Two waterfront south Pinellas communities elected new leaders Tuesday, each by substantial margins.
Gulfport City Councilman Sam Henderson took more than 64 percent of the vote to defeat former Councilman Bob Worthington in that city’s mayoral race. South Pasadena retiree Dana Calabria picked up 67 percent of the vote to win his challenge against interim mayor Larry Crowley.
Despite patchy rain and little pre-election hype, voters in eight Pinellas municipalities went to the polls Tuesday. Turnout was 21.8 percent, according to the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Web site.
Turnout was stronger in Gulfport, which had a more high profile run-up to the election races. Even so, said Dena Lebowitz, who cast her ballot in Gulfport about an hour before polls closed, not enough people take advantage of their right to vote.
“People need to realize they do have a lot of power they need to use,” Lebowitz said.
For Gulfport, Henderson’s victory signifies a changing of the guard as Mayor Mike Yakes leaves his post after 22 years as mayor. The mayor-elect has said he wants to continue to revitalize the city’s waterfront district and promote pedestrian safety along major corridors.
Worthington admitted defeat gracefully.
“Ours was a good, clean race,” he said. “I’ve lost bigger fights than this, and there’s always tomorrow.”
The race for mayor in South Pasadena was less amicable. Retired banker Dan Calabria heavily criticized during the campaign a redevelopment proposal touted by incumbent Larry Crowley.
“He ran a negative campaign, and people buy into that,” Crowley said, adding that he thinks Calabria will create an adversarial environment at city hall.
Calabria disagreed that his differences with the rest of the commission over how to best revive the economy will create political gridlock for South Pasadena.
“It’s a lot of work but we’ll get it done,” he said. “We’re six-tenths of a square mile. We have to know who we are and we have to take advantage of that to the fullest.”
Another community aiming to revive its economy, Treasure Island, passed parts of a referendum that will allow for more dense residential development near downtown.
A majority of voters embraced the city’s vision for rezoning the core district along Treasure Island Causeway and adjacent blocks of Gulf Boulevard for a mix of residential and commercial uses.
Referendum questions that allow the city to increase the number of residences per acre from zero to 24 downtown and 15 along Gulf Boulevard between 103rd and 106th avenues and 108th and 112th avenues passed with 53 percent of the vote.
There was less enthusiasm for zoning changes that would allow more hotel units in those parts of town. Voters rejected by a margin of less than 1 percent a measure to increase the allowable number of hotel units in sections of Gulf Boulevard near downtown from 22 to 60 per acre.
A similar change that would apply to the downtown district resulted in a tie vote, which will automatically trigger a recount, election officials said.
A fifth referendum question that allows new building heights to increase by 2 feet on the ground floor passed with 75 percent of the vote.
Treasure Island Mayor Robert Minning said he was pleased with the passage of the residential mixed-use changes.
“I think it’ll allow the town to move forward. I don’t think transient lodging is as important to downtown redevelopment as the mixed use,” he said.
Other Pinellas municipalities to have elections were Seminole, Kenneth City, Oldsmar, Tarpon Springs and Belleair Bluffs, which all had at least one council or commission seat to fill.
In Seminole, incumbents Thomas Barnhorn and James Quinn handily won their seats over challengers Thomas Christy and Mat Nilssen.
Incumbents Jack Nazario and Suzy Sofer also kept their seats in Bellaire Bluffs. A third contender, George Lawton, did not.
Victory in a four-way race in Kenneth City, meanwhile, sends John Campbell back to the dais despite challenges from Albert Carrier and JoAnne DeSimone. Wanda Dudley also took a seat here.
In the northern Pinellas city of Oldsmar, Gabby McGee won with more than 60 percent of the vote in a three-way race against Dan Saracki and Suda Yantiss-Colon. In Tarpon Springs, David Banther earned a commission seat in that city’s four-way race. Neither race had an incumbent.