Clearwater Mayoral Election: What You Need To Know About the Candidates
As Democrats across the state head to the polls Tuesday for the Democratic Presidential primary, Clearwater residents will have an additional choice to make: who will serve as the city’s next mayor.
Four candidates are running for mayor: Elizabeth ‘Sea Turtle’ Drayer, Frank Hibbard, Bill Johnson, and Morton Myers. Here’s what you need to know about the candidates:
Elizabeth ‘Sea Turtle’ Drayer
Drayer, a retired lawyer and environmental advocate, has based her platform around environmental issues – specifically advocating for the city’s transition to entirely renewable energy sources by 2050 and expanding green spaces throughout the city.
To implement her green vision, Drayer supports the creation of an impact fee on new developments to fund the purchase of lands to expand ecotourism, and tax credits for businesses that install native plants, solar panels and reduce toxins and waste production.
Drayer argues that her focus on environmental policy can save the city millions in tax credits which it can then use to reduce fees for small businesses and lure new business enterprises.
Drayer has funded her campaign herself, saying she's not beholden to special interests.
Hibbard is the only candidate with previous mayoral experience, having led Clearwater from 2005-2012 before leaving office due to term limits.
Hibbard also previously served as city councilman for 10 years. Currently, he is the Chairman of the Board at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
“I promise you the strong proven leadership that Clearwater needs in the years to come,” Hibbard said in a video posted on his campaign page.
Among Hibbard’s top priorities: the selection of a new city manager and attorney, renovation of the city’s aging housing stock, and the buildup of reserves to help the city weather periods of economic uncertainty.
“We’ve had a lot of conflict recently between commercial and residential zones where the two meet,” said Hibbard, referencing tensions caused by the increasing expansion of the Church of Scientology into residential areas. “It is time we relook at the code to make certain that we are getting the results that we really want both for our business community but even more so for our residential neighborhoods.”
Hibbard has said that the City of Clearwater needs to re-evaluate its 20-year-old development code in order to improve the city’s business climate and create high-paying jobs.
“Twenty years, as far as a municipal code, is a long time and at some point you want to go back and adjust things that are working and those that are not,” said Hubbard in a video.
Jonson served as a Clearwater City Council member for six years before reaching term limits. During that time, Jonson was Clearwater’s representative on the Florida Suncoast League of Cities and the Suncoast Transit Authority.
Jonson’s top priority: an "inclusive city policy made in conjunction with area residents." He wants to establish stakeholder groups that propose policy recommendations in order to reflect community needs - though his campaign does not specify those projects or needs.
“The new mayor will have to establish that collaborative relationship between the council members,” said Jonson. “And that collaborative relationship really needs to be brought to the community as well.”
Jonson says that the city has put too much focus on becoming a tourist hotspot in recent years, and wants to see initiatives aimed at improving the lives of area residents.
“There’s a lot of concern that too much money is being spent in the downtown and beach areas, and we really need to do more for the residential portions of the city,” said Jonson.
Born and raised in Clearwater, Myers capitalizes on his “Clearwater grown” credentials by supporting initiatives aimed at chronicling the city’s history and preserving the downtown City Bluff properties.
The owner of two small Clearwater businesses wants to focus on policies aimed at attracting entrepreneurs to the city and decreasing barriers to business.
“I often visit other local communities and wonder why we cannot have our own little town area bustling with small businesses,” Myers said on his campaign's Facebook page. “Small businesses give back so much to their own communities and they help keep the money local.”
Myers also outlined ideas to make major roads like Gulf to Bay Boulevard, Drew Street, and US 19 more aesthetically pleasing to promote the city’s tourism and business industries.
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