The vice president (and former president) of the Belle Vista Civic Association says he talked to his friends at length before deciding to run for the District Three seat.
“I’m a family guy. I think I’m the only non-retired person on the commission, except for Melinda [Pletcher]. I thought it would be nice having a point of view for those many, many people who live here who have kids,” he says.
“What I ran on was ‘family guy, trying to make a difference,’” he says. “From playing softball, I got to know the inside part of it, and with the kids at Gulf Beaches, I got to know the locals. It seemed like the logical next step.”
“I have no political ambition whatsoever,” he said of a higher office. “I thought it would be a good thing to do to help the city.”
The District Three councilman found St. Pete Beach because of a snowstorm. In February 1983, his car got stuck in the snow in Milwaukee. That was all it took; on the same day the series finale of M*A*S*H aired, he moved to Orlando. He met his wife, a fourth-generation Floridian, and when she enrolled in Stetson Law School they moved to St. Pete Beach after scouring St. Petersburg for a home.
“We found a really cool fixer-upper in Roser Park, then we found a 1925 home on 49th Street North,” Premer says. But the same day they found the 1925 home, he took a drive around Belle Vista to see what St. Pete Beach had to offer, and he saw someone hammering a “For Sale” sign into what would become his home.
His teenagers went to Gulf Beaches Elementary and, he says, because he had a good sound system, he handled the annual fish broil’s entertainment. He played softball on Egan Field, which is where he says he met many locals.
Now that he’s off the ball field and on the dais?
“I want to end the lawsuits,” he says, adding that he felt he and Jim Anderson, a plaintiff in a series of lawsuits and appeals against the city and his opponent in this last election, have always gotten along.
“I thought the comprehensive plan was well-intentioned,” he says, “and the people who fought against it make the proper checks and balances so everybody wins.”
He hopes, too, to make St. Pete Beach a destination that can compete with places like John’s Pass and Dunedin, and he thinks two things can make that happen: Corey Avenue redevelopment and “one or two”larger hotels that would shoulder the financial burden of the improvements.
“I want to move forward on beautifying the city. I want Corey Avenue completely redone, end-to-end, just like it’s been envisioned. Make it a destination point instead of people going up to John’s Pass Village. We have tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of visitors on our beaches, in our hotels. Make Corey Avenue a destination, make it like downtown Dunedin,”he says.
As for the hotels? Premer stresses he doesn’t want to see St. Pete Beach turn into Sand Key, but he does believe that the city could use something like “a 12-story Radisson.”
“Everybody knows that one or two big hotels would go a big way with impact fees,” he says.
How? If an impact study reports, for example, that the sewer system couldn’t support a new hotel, the hotel could still be built – if it paid to upgrade the sewer system.
“Reasonable development will help pay for all these things,” he says. “Everybody wins. Property values go up, taxes go down.”
As for the types of hotels?
“One thing this city lacks is [a place where people] can use their airline miles,” he says. “We don’t have a Hilton, we don’t have a Marriott.”
One or two, he stresses again, would suffice. He says he does not want to see an abundance of hotels up and down his beach.
“I don’t want condos on the beach, I don’t want Clearwater Beach. I want a beautiful downtown, and keep the flavor that made me move here that everybody seems to want,” he says, adding, “We have a blank canvas, but it takes cooperation from everybody. It takes compromise. It is going to take an extremely strong individual to get this done.”
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.