West Pasco County residents had an opportunity to go to the polls April 9.
In Port Richey, there was a referendum to amend the City Charter. In New Port Richey, City Council seats were up for grabs.
Port Richey, a city dealing with plenty of governmental turmoil, asked its residents to vote on a referendum that would alter the council’s ability to remove the city manager. The charter had stated that a four-fifths vote was needed to remove the city manager. Voters – a total of 225 – decided to change that requirement to a simple majority. The vote went “yes” by 72.89 percent, 164-61.
The current city manager is Vincent Lupo, working his second tenure in the position. He was city manager from 1996 to 2004 before being fired. Council brought him back in 2016 and gave him a 16 percent raise in 2017, bumping up his salary from $77,500 to $90,000, plus a car allowance of $300 a month.
The referendum voted on last week was approved to be placed on the ballot during past City Council meetings and Lupo said it’s been a topic of discussion since before his return in 2016. “That had nothing to do with me personally but with the city manager’s position, in general,” Lupo said over the phone last Wednesday. “It’s nothing personal and in fact they were very clear about that when they talked about the referendum. What they were referring to was disagreements previous councils had with a former city manager.”
Port Richey was scheduled to vote on two open council seats, but sitting members William Dittmer and Jennie Sorrell ran unopposed when two potential candidates – Erika Bloomquist and Joseph A. Parisi – did not qualify, according to www.PascoVotes.com.
The five-member board has been struggling to function after this year’s arrests and suspensions of former mayor Dale Massad and former vice mayor Terrence Rowe. Last Wednesday’s regular meeting had to be cancelled due to lack of a quorum. The next regular meeting is scheduled for April 23.
In New Port Richey, residents voted to re-elect sitting councilmembers Chopper Davis and Jeff Starkey to three-year terms. Voters had three candidates to select from to fill the two open seats. A total of 1,813 votes were tallied, with Starkey receiving 781 (43.08 percent) and Davis receiving 602 (33.2 percent). Finishing third was Judith G. Allen, with 430 (23.72 percent).
Davis and Starkey will stay on the New Port Richey City Council alongside Mayor Robert Marlowe and Councilmembers Peter Altman and Matt Murphy. Marlowe’s term expires in April 2020 and Altman and Murphy are seated until April 2021.
“I’m very, very excited to be re-elected,” Starkey said during a phone interview last Wednesday. “I’m humbled by the amount of votes that I got once again. I’m looking forward to the next three years. There are a lot of things we’ve been working on for a long time that are going to come to fruition.”
Starkey cited the future completion of three downtown projects topping the list: the reopening of the Hacienda hotel, the construction of The Central, an apartment complex along Orange Lake, and the completion of Main Street Landings.
In addition to completing aforementioned projects and spurring economic development downtown, Starkey said he’d like to continue improving the look and makeup of businesses along U.S. Highway 19.
“I really, really want to work hard over these next three years on getting the U.S. 19 corridor cleaned up,” he said.
City Council recently passed an ordinance that cracks down on extended-stay motels blighting the heavily trafficked roadway and a temporary moratorium on car dealerships opening.