Meet the Candidates: St. Pete Beach

On March 15, St. Pete Beach voters will elect new commissioners for District 1 and District 3.

Candidates for District 1 are incumbent Terri Finnerty and Lorraine Huhn. District 3 candidates are Ward Friszolowski and Deborah Schechner. St. Pete Beach Commissioners serve two-year terms, and are elected by district. For more elections information, or to find your district, please visit stpetebeach.org/city-departments/city-clerk/item/89-election.html.

Via email, the Gabber asked each candidate the same questions. Their responses have been edited for style only.

District 1

What is your background?

Terri Finnerty

Terri Finnerty

Terri Finnerty: I was born and raised in New Jersey and hold three degrees, a BA, MA and doctorate in education. I spent 10 years teaching at the University of Houston before choosing to join my parents here in St. Pete Beach. I worked for three major corporations before establishing my own consulting business in 1988, which is still in operation, specializing in organizational development and training.

I have served as a very active First Lady of St. Pete Beach for three years during which my husband Mike was mayor (2008 – 2011). In 2007, as Commissioner of District 1, he established a program entitled St. Pete Beach Support Our Troops, Inc. and I was appointed Vice President. The program sends food and hygiene boxes to our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date we have sent 4,392 boxes in the last nine years the program has been in existence.

Other organizations I have been involved with as a member are the Pass-A-Grille Woman’s Club, the School Advisory Committee for Gulf Beaches Elementary Magnet School, Clerk for Tierra Verde voting district since 2006, parishioner of St. John’s Catholic Church since 1982 and president of my building condominium board and treasurer of the Master Board.

Some of my favorite things to do is playing classical music on the piano, entertaining friends and spending time with my granddaughter, Aria.

Lorraine Huhn

Lorraine Huhn

Lorraine Huhn: My professional background includes teaching, advertising and marketing for banks and CPA firms.  My personal background included being a wife for 57 years (widowed six years) and mother to six children.

 

How long have you lived in St. Pete Beach?  

TF: 34 Years

LH: I have lived, full time, in St. Pete Beach since April 1985.

 

In 20 words or less, tell voters why you chose to run.

TF: I chose to move here 34 years ago and love living here all year around. I will continue to improve our quality of life.

LH: I chose to run for city commission because of my love and understanding of the city and its opportunities.

 

What do you think are the biggest issues facing St. Pete Beach?

TF: The continued infrastructure modernization of roads, sewers and storm water. We also need to redevelop the Corey Avenue area making it an arts and entertainment district. In addition, we need to finish restoring the unity of our residents for the common good of the community and District 1.

LH: The city needs a well-defined published citywide infrastructure repair/reconstruct plan. There is disregard for years of research, workshops, development programs to improve live, work and play conditions for our residents and visitors.

 

Describe St. Pete Beach in 3 words.

TF: Paradise, beaches and sunsets

LH: An Island Paradise! (in waiting)

 

What is the best and worst part about St. Pete Beach?

TF: The best part of St. Pete Beach is the people; the residents make life 24/7, 365 days a year great. The worst part is the overtaxed infrastructure that I will continue to fight to improve.

LH: The best part of St. Pete Beach is its potential for quality of life opportunities for residents and visitors alike. The worst part of St. Pete Beach is the inability to put into action the necessary improvements that will expose what a jewel we have in St. Pete Beach.

District 3

What is your background?

Ward Friszolowski

Ward Friszolowski

Ward J. Friszolowski: I’m an architect and Executive Vice President of Harvard Jolly Architecture, based in St. Petersburg. I served 14 years in elected office in St. Pete Beach including six years as City Commissioner of District 3 and eight years as Mayor.

Deborah Schechner: I am married to Steve for over 42 years; we have two sons

Deborah Schechner:

Deborah Schechner:

and three wonderful grandchildren. My experience includes being an educator and real estate retail manager. Presently I am in new business development for our family business. I serve on the St. Pete Beach Finance and Budget Board and Pinellas County Citizens advisory committee for the Metropolitan planning organization. I also volunteer in the Wacky Wednesday after school mentoring program. I am an artist and supporter of art in our community. Our family has a mission to support our troops and we participate as a supplier in the local Homes for Heroes program.

 

How long have you lived in St. Pete Beach?

WF: I’m a third-generation St. Pete Beach resident and Belle Vista resident for 28 years.

DS: I have lived on Boca Ciega Isle in District 3, St. Pete Beach since March 1, 2001.

 

In 20 words or less, tell voters why you chose to run.

WF: I love St. Pete Beach. After serving 14 years in elected office, I’m committed to serving my community again.

DS: The time is right to become a commissioner providing true representation for the people and businesses of District 3.

 

What do you think are the biggest issues facing St. Pete Beach?

WF: Infrastructure: Upgrading and improving our city’s aging infrastructure, including our water lines, our sewer system and our city streets, is arguably the greatest challenge we face. My professional experience as an architect, together with my years of local city government experience, will allow me to address this issue effectively.

Finance: Our city continues to face expenses we’re finding harder and harder to pay. Some are by design and careful planning while others, like lawsuits and legal settlements, are difficult to anticipate. My experience running a large, successful business for over 20 years, will allow me to provide better financial counsel to our city.

Beautification: Pinellas County provided our city with substantial funds for the undergrounding utilities and general beautification of Gulf Boulevard. My experience working with Pinellas County, on urban beautification issues, and with the Blind Pass Road beautification project uniquely positions him to play a leading role in seeing this project completed.

Public Safety: I know there’s no greater responsibility for a city than keeping our citizens safe. Quick response time by our Sheriff’s Deputies and our Fire Department will always remain my top priority. That’s why I’m endorsed by Sheriff Bob Gualtieri representing law enforcement and public safety on St. Pete Beach.

Library: With our city planning a new library at the location of the old police department building, no one is better prepared to represent our best interests than I am. I am recognized as a library design expert in the Southeast who has designed over 60 libraries. I am a frequent speaker at conferences for the Florida Library Association and a member of the American Library Association.

Quality of Life: I recognize how fortunate we are to have a great Recreation Department and so many city parks. I will remain committed to making sure we retain and enhance these amenities for our citizens to enjoy.

Environment: St. Pete Beach is a barrier island surrounded by water and beautiful beaches. We cannot fail to do everything possible to keep them in pristine condition. I have the experience and passion about environmental issues to help keep the environment an important concern.

Development: It’s this simple: Don’t allow buildings to be taller than the current Comprehensive Plan allows. That means no height variances. I will always promote reasonable development by balancing citizen’s concerns with the need to allow hotels and businesses to prosper.

Revenue Sources: St. Pete Beach has always generated more funds in sales tax and tourist development tax (bed tax) than it receives from the Pinellas County. My knowledge and relationship with the county commission will help our city negotiate better terms for St. Pete Beach.

My skills as a professional problem solver combined with my past experience are just what we need to solve these issues.

DS: 1- Infrastructure repair and continuing maintenance

2 -Receiving our fair share of tax dollars

3- A plan to resolve flooding in our neighborhoods

4- Protect our deeded beach access

 

Describe St. Pete Beach in three words.

WF: Living in Paradise.

DS: Beautiful beach community

 

What is the best and worst part about St. Pete Beach?

WF: The best part is the beach, people and varied activities available to citizens. The worst part is the threat of hurricanes.

DS: The best of St. Pete Beach is the feeling you get when you cross a bridge and know you are home, I call it the ahhh moment. We are now making progress, repairing our systems that once allowed sewage to run on our streets. Our city is united, our commission actually listens to residents and responds during commission meetings. As commissioner in District 3 I plan to keep our quality of life my number one priority.

Don't be shy. Tell us what you think.