OLDSMAR — The City Council will be female-centric moving forward after former council member Linda Norris and political newcomer Katie Gannon won on March 12.
The results won’t be official until after all the provisional ballots are counted, a process that typically takes about 10 days, according to the city clerk’s office.
Norris, who termed out of office in 2016 after serving two consecutive terms, was elected to Seat 1 when she defeated Matt Clarke and Andrew Knapp. Unofficial poll results show Norris received 42 percent of the votes cast. Gannon, an attorney and mother of two young children, handily defeated Seat 4 incumbent Jerry Beverland, grabbing more than 62 percent of the votes.
Councilman Eric Seidel was automatically elected to succeed term-limited mayor Doug Bevis when no one qualified to run against him. Norris will serve the remaining two years of Seidel’s term.
Seat 2 incumbent Dan Saracki also faced no opposition and was elected to serve a second full term.
After the polls closed, an emotional Gannon expressed her gratitude toward everyone who supported her.
“I feel incredibly grateful to all of the voters in Oldsmar, to my family, to my friends,” she said from her Election Night headquarters at Craft Street Kitchen. “For everybody that walked the block with us, for everybody who had a sign in their yard, whether they supported me or not. I am so looking forward to being of service to the citizens of this city.”
Asked what she felt was the deciding factor behind her resounding victory, Gannon, an attorney and mother of two, said: “I think residents were looking for something new. And that doesn’t take away from Jerry. Jerry Beverland has given so much to this community. He loves Oldsmar with all of his heart. He is a wonderful, incredible public servant. But I do think that people are looking for new leadership and they believe there are others out there who have something to offer to the city.”
Beverland, 84, who served a combined 28 years as an Oldsmar council member and mayor since 1970 and has written four books on the city’s history, was understandably disappointed by the result.
“The people have spoken, they said they want Katie instead of me, and I will honor that,” he said by phone the day after the election.
When asked if he would ever consider running again, the always outspoken Beverland was emphatic.
“No. No, no, no,” he said. “I’ve had my time in the sun and I’ve got no regrets. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done, and I’ve enjoyed my time. Now I’ll get to spend more time with my beautiful wife, Wanda. So, I’m happy.”
Norris, who “ran” the last leg of her campaign with a cast on her right leg that required her to use a kneeling scooter, said she was thrilled to be back on council following a three-year break.
“I would like to thank all of the good citizens of Oldsmar who supported my campaign and who have put their faith in me,” she said by phone a day later. “I promise you I will serve with honor, honesty, heart and humility.”
“This campaign cycle was especially tough as I broke my leg while canvassing – instead of running for office I was “scootin’ for office,” Norris added. “I can now get to work helping to better our quality of life in this town I love so much. From the bottom of my heart…I thank you all!”
Norris and Gannon will join Seat 2 holder Gabby McGee to form a rare, but not unprecedented, female-heavy council.
“I was part of the three-woman council we had with me, Gabby and Janet Miller, but that was for a short time before Janet passed away,” McGee said of the former council member who succumbed to cancer in 2014. “So, this is gonna be real fun to have a council made up primarily of women for at least another year!”
Gannon said she was also excited by the prospect, stating: “I am a proponent of women who are involved because we get things done. We get things done and we do it with heart. I believe that.”
Seidel, whose main campaign promise was to jump start the stagnated downtown development project, said he was looking forward to leading the new-look council for the next three years.
“There were all outstanding people running for council and our city selected a great team,” Seidel wrote via email. “Mayor Beverland will be missed but his lessons are not lost on this city, nor his contributions. I’m very excited to start with this council anew and look forward to what we will accomplish in the near future.”
Also on March 12, more than 63 percent of Oldsmar voters in favor of Referendum 1 regarding economic development property exemptions. The measure allows the City Council to grant exemptions of up to 10 years and up to 100 percent of the assessed value of eligible improvements for qualifying businesses on a case by case basis.