After serving two terms as Gulfport’s Ward 1 City Councilmember, incumbent Dan Liedtke has both a lot to look back on, and a lot to look forward to during his bid for re-election.
“I am truly looking forward to what I hope will be a totally nonpartisan race that ultimately leads to a better Gulfport and an informed electorate,” said Liedtke.
The “nonpartisan” aspect of the race — Gulfport City Council elections are all nonpartisan — might be big for Liedtke in 2016, as he’s a Republican serving a city whose residents, in general, tend to lean frequently to the left.
He’s also running against a pretty formidable opponent in Democrat April Thanos, a Seattle, Washington transplant whose professional career includes serving as a program and events manager for Seattle’s Chamber of Commerce, and working with the Greater Seattle Business Association, the largest LGBT and allied chamber of commerce in the United States.
She’s expected to get plenty of party backing during her run as well.
Liedtke’s got more than a few rounds of political ammunition at the ready, though. For starters, over the past four years, he’s been part of a Gulfport City Council that’s seemed to operate at quite an efficient level.
“Last year was a year full of progress,” said Liedtke to FloridaPolitics.com. “Our diverse Gulfport City Council voted unanimously on 97 percent of our agenda items.”
He also touched on changes happening today thanks to city council’s work in the past.
“This Thursday we break ground on the Municipal Marina expansion project,” said Liedtke. “And in a couple of months, we begin the Shore Boulevard improvements.”
The Shore Boulevard improvement plan will be an issue all on its own, but, overall, it’s part of the larger issue of saving Gulfport’s aging infrastructure.
“We have dedicated 100 percent of the BP settlement funds exclusively to public infrastructure — including roadways, sanitary sewers, marina [and] beach parking, and playground [and] park upgrades.”
Internally, according to Liedtke, over the past few years, Gulfport has begun to utilize newer technologies to increase transparency and accountability within its government.
“In the last three years we went from paper agenda packets to iPads,” said Liedtke. “We began indexing meeting videos online by agenda item. We upgraded the city’s website. Council members now have voicemails transcribed to emails. We utilize online surveys. We continue to index historical paper records into searchable databases. We have weekly email newsletters. And now the city of Gulfport has its own Facebook page.“
The tech conversation soon turned to thoughts on the future, though.
“Some goals for the next two years include putting the plans in motion for a new modern Gulfport Senior Center, the replenishment of Gulfport Beach, a continued focus on options for cleaner waterways [and a cleaner] Clam Bayou, lower taxes, and working to keep the business environment open, friendly and thriving.”
Clean beaches and clean waters around Gulfport are things Liedtke, historically, has been very committed to maintaining.
Not only is he leading his city’s beach replenishment charge, but he was also perhaps the most publicly outspoken critic of St. Petersburg’s decision to release some of its wastewater overflow into Clam Bayou during this past August’s torrential rains.
Aside from Liedtke, Mayor Sam Henderson is also up for re-election in 2016. He’ll be running against former Gulfport City Councilmember Barbara Banno.
Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman was gearing up for a re-election campaign in 2016 as well, but drew no challenger, and, therefore, won by default.
The City of Gulfport has a Council-Manager form of government. A five-person City Council is elected citywide by the voters, each for a two-year term, except for the Mayor, who serves for three years.
Municipal elections fall on March 15.