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On the beaches, voters return familiar faces to their city halls

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

Voters re-elected incumbents in Belleair, Belleair Bluffs and Indian Rocks Beach as residents headed to the polls on March 10 to cast their ballots in their municipal elections.

The residents of Belleair Bluffs gave Chris Arbutine a new two-year term and re-elected all three incumbent members of the city commission. Joe Barkley will finish out the remaining year of a two-year term. Suzy Sofer and John “Jack” Nazario outpolled Robert Russo to win full two-year terms.

Winning with more than 57 percent of the ballots cast, Arbutine was very pleased with the results. “It is a decisive win,” Arbutine said. “But there is a lot of work to be done. Government at all levels needs to work diligently to get ourselves out of this economic hole.”

In Belleair, voters chose from among three candidates to fill two seats on the town commission. Stephanie Oddo, the youngest member of the commission, was re-elected with 45 percent of the vote. Her colleague, Deputy Mayor Steve Fowler, won another term, finishing well ahead of Brad Ackerman.

With incumbent Bert Valery not running again, at least one newcomer would be serving on the Indian Rocks Beach City Commission. Phil Hanna finished first in a three-way race to replace Valery. Incumbent Terry Hamilton-Wollin secured another term by finishing second, ahead of Don House.

Voters in Indian Rocks Beach were also asked to decide on a charter amendment that would place the city’s finance director position under the purview of the city manager. The amendment passed with 52 percent of the vote.

Newly-appointed City Manager Chuck Coward described the amendment as an effort to make city government more accountable.

“This amendment makes the finance director directly responsible to the city manager,” said Coward. “That makes me and the finance director much more accountable concerning the city’s money.”

A charter amendment was the lone issue to be decided by voters in Redington Beach. The referendum sought to increase the salaries for the town’s mayor and commissioners, to $500 and $300 respectively. The issue did not pass, garnering just 44 percent of the vote.

Next up on the election calendar is St. Petersburg’s muncipal elections. Voters will elect a new mayor and vote on four city council races in September and November.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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