I would be happy if he gets what he asked for. I like him. I only had a few chances to meet him personally, but every time I left thinking, “He is good for Clearwater”. It could be that he is young, the youngest to get that offi ce at 34. It could be that he is more a business man than a politician, he is polite, good looking, and you know what? He is one of the people. I go to a high society benefi t, he is there in his tux. I go to the groundbreaking of the Station Square condos, he is there with the hammer in his hand helping to start demolition, one of the guys. Member of the Leadership Florida
class of 2007, city’s representative on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Foundation, Secretary of the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, President of the Mayor’s Council of Pinellas County and a member of the Board of Directors of the Florida League of Mayors. Sunday school teacher, family man.
Mayor Hibbard transmits a real love and dedication for this city and its people. I like him. You might think my humble opinion is rather unnecessary
and I should go back to write about real estate. At any rate, if you are still with me, I feel there is more I need to say on this subject. This is not just about local politics, this is about new developments, this is about turning this city into a vibrant, beautiful, alive community that everyone truly enjoys. And that is my fi eld, too, so my opinion here becomes quite important. Mayor Hibbard has been a driving force behind a lot of good changes for Clearwater. Not only did he help get the new Causeway bridge fi nished against all odds, he was one of the fi rst promoters of property
tax cuts to show citizens that redevelopment has rewards, and he supported the key project of the downtown marina. On top of it one of his biggest accomplishments over the past two years has been his ability to build consensus on the council. Hibbard himself admitted that it has been a challengeto help meet the needs of a diverse population in the city and all the different views on what the city wants to become. Leadership, political savvy, administrative skill, the ability to attract business, jobs and tourists. Those are just a few of the qualities a successful mayor needs and Hibbard showed us he has them all.
So what did he ask for that sparkled so much criticism? He came up with the idea of switching to a strong-mayor form of government. Concentrate power in one high office, rather than diluting it between a city manager and council. A form of government that could bring in new business, improve city services and rejuvenate civic pride. He would also gain broad authority over day-to-day management of the city budget. The city will be equipped to succeed in fast-changing times. Scared yet? Don’t be. Yes, Mayor Hibbard has broached the subject of change in Clearwater government.
But that is just common sense for a better Clearwater. Something that many other cities have already done. All he has really done is show the courage to ask for the authority to carry out the responsibilities of his job, that shows even more to the citizens that he is a true leader; and sometimes, as a fellow citizen suggested in a letter, “Leaders need to lead in the deep water as opposed to the political safety of the kiddie pool. We should consider reacting in gratitude for and contemplation of the suggestion, rather than being fearful and suspicious of an individual servant
of Clearwater.” Well said. It makes absolute sense to try the strong-mayor approach. If the elected mayor doesn’t measure up, it will be the voters who castigate him, not politicians who say one thing and do another. If the elected Mayor does not do a good job, you the voter can remove him and replace him with somebody diff erent at the next election, and there is a greater chance that you wil see change. Think about this: under the old
system, you could never vote the city manager out of offi ce for not doing a good job. I have not personally discussed the mayor’s ambitions with him, so I don’t know what he might aspire to, but I look at the job he’s done, inspiring developers, investors, retailers, businesses, and citizens alike. I hope each one of you will be able to judge correctly in case we will be ever called to vote on this issue, no matter what criticism you will read in local newspapers. He does have an authentic desire to carry out major projects and reforms that are genuinely needed. To me it does not seem
like all he wants is personal power. Actually, I cannot help but wonder ... maybe he is aspiring to a better Clearwater after all.
Paola Lombardi Larson is the Broker of VILLAGE REALITY of Clearwater, Inc. She can be reached at