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Incumbents rule the day in eight Pinellas municipal races

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It was all about the incumbents Tuesday during a quiet municipal election in eight Pinellas cities. Voters hit the ballot boxes in beach communities, a couple of North County towns and Kenneth City.

The most hotly contested races came out of Kenneth City, where a bunch of flamingos made some waves. The flock of flamingos popped up with signs dangling from their necks supporting a candidate. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the flamingos were removed by police because they didn’t have the appropriate disclaimers about who paid for them. They were later put back up with the added info.

Kenneth City also had the most interesting race on the ballot. Mayor Teresa Zemaitis is leaving her spot at the helm due to term limits. Her husband, Leonard Zemaitis, ran unsuccessfully in her stead. Instead Wanda Dudley, a retired teacher and current council member, won with 57 percent of the vote.

Six council members were on the ballot for three open seats. Only one incumbent will be returning. Joanne DeSimone will return for another term with 17.4 percent of the vote. Linda Marsella and Carl Troup will join the board as rookies. DeSimone was the only incumbent running. A former board member, Philip Redisch, was defeated along with newcomers Lawrence Hauft and Ryan Boberg.

Treasure Island voters were also presented with a new option to lead their city. However, voters handily re-elected Bob Minning to a third term. Minning overcame challenger Mel Lenehan with 61.6 percent of the vote.

Their neighbors to the south in St. Pete Beach elected incumbent Rick Falkenstein to its District 2 City Commission seat over retired teacher Joanne Lentino. Falkenstein, who was appointed to the board less than a year ago, won 52 percent of the vote.

Both incumbents in Belleair Beach were re-elected in a four-way race for three open City Council seats. Mitch Krach and Leslie Ford Notaro cruised to re-election along with Pamela Gunn. The three defeated Stan Sofer. The former council member received just 21.3 percent of the vote. Despite re-electing incumbents, it was Gunn who drew the highest number of votes, earning 28 percent over Krach’s 25.6 percent and Notaro’s 25 percent.

In neighboring Belleair Deputy Mayor Stephen Fowler was ousted from his seat during a three-way race for two seats. Former City Commissioner Karla Rettstatt and incumbent Mike Wilkinson won that race.

Indian Rocks Beach voters favored incumbents. Both Phil Hanna and Terry Hamilton-Wolin were re-elected. William Dotson was defeated. Wolin will serve her fifth term in office.

Voters in that beach community also said yes to all but one ballot question amending the city’s charter. The one they said no to would have removed a requirement to professionally evaluate the administration at least every five years.

Oldsmar voters also approved three changes to its city charter. Those changes include correcting gender references in one section, changing the election qualification period and increasing the amount of time the city has to schedule a special election.

Eric Seidel easily won the sole City Council seat on the ballot against two challengers. Seidel had nearly 65 percent of the vote compared to Dan Belcher’s 28 percent and John Mastromarchi’s 7 percent. Seidel will replace Seat 1 incumbent Jerald Beverland.

Janet Hooper will add a female voice to the table in Safety Harbor. She beat out Chris Logan for an open race for Seat 1 with 53 percent of the vote. Andy Zodrow won re-election against former Mayor Joe Ayoub. Zodrow squeezed by his competition with 52 percent of the vote.

Voters approved five charter changes. The one rejected involved changes to the way the city annexes property.

All of the results are according to the unofficial tally from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website.

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Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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