trail Security Task Force SAFE Kids, The Mayor’s Business Visiting Program, Florida Design Out Crime (FLDOCA), Suncoast Crime Prevention Association (Board of Directors and two times as Vice-President) Florida Crime Prevention Association Donna spearheaded various fundraisers between the community and the Police Department, to include: The Hospice Beach Stroll Special Olympics American Cancer Society

She started numerous Crime Prevention programs, some of which include: “Night Eyes,” a program aimed at local businesses; “Do The Right Thing,” a program to recognize students for non-athletic accomplishments; “Operation Medicine Cabinet,” a program for the collection and destruction of expired and/or unused prescription medications; “Shop With A Cop,” a program to bring Christmas to those children that otherwise may not have one.

Ed Taylor steps down

Longtime Councilor Ed Taylor, who has sat on council since 1998, has decided not to run in 2018.

“As of March 2018, that will be 20 years on City Council,” he said. “I think that’s enough time to accomplish what I did and I’m pleased with our accomplishments. It’s time to turn it over to fresh eyes and fresh ears.”

During his time on council, he worked closely with the Pinellas Park Water Management District, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and the Agency on Bay Management.

Despite stepping down as a councilor, he said the council will reappoint him to sit on the Pinellas Park Water Management District board. He also will continue to operate his business, Taylor Funeral Home.

One of his proudest accomplishments as councilor is helping to alleviate drainage issues throughout the city, which cost the city about $18 million over nearly seven years, he said.

“Park Boulevard used to flood very, very badly very quickly,” he said. “I used to joke that if someone spilled a cup of coffee on Park [Boulevard] and 49th Street, it would flood. But we fixed that.”