ZEPHYRHILLS — Longtime Zephyrhills resident Alan Knight is challenging incumbent Jodi Wilkeson for Seat 2 on the Zephyrhills City Council. Wilkeson is the only council member with opposition on the Zephyrhills ballot for the election April 8.
Wilkeson has held Seat 2 for the past six years, or three terms. Recent changes in council member terms will increase Seat 2 to a three-year term.
Knight said he “absolutely” does not have an issue with Wilkeson. “Jodi does a good job at city council,” he said. “It just came up at this particular time — no particular reason. I just think it was time to jump; I picked Seat 2 and went from there.”
The race is shaping up to be a hard fought but congenial one. Wilkeson has not had a challenger since her first race in 2008 but said she is going to run a hard campaign.
“I’m not taking it lightly,” she said. “I think that (Knight) is a fine man, and we appreciate his work on the parks and recreation board, but I still have some things to accomplish yet for the community. So I’m hoping that if I’m doing a good job, that the residents will send that message to me and vote me back in.”
Knight, known by many in the community as “Coach Knight,” arrived in Zephyrhills 43 years ago and worked in the community as a teacher and head football coach at Zephyrhills High School. Knight has three major issues: growth and development, city services and the Hercules Park project.
“Zephyrhills is no longer a sleepy community,” he said. “Tampa is coming to us on a pair of roller skates.” He said he is eager to help steer the city deeper into the 21st century, helping it evolve efficiently while preserving its character.
On city services, Knight said: “I am very, very concerned about our resource people — the fire, the police, the maintenance people, the garbage workers and everybody else. I want to support them, and I want to be behind them because they make our city tick,” he said.
Knight’s third issue has been strongly influenced by his recent appointment to the newly formed city Parks and Recreation Board. He is the chairman.
“I am very enthusiastic about the Hercules project,” he said, referring to the park property at County Road 54 East and U.S. 301. The park includes a former county pool and is being reviewed for purchase by the city.
“I want to make that a pristine park for us,” Knight said. “I want it to be good for us; I want it to be good for Zephyrhills. And I think it can be.”
He also wants to see the pool opened again. “I want to have a pool,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, I’m not going to beat my head against the wall. If it’s too expensive, of course not, but I would like to see a pool. The citizens want a pool, and I want the pool if we can work it out.”
After retirement Knight moved to south Georgia but recently returned.
“When I came back, I wanted to start getting involved back in again with Zephyrhills because Zephyrhills has always been home to me,” Knight said.
“I took over a football program many years ago that had an 0-10 season and I looked at it as a challenge,” Knight said. “I look at this as a challenge — not a mudslinging challenge, not that Jodi is doing anything wrong, but I look at this as a challenge — something I really want to do, and I’m going to go after it very hard.”
Knight and his wife, Karen, have been married for 46 years and have two children and six grandchildren.
City council Seat 4 and the office of mayor are not being contested. Mayor Danny Burgess is not running for re-election because he plans to pursue a seat in the Florida House of Representatives. Local funeral director Gene Whitfield is unopposed for that office, and no one filed to run against Councilman Ken Burgess for Seat 4.