Pinellas County Leaders Look to the Future

As we enter 2019, now is the time for reflection of the year behind us and the perfect chance to look ahead to the future. Tampa Bay Newspapers asked community leaders from all across Pinellas County about what they hope to see accomplished in the coming year. 


Karla Rettstatt, Belleair vice mayor

Love Belleair! I mean really love Belleair! It’s not perfect but it’s perfect to me. So, when asked what I would like to see accomplished in my community in 2019, well that’s easy. I want to see our residents get more involved, work together to offer constructive input that leads to good solutions. I’d like for residents to understand that yes, we have higher taxes than most towns, and we want the services these taxes bring like our police force and our community center. All cities are faced with infrastructure improvements with limited ad valorem funding. That is why we started the Belleair Community Foundation, so as a community we can bring the wonderful improvements that our taxes cannot give us while the town budget continues to supply services and conquer our needed infrastructure demands.

Belleair Beach

Leslie Notaro, Belleair Beach mayor

My goals for 2019 are to go forward with the undergrounding project for the Bellevue Estates Island community, to continue with the city’s capital improvement plans to maintain our infrastructure, and, most importantly, to maintain the unique nature of Belleair Beach as a premier residential community.


Susan M. Crockett, interim president and CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall, Inc.

My wish for our bright and beautiful city is that it continues to set itself apart from all other destinations with the treasures it offers our residents and visitors. No doubt we have the most beautiful beach in the world, and the most spectacular sunset, but Clearwater also has a thriving arts identity, and Ruth Eckerd Hall is excited to have played a role in that, providing world class arts experiences from bay to beach. 

David Yates, CEO, Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater is an amazing community with a great group of community leaders. My hope and wish for Clearwater in 2019 is for there to be 100 percent of Clearwater Beach businesses engaged in the Ocean Allies project, a local grassroots effort designed to pave the way for future tourism increases while ensuring we care properly for our beaches, eco-systems and marine life. Tourism and conservation can both succeed, and can actually benefit each other. We lock in long-term tourism benefits while keeping our area the beautiful destination it is.

Indian Rocks Beach

Cookie Kennedy, mayor of Indian Rocks Beach

We all have a gift. My hope is we choose the gift of helping in our community with the many opportunities beginning with the sharing of ideas during our visioning sessions for Gulf Boulevard and the business district. Discussions will be open to all citizens and we look forward to input during the meetings. There will be events to work with our volunteer groups beautifying our city and working with our volunteer organizations to lend a hand.

We look forward to the undergrounding of our utilities, which will begin on Gulf Boulevard. We have awaited this project supporting accessibility during storm issues and safety in IRB for a long time. Our beach accesses will have several improvements with new signage and added bicycle parking. Two pickleball courts will be installed. Also, slated are renovations to the historical museum.

Along with holding our second Women of IRB TEA we will have an IRB Men’s Gathering and finish the year stronger together as a community.

While contemplating all we intend to accomplish in 2019 I am filled with hope. Make the gift of helping part of living in our awesome community.


Woody Brown, Largo mayor

I’m excited about the coming year. In 2019, I believe you will see some great things happening in Largo. We should be wrapping up the final phase of a multimillion dollar overhaul of our wastewater system reducing the chance of overflows and increasing capacity for future development.

Trotter Road will be completed, vastly improving a main connector that will be our first real community street in the heart of west Largo.  

Rosery Road will break ground with across-the-board improvements to an important east-west corridor. We will see great private investment along Rosery, too, with brand new apartments, providing much needed workforce housing in a prime location along Clearwater-Largo Road.  

Downtown Largo will see our first mixed-use development break ground and will see an improved connection to the medical arts district and the Pinellas County Trail.

I expect that online permitting will come to fruition, streamlining the permitting process for homeowners and contractors. In 2019, we will look for opportunities to expand recycling to multi-family properties.  

Lastly, all of our departments will continue to provide exemplary service and facilities for our residents focusing on community pride, public safety and sustainability.

Tom Morrissette, president of the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce

Into the new year, the Chamber will continue to address workforce talent development as a top priority. This has been identified for two consecutive years as the top challenge facing area employers according to our annual business survey.

We need to assess the workforce needs today and more importantly several years out. Then, with resources at the state, region and local levels, establish curriculums and certification programs to meet workforce demands. We are already seeing success through initiatives underway at Pinellas Technical College and St. Petersburg College Corporate Training. But we’ve got aways to go.

Mike Sutton, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County

Our county is facing an affordable housing crisis where low-income families are often renting something that is overcrowded or in poor condition. The latest squeeze on the availability of affordable housing is only making this worse.

In 2019, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County will provide homeownership opportunities for 60-plus low-income families. By doing so, Habitat will contribute to the local economy, create jobs and strengthen some of Florida’s most at-risk communities.

Habitat for Humanity is a home-ownership program, where partner families buy a Habitat home with a truly affordable mortgage that costs no more than 30 percent of their income. This means that most Habitat mortgage payments – including insurance and taxes – are much less than what a family would pay for renting. Because Habitat homes are not given away, the mortgage payments created by the building of that home are used to build even more homes.

At the end of the day, the organization generates construction and subcontractor jobs, makes it possible for low-income families to own a home, revitalizes neighborhoods, produces tax revenue for local governments and helps build safe and secure neighborhoods.

Joan Byrne, city of Largo Recreation, Parks and Arts director

Largo’s vision is to be “The Community of Choice in Tampa Bay” and I think we are well on our way to achieving that vision. We have so much to offer our residents and we continue to offer a small town feel with big city amenities. 

In our Recreation, Parks and Arts Department, we want to support all of the strategic areas identified by our city leaders. These include a focus on health and safety, a focus on community pride and a focus on sustainability. To support these areas our department continues to offer innovative programs and facilities that support public health – from well-maintained parks where people walk, exercise, reduce stress by being in nature, to recreation centers offering a safe and healthy place for children, families and seniors to engage in health promoting activities. 

To support community pride, we offer opportunities to residents to participate in great community events, enjoy beautiful public spaces, and take part in reasonably priced cultural arts programs.

And finally supporting sustainability we as parks and recreation professionals have committed to expansion of the city’s tree canopy and renovation of landscaping and roadways throughout the city that expand our green infrastructure and help cleanse the water and air we all depend on.

Madeira Beach

Jonathan Evans, Madeira Beach city manager

I am most proud of how we have effectively engaged the citizenry in a way that pulls back the veil of government by including individuals in the decision-making process despite philosophical differences or political ideologies. We have surveyed our community, held public information sessions, and hosted listening tours – all under the auspices of good government, understanding that true authority in government resides in the public and the public’s willingness to be governed by those that they elect to represent them. As city manager, I am proud of the progress we have made, and I am optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead. To be trusted to lead such an exceptional group of employees and to work with a meticulous and astute Board, I am undoubtedly blessed, and I know that as long as we remain focused and committed to good government and understand that a public office is a public trust, and that is why I believe this city will always prevail. The focus for 2019 will be unity and prosperity for all; we will accomplish this by strengthening and supporting our neighborhoods, supporting and engaging our local businesses, and protecting our beaches and natural amenities. Our best days are certainly ahead.

The Redingtons

Bill Queen, mayor of North Redington Beach; Nick Simons, mayor of Redington Beach; and MaryBeth Henderson, mayor of Redington Shores

The Redingtons are very excited about two improvement projects to infrastructures, both aesthetically and functionally. The undergrounding of utility lines on the east side of Gulf Boulevard should be completed in 2019 with additional undergrounding planned for the west side within the next several years. This will be part of a Pinellas County project to complete all undergrounding of utilities along Gulf Boulevard from St. Pete Beach to Clearwater Beach.

The second project is the planned emergency services building on a site located in North Redington Beach. The current public works buildings in Redington Shores and North Redington Beach will be demolished to make space for a new building that will house a fire department substation, sheriff’s office substation, public works facilities for both Redington Shores and North Redington Beach, Pinellas County sewer lift station and the voting precinct for North Redington Beach. This collaborative project involving Pinellas County and the Redingtons will improve emergency services in our area.


Jim Olliver, Seminole Chamber of Commerce board president

2019 is going to be a great year in Seminole! The chamber of commerce offices will be moving into the new Lurie Civic Building on the (St. Petersburg College) Seminole campus, providing outstanding visibility and many new opportunities for synergy and partnerships with the civic clubs, city, county and college. 

We hope to be a “welcome center” for the Seminole area, letting residents and visitors alike realize all we have to offer. The chamber itself welcomes energized new leadership and a board recommitted to taking us to the next level. We hope to increase our focus on entrepreneurship and economic development, along with showcasing our business members, providing professional development activities, and demonstrating the value of networking and getting involved. It goes beyond “shopping local.” It’s also “participate local.” We’ll celebrate the past while engaging the future!

It may all be summed up in the chamber’s vision statement: Supporting business, building community, promoting growth.

Chief Heather Burford, Seminole Fire Rescue chief

The greatest hope I have for my community in 2019 is the hope for a safer and healthier place to live, work and play. Each year the Seminole Fire Rescue Department responds to over 12,000 calls for service, many of which involve preventable injuries, illnesses and incidents. As a public safety agency, it is as much our responsibility to prevent the need for 911 as it is to respond to calls for 911. By delivering widespread quality and relevant fire safety and injury prevention education, we can help create a community that is safer for all of us and we are committed to this challenge. But we can’t do this work alone and my hope is that in 2019 we can all assume a little more responsibility for the safety of ourselves and others. An easy place to start is on our roads. If we all slowed down just a little and drove with a little more caution we could prevent hundreds of injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes each year. My hope is for all drivers to slow down just a little so lives can be saved. Let’s make our roads safer for all of us in 2019.

Mark Ely, city of Seminole Community Development Director

During the coming year, it’s not so much what I want to see accomplished in the city as opposed to what I don’t want to see happen. During the coming year, my hope for the city of Seminole is that the residents and businesses of the city don’t suffer the effects of any hurricanes, tornados or localized flooding from summer rain events. In 2019, I also hope that there will be fewer accidents, injuries and deaths at the major roadway intersections and on the roadways within the city limits.

Gerry Cachia, Mr. Seminole 2018

As I approach the end of my reign as Mr. Seminole 2018, my hope is that we can further educate and involve the community in the many events and activities that make Seminole great! We should strive to make every event better than before. We can do it; we are Seminole!

Treasure Island

William Karns, incoming chairman, Treasure Island and Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce

I’d like to see an even closer working relationship with our municipalities. Our commissions have a primary responsibility to residents, but we can help them understand and be more receptive to the needs of local businesses. I’d also like to expand our EPIC program and encourage businesses all along the beaches to be more environmentally friendly. This includes existing cleanup initiatives, and reducing the amount of non-biodegradables that make their way to our coastlines, as well as finding ways to increase participation in recycling and composting programs.