Mike Mikurak is running hard to replace Charlie Justice on the Pinellas County Commission.
He’s raised more than $100,000 to win the seat, including spending tens of thousands of his own money to unseat Justice. All for something Mikurak says is not a “real job.”
Mikurak’s statement came Thursday during a visit both made to the Tiger’s Den during a luncheon of the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club. Both candidates were asked where they stand on term limits.
Justice, a Democrat, said he opposes them because “I watched the decline of Tallahassee” after term limits went into effect for the state House and Senate. Justice also pointed out four of the seven-member Pinellas commission are in their first terms because voters turned out incumbents.
“The voters have a way of deciding,” Justice said.
Mikurak said he does not believe in term limits for the constitutional officers — the sheriff, clerk of court, tax collector, and property appraiser — because “those are more like real jobs.”
There should be term limits for county commissioners, he said, to help bring in new ideas and fresh blood to the group.
Mikurak’s response triggered another question from the audience: If only the constitutional officers have a “real job,” what is the role of the county commission?
“I don’t look at the county commission as a job,” Mikurak said. “I look at it as service to the community.”
The commission’s job is to provide a vision for the future and a focus and to go out and listen to people, he said.
“I can’t quantify the job description,” Mikurak said.
Justice said that he’s been working hard “at a very real job” for the four years he’s been on the commission. Justice, who worked for the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg and served in the state House and Senate, added that Mikurak “discredits my service” in those positions.
Later, the two returned to the theme, with Mikurak explaining what is needed on the commission is a businessman who has “signed the front of checks, not just the back.” Mikurak, who has 30-plus years of business experience, said those who run businesses understand HR, the accounting needed to get the best value for money spent, and the need to collaborate to get things done.
Justice said, “You can hear the disdain in his voice” when Mikurak compares those who “sign the back of checks” with those who “sign the front.”
“I also respect the people who put in the work and sign the back of the check,” Justice said.
Tiger Bay member Greg Wilson quizzed Mikurak about his criticism of Justice as a career politician. The man pointed out that state Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican like Mikurak, had spent a long time in the Legislature before being termed out, then sitting out and running again.
“Do you consider Jack Latvala a career politician?” Wilson asked.
“Jack Latvala has a business as well,” Mikurak said, explaining that businesspeople understand employment and other issues.
Wilson pushed Mikurak on the issue.
“He’s a businessman,” Mikurak said. “He has been a businessman.”
Wilson continued pushing until Mikurak said, “I said he’s a businessman and a career politician. He’s both.”
Mikurak and Justice are running for Pinellas County Commission District 3, which is voted on countywide.