Citing Tallahassee’s battle against home rule, Treasure Island Republican Kathleen Peters has decided against a fourth term in the Florida House, opting instead to seek the District 6 seat on the Pinellas County Commission.
In March, District 6 Commissioner John Morroni announced he will retire after his term expires in 2018.
“After the legislature launched an all-out assault on local government and home rule this year,” Peters said in a statement. “I found myself reflecting on my community priorities and where I feel I can have the greatest impact.”
“After long consideration, I have decided to change course and run for County Commission, District 6.”
A former mayor, Peters was initially elected to House District 69 in 2012, representing Gulfport, South Pasadena, and several South Pinellas County beaches. She had campaigned on reforms to the Florida mental health system and repairs and improvements to Pinellas County’s failing sewer system.
“I started my public service in local government serving as a city commissioner then mayor of South Pasadena,” Peters said. “During my time as mayor, the city emerged strong and debt free as we navigated the throes of a recession. I believe I will bring very diverse experience from both local and state governments that will make me a strong asset to the commission.”
Peters said her priority as a county commissioner will be “to strengthen our infrastructure to ensure the county can withstand any storm mother nature throws at us without doing any further damage to the environment.”
“This will require strengthening and nourishing our beaches to protect homes, roads and infrastructure, as well as ensuring the integrity of sewer systems throughout the county,” she added.
In addition, Peters vows to continue working to ensure “Pinellas County has a coordinated system of care to address the mental health and addiction crisis.”
Also eyeing the same Commission job is term-limited Republican state Rep. Larry Ahern.
Ahern, from Seminole, has represented House District 66 since 2010. In April, he filed paperwork for the District 6 seat.
With Peters’ entry in the race, both her and Ahern are looking to take similar paths to the Commission, each serving in the Florida House before moving on to a spot on the Commission. Morroni, like Peters, is a Treasure Island resident who also served two terms in the House (1992 to 2000). First elected to the County Commission in 2000, Morroni served as chair in 2005, 2012 and 2015.
In addition, Democratic Commission members Janet Long and Charlie Justice previously served in the state House.
An ally of influential Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, Peters filed 18 projects during the 2017 Session, with only four making it out of committee. Among her successes were a Pinellas Park pond project, funding for the Florida Holocaust Museum, and a program for helping residents with disabilities get employment in the hotel and motel industry.
Peters and Latvala, the Senate Appropriations chair, also co-sponsored legislation seeking to prevent further erosion of state’s beaches. Both lawmakers represent a large portion of Pinellas County beaches.
All of Peters’ other bills stalled in the House, possibly due to her support for Enterprise Florida, a program favored by Gov. Rick Scott that had been targeted for elimination by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
Latvala also supported Enterprise Florida as of late, even though he seemed to be against business incentive programs as far back as 2015.
In contrast, Ahern voted for severe cuts to Enterprise Florida, earning Scott’s strong disapproval.
Let’s Get to Work, the political committee supporting Scott, conducted a round of robocalls in March hitting Ahern and other Republicans who voted for HB 7005, the bill to eliminate Enterprise Florida and a slew of other economic incentive programs.