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Julie Ward Bujalski

DUNEDIN — A pandemic … acquiring the Douglas-Hackworth property … affordable housing … plans for a new City Hall.

Shortly after being sworn in to her third term in office as mayor on Nov. 16, Julie Ward Bujalski noted the challenges that lie ahead for commissioners.

"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.

"But I have no doubt — not one — that this commission, our talented team that is here tonight … each one of you will add your voice to this process, in order to achieve great things," Bujalski said.

She and other commissioners praised Gracy, who didn't attend the meeting, for her eight years on the City Commission, serving two years as vice mayor.

Bujalski said that Gracy has been a champion for the Scottish arts, the schools, the Dunedin Golf Club and the Suncoast League of Cities.

"We are especially proud of the youth intern program and Piper on the Pier that stemmed from Heather's vision," Bujalski said.

City Manager Jennifer Bramley called Gracy a hard worker.

"She always did her research. She always came in with all the knowledge that she needed to make the decisions she needed to make," Bramley said.

Gracy submitted some comments for the meeting, saying she would be forever grateful to have participated in the nation's democracy at the local level and that serving as a commissioner has been a hallmark in her life.

She thanked numerous boards and organizations for their support.

"The relationships and experiences I gained throughout my work with you all remain meaningful and special," Gracy said.

Also taking office in Seat 3 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 value of the city's waterways, Caladesi and Honeymoon islands and parks and recreation.

But he also said he would make a commitment to Dunedin "to ensure fiscal responsibility, accountability, safety and security as well as transparency for all," Tornga said.

He called Dunedin greatest city in which to live, work and play.

"I remain committed to making an even better Dunedin for all our citizens," he said.

Moe Freaney, who holds Seat 1, was unopposed in the election because her opponent, Stacy Rush, dropped out of the race.

Freaney said she got a lot of help from the community in her campaign for a second term on the commission.

"Mostly, I want to thank the citizens and residents of Dunedin for their faith in me," she said. "I was lucky enough to happen into Dunedin in 1983, and I loved it ever since."

"No one wants to ensure that our city keeps its charm more than I do," Freaney said.

Commissioner Deborah Kynes said she has worked with Freaney for many years in different capacities.

"It's been a great pleasure to serve with you on the commission, and I often look to you for expertise that I know that I don't have that you have in abundance," Kynes said.

Kynes also praised Bujalski, saying she admired the mayor for her leadership skills.

"You have had a trial by ordeal," Kynes said. "Who would have ever thought we would have a pandemic that we have not gone through since the Spanish influenza of 1918, and she has led us, she has held her head up high. She has given of her strength … she really does strive for civility."

She also welcomed Tornga back to a commission seat.

Gow said he is excited to work with his fellow commissioners.

"Just imagine what this commission going to do in the years coming," Gow said. "I really do believe we represent the community as a whole, and I do believe that we are one community and one future. And so, it's under that mindset that I think we are going to do some wonderful things."

Despite the big issues facing Dunedin, Bujalski said she thinks the future is bright for the city, she is very proud to be a part of the commission and she has the best job in the world.

"That's being mayor of my hometown," she said.