Pinellas Park to choose new city councilmember today

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Pinellas Park voters will choose a City Council member Tuesday, March 11, with three candidates vying for Seat 2: first-time candidate Eugene Hendry, city Public Utilities Director Keith Sabiel and incumbent Councilor Patti Johnson.

Mayor Sandra Bradbury and Seat 1 Councilor Ed Taylor are also seeking reelection, but both incumbents are running unchallenged.

Hendry is a Pennsylvania native and former first responder who was involved in a number of political campaigns, volunteering for mayoral races and campaigns for Rick Santorum, who was Pennsylvania Senator at the time.

“The reason I’m running is because I’ve been working on campaigns for 10 years,” Hendry told Tiffany Razzano of the Pinellas Park Beacon. “Now it’s my time to get out there. I have some good ideas for Pinellas Park.”

Hendry also worked briefly for the city’s Parks Division, when he claims to have been “wrongfully discharged” after an absence due to illness. He said he did have a letter from doctors.

After moving to Pinellas Park, Hendry volunteered for the Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, and No Tax for Tracks—saying he is “100 percent” against light rail, and increasing taxes to establish a commuter rail line.

Incumbent Patti Johnson served on the City Council for two years, replacing Sandra Bradbury in Seat 2 that became vacant after she became mayor.

“The citizens invested in me for two years to go to school and learn all about the city and how it works,” she told Razzano, “and I got a clear vision of where we can be and where we need to go.”

Johnson is a 27-year Pinellas Park resident, and owns both the Amber Glen Equestrian Center and Amber Glen Feed Depot.

In 1982, Johnson opened Freedom Village, a HUD-assisted housing development for the elderly and handicapped, as well as managing similar facilities for the city of St. Petersburg Housing Authority. She has collaborates with the AARP and National Caucus and Center for Black Aged to for training seniors to run apartment complexes independently and deal with property affairs.

Keith Sabiel is a 39-year veteran of the Public Utilities Department, 14 of which as the department’s director.

As he approaches retirement in June, he looks to continue serving Pinellas Park.

“For the last 20 years, I’ve always told people I’m going to become mayor of the city one day,” he told Razzano. “The best way to start is on City Council.”

Sabiel’s focus will be on cutting wasteful while at the same time enhancing city services.

“I hope to focus on looking through our budget and reducing budgetary costs without hurting customer service,” Sabiel said. “I think we should go through the budget and cut out the waste. There is waste in our budget. The city has done a fairly good job, but I think there’s more money out there that can come back.”

Cuts should be “right from the first page of the budget, all the way through,” Sabiel said, and include all Pinellas Park departments. Community policing is another priority for Sabiel, especially the policing efforts in the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

Polls will be available Tuesday, March 11, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.votepinellas.com or call (727) 464-6788.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.