At the Tuesday, December 15 Gulfport City Council meeting, the sole item on the agenda dealt with the 2021 municipal elections and drawing lots to determine name placement on the March 9 ballot.
“The Charter requires it be done by the City Clerk,” City Clerk Lesley DeMuth said. To ensure the names dropped in the bucket were the same size and shape, Demuth wrote the candidate names on the back of her own business cards.
The city’s Charter Review Committee, which, until 2020, consisted of private citizens (in 2020 council acted as the charter review committee), recommended the city change from the way it traditionally listed candidates on the ballot (alphabetically) to the current method. Ordinance 2005-06, which council passed in May 2005, mandated that the clerk draw lots for order on the ballot.
Five candidates will vie for two offices.
“We’ll have two [candidates] for Ward Two and three for Ward Four,” said Demuth.
The Ward Two incumbent councilmember, Christine Brown, faces a challenge from Mike Bauer. In Ward Four, incumbent Michael Fridovich faces three challengers: repeated challenger (and sometimes elf-costumed-council attendee) Richard Fried; and Ian O’Hara. A fourth candidate for the Ward Four race, Robert Barto, qualified but withdrew. Barto works for the City of St. Petersburg and expressed to the Gabber that he couldn’t effectively serve two cities at this time.
DeMuth drew lots as follows:
For Ward Two, Michael Bauer will appear first on the ballot, followed by Christine Brown. In Ward Four, Ian O’Hara will appear first on the ballot followed by Richard Fried and then Michael Fridovich.
The election will cost the city more than $17,000. The Supervisor of Elections will mail all military and overseas ballots by January 23, 2021; mail-in ballots get mailed starting January 28.
A Season of Giving
Beverly Newcomb accepted the “Spirit of Gulfport” award on behalf of herself and her late husband, Bob. Gulfport artist Ray Domingo painted a likeness of Bob, and the portrait appeared on stage as she accepted the award on behalf of them both.
“I have to say a few words. Bob would never forgive me; he didn’t leave silence very long. I want you to know how grateful the Newcomb family is to Ray Domingo for this fabulous portrait. We have smaller copies – couldn’t quite fit that in my home,” Newcomb said, adding, “I called Ray to ask if Bob could be with me, as he always was.”
Bob Newcomb passed away on May 4, 2020 at 84.
Bob was a force to be reckoned with in Gulfport. He hailed from Massachusetts, but you wouldn’t know it from the way Bob loved Gulfport. Bob and his wife Beverly, “Bev,” moved to Gulfport 14 years ago and were an integral part of the community ever since.
The Newcombs’ work throughout the city continues, particularly with the Gulfport Senior Center. Mrs. Newcomb donated to the Gabber to help the current owners purchase the paper, telling us Bob would have wanted to see the paper continue.
“Bob is the embodiment of what it means to be a Gulfportian,” said Councilmember Paul Ray, acknowledging Bob Newcomb’s Spirit of Gulfport award during council comments.
Gulfport Family Restaurant Donates $5,000 to GP Fire and Rescue
Gulfport firefighters will get better beds at work, thanks to the generosity of Gulfport Family Restaurant. At the December 15 city council meeting, restaurateur Peter Kiriopolous presented Fire Chief James Marenkovic with a $5,000 check.
Marenkovic, who thought the station could benefit from a new radio, listened to his staff and decided that the firefighters will receive all new mattresses in their rest areas at the station with the donation.
Overheard at the December 15 Gulfport Council Meeting
“We raided our budget to buy $800 in gift cards from local businesses.” – Jenn Buckley, of the Boca Ciega Yacht Club. The Club gave the gift cards to the BCYC lighted boat parade captains as a thank-you gift.
“I want to blow my own horn here a little. I’m a past recipient of the Spirit of Gulfport award, along with the keys to the city, which I lost in the fire. I want council to re-hear my variance, because it was presented totally wrong. I asked just to rebuild what I had there. It was denied because I’m positive the pictures were bad, what I was asking for was not presented properly.” – Pat Dunham, who wanted council to let her go back before the variance board. The city will hear her appeal on January 5.
“Message heard loud and clear.” – Mayor Sam Henderson, to Pat Dunham
“We had three fire hydrants that didn’t work. Three fire departments had to stand around and watch [my home] burn to the ground.” – Pat Dunham, about the fire that destroyed her home in March. City Manager Jim O’Reilly asked to put on the record that the hydrant error Pat Dunham raised was not lack of water, but that a neighboring fire department broke the hydrant trying to open the water flow.
“It ends up strangling and killing the tree. We’ve got a problem going on; it’s getting worse. In Clam Bayou park we have a lot of invasives.” – David Falwell, about strangler figs throughout Gulfport and other unspecified invasives in Clam Bayou.
“I wanted to take a moment to thank the city for all the holiday activities that are taking place. The things that took place – the parade, the tree lighting and now establishing a list for people going around to see the lights. It was all very lovely.” – Margarete Tober
“Please, everybody, eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. We absolutely cannot have another year like this. I think there were a lot of people who didn’t eat black-eyed peas this year and that’s why we had 2020.” – Councilmember Christine Brown
“I want to thank Mrs. Claus.” – Councilman Michael Fridovich, about the BCYC boat parade. Mrs. Claus kept reminding Fridovich, who impersonated Santa for the boat parade (the real Santa was social distancing in preparation for his big night later this month). Mrs. Claus kept tapping Fridovich on the shoulder, saying, “Look, there are the children, Santa!”
“Saturday night was a COVID disaster … Y’all have got to start taking responsibility for your patrons. I realize everybody needs to make money, but if you’re outside, you’re not required to wear a mask, but it would be nice if you asked your patrons to do some sort of social distancing.” – Councilman Michael Fridovich
“If we still feel that’s safe, if we want to talk about that.” – Councilwoman April Thanos, about possibly canceling the New Year’s Eve fireworks. No one on council raised the issue after Thanos’s comment.
“That was my favorite boat in the parade, ‘Buh-bye 2020.’” – Mayor Sam Henderson
“I tend to believe that the kind of campaign that you’ll run says a lot about the job you’ll do. I think it would be very Gulfport of us to back away from what we’ve seen at the state and federal level.” – Mayor Sam Henderson, about the upcoming city council races.