TARPON SPRINGS – Incumbent Mayor Chris Alahouzos retained his seat and will serve a second consecutive three-year term while Connor Donovan, a 22-year-old unknown upstart, upset the Seat 3 incumbent, Susan Miccio-Kikta, in the Tarpon Springs municipal election on March 12.
The results will not be considered official until all the provisional and overseas ballots are counted, according to the City Clerk’s Office.
Alahouzos defeated former mayor David Archie with 56 percent of the more than 4,700 votes cast, while Donovan took 53 percent of the votes. Townsend Tarapani served two council terms between 2011-2017 but was barred from seeking a third consecutive term by the city charter. He was automatically elected to fill Seat 4, which David Banther had to vacated because of the term limit, when no one qualified to run against him.
The new council will be seated during the April 9 City Commission meeting.
The mayoral contest was hotly contested, featuring two candidates with different viewpoints on several issues, including the purchase of a rundown downtown property for nearly a million dollars and the ability to serve the people on a full-time basis.
Ultimately, the voters decided to keep Alahouzos, a retired telecommunications executive, in office.
“I feel like this is a victory for the people of Tarpon Springs, and I want them to know I will continue to work full time and address the needs of the city,” Alahouzos said following his victory.
When asked what he felt was the key to his victory, Alahouzos said: “I don’t think it was one thing. I think it was all the accomplishments I’ve had over the past three years, and I think they loved the idea that I was always willing to work for them and also that I accomplished so much.”
Regarding the city’s $862,000 purchase of the crime-ridden SunBay Motel he voted for last year, which Archie had called a costly mistake, Alahouzos said, “Even the ones who didn’t support buying the hotel couldn’t say it was wrong to be looking out for the safety of the community. People in that neighborhood near the bayou were afraid to go out at night because of the crime and the killings that took place in that area. Now we must work hard to develop it, because that area is a jewel of Tarpon Springs.”
Alahouzos also said he was looking forward to working with the new commission.
“I think the commission is going to be very diverse, with experience and a lot of youth,” he said, noting Tarapani and Jacob Karr are in their 30s and Donovan is still in his early 20s.
After the polls closed, Archie met supporters at the Tuscan Sun Bistro, where he reflected on the loss.
“I don’t feel like we accomplished what we wanted because we weren’t on the winning side,” he said. “I’m disappointed, but the most disappointment that I have is for the people that worked so hard for me.”
Archie, the executive director of the nonprofit Citizens Alliance for Progress who served two terms as mayor, said he would still be active in the community, but he wasn’t sure if he would attempt another run for office.
“When the people tell you to go home, that’s what I do: I go home,” he said with a smile. “But I will continue to be involved in this community, my community.”
After reflecting for a moment, Archie added, “The future is always uncertain, and right now I would tell you there’s no way. But who knows what might happen?”
Commission Seat 3
Shortly after 7 p.m., Donovan was sitting in his father’s insurance office at the corner of Pinellas and Tarpon avenues trying to verify the election results with the city clerk.
The Tarpon High graduate, who already holds a degree in public policy from St. Petersburg College and is working towards his master’s, was still coming to grips with the fact that his schooling would be interspersed with a three-year commission term.
After hanging up, and he gave all the credit to his supporters.
“It might sound corny but with my supporters anything, I mean anything, is possible,” he said. “I could’ve ran for anything and I feel like my supporters would’ve been there right by my side. I’m just so grateful and thankful for my supporters and really the community as a whole to take a chance on a 22-year-old kid.”
Donovan said he still plans on becoming a city manager someday, but he in the meantime he wants to use time on the council to get things done in the city.
“Right now, I’m concerned about the best things for Tarpon Springs at the moment,” he said. “I’m not worried about my career or my future or anything like that. I’m just worried about getting these next three years to be as productive as possible. I’m excited that I get to follow through on all the things I want to get done.”
He also took time to praise his opponent.
“I have so much respect for Susan,” Donovan said. “She ran a great campaign. She’s been a fantastic commissioner and I’m just happy that I can carry the torch forward.”
After making a concession speech at the Sponge Docks, Miccio-Kikta said she was happy with her work moving the city forward during her three city commission terms.
“I gave nine years to this city and I’m very happy with our accomplishments and the direction our city is moving,” she said.
“I hope the new board keeps moving the city forward, and I hope my opponent is a voice for all the citizens.”
More than 63 percent of Tarpon Springs voters were in favor of a referendum regarding economic development property exemptions. The measure allows the City Commission to grant exemptions of up to 10 years and up to 100 percent of the assessed value of eligible improvements for qualifying businesses on a case by case basis. The City Commission unanimously approved the item and placed it on the March 12 ballot by a 5-0 vote in December.