“I’m 37, so I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck,” Mayor Maria Lowe smiles after she orders a cappuccino at Steam.
The new mayor is all about shopping local as well as tackling the tougher city issues. As retired military, she views her commission salary as way to promote the city – she uses it to shop local and promote what she buys.
That is not to say she doesn’t care about issues larger than shoes, although after Bay News Nine focused on her shoes and her “shop local” theory, she did get a call from an out-of-Pinellas viewer who wanted to know where to buy the shoes. At her first meeting, the commission spent an estimated four-and-a-half hours of its six hour meeting tackling issues like the sewers.
“I felt that the commission really talked through the topics, and it wasn’t contentious. We didn’t agree on everything, but it was a very respectful disagreement,” she says. She says dissension doesn’t bother her, and something she calls “groupthink” something “way more dangerous than having disagreements.”
Her role as mayor might not have come to be had the former mayor waited to decide whether or not he would seek re-election.
“I would never have even been asked had he not sent out the message that he wasn’t going to run,” she says. Melinda Pletcher asked her to run the day after former Mayor McFarlin said he would not seek re-election.
“My first response was, ‘where’s the Candid Camera?’,” she smiles.
Ultimately, the former mayor did decide to run again, although Lowe ultimately won the race.
Aside from sewer issues, Mayor Low has formally requested that the BIG C (Barrier Islands Government Council) appoint her to represent the barrier islands on the newly-unified MPO/PPC (Metropolitan Planning Organization and Pinellas Planning Council), “so that the barrier islands have a voice in county decisions).
“I am really hoping the BIG C will recognize the value of having a representative from one of the larger barrier island cities. I also will have the longevity of just being elected,” she says.
“It’s back to the basics. The infrastructure is such a serious issue, because of how much it costs,” she says.
As a newer resident – she and her husband have lived on Vina del Mar for two years – she says she has no allegiance to either of the two groups – Save Our Little Village (SOLV) and Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRG) that have occupied much of past commissions’ time.
She says she received “nasty-grams” from both sides during the election.
While her two years as a resident may not be enough to have her entrenched with either of the two groups who once held sway over various commissions, Mayor Lowe does admit that, as a newer resident, she has much to learn.
“There’s no question, I’ve only been here under two years, so part of the expectation that I’ve put on myself is to ensure that I’m going to those who… are informed on the history and how we got to this point,” she says. “The benefit is I come untainted.”