Welch has been on the Pinellas County Commission for more than 15 years. That’s nearly double what his counterparts in Hillsborough are allowed to serve, because Pinellas County does not have term limits.
Until this year that last sentence came with an abundance of nuance. In mid-February, the county’s charter review board rejected calls to place a referendum on the 2016 ballot calling for term limits on commissioners such as Welch.
It’s not the only time Welch been taunted by the term limit issue. It came up in 2014 when colleagues were up for re-election. Before that it was batted back and forth in court after a vote taken 20 years before showed voter support for term limits.
Now the issue seems dead.
Welch has survived more than just term limit debates. He also survived a contentious 2014 election cycle when the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum was on the ballot while Welch chaired of PSTA’s board.
The issue, backed publicly by Welch, failed at the ballot box and was the subject of some scandal. PSTA CEO Brad Miller, among other mishaps, was forced to return a Department of Homeland Security grant after misappropriating the funds for an ad containing pro-Greenlight sentiment. Through all of the seemingly negative sound bites surrounding Welch’s name, he emerged unscathed and now holds unrivaled name recognition in the county.
Welch is likely to be a Pinellas County staple for some time. His only challenger for re-election yet again dropped out of the race this month leaving him unopposed for another four-year term.
Welch moved up on the list this year from 23.
For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who comprised the panel that assembled it, please read here.