CLEARWATER – As the deadline for qualifying candidates for the March 15 city council elections draws near, more hopes are springing into the races that could bring a long-lacking diversity to City Hall.
In the past three weeks, two black women and a black man have filed documents to run for the two general seats up for grabs.
In Clearwater’s history, 10 women have been elected to the town’s board of directors and one has been appointed to fill a vacant position. Three blacks served, the last in 1993.
Community activist Maranda Douglas, 31, applied for seat 4 against incumbent David Allbritton, 71, and retired tech specialist Gerry Lee, 74.
Cosmetologist Leslie Lightsy, 44, and Pastor Jonathan Wade Sr., 66, have applied for seat 5, which will be vacated by board member Hoyt Hamilton due to term limits. Church of Scientology defector Aaron Smith-Levin, 41, and business owner Lina Teixeira, 52, announced their campaigns for seat 5 in mid-September, the first week of the election season.
The participation of Douglas, Lightsy and Wade, all black candidates, marks a notable path for diversity, as all three have said that one of their goals is to bring representation that has historically been lacking in the elected Clearwater office. .
“I haven’t seen any representation of me on this city council,” Lightsy said. “By signing up, I set the bar for every African American girl and African American boy I represent in the community.”
While applicants could file documents to raise funds from September 16, the city’s official qualification period began on Monday. Candidates have until Dec. 17 to submit cards with the signatures of 250 registered voters in Clearwater and pay a $ 338 fee to get their names on the March 15 ballot.
On Tuesday, Allbritton and Lee submitted maps and qualifying fees for Seat 4 and Smith-Levin and Teixeira submitted maps and fees for Seat 5, according to City Clerk Rosemarie Call.
Although their opponents have a head start, Lightsy, Douglas and Wade said they are working to collect signatures before the deadline.
Lightsy, who is working on opening a training institute for young people, said a priority is standing up for entrepreneurs and helping the city develop more incentive programs for small businesses outside of the city. downtown.
Lightsy said she considered running for office as her frustration grew with city politics. But what sealed her decision was to see Maranda Douglas, another black woman, show up last month.
Douglas said that inspiring and recruiting more diverse candidates to get involved in the city’s issues is one of the many goals of his campaign.
“This is where it starts,” she said.
As a native of Pinellas County, Douglas has volunteered for years in education, the arts and other outreach services, most recently as Executive Director of the FYI Community Partnership, which is community-focused. from South Greenwood to Clearwater.
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“I want to be someone that people can relate to,” said Douglas. “I want to be a person who will educate the community on what the board can do, and I want to be an advocate for the community and make sure they feel they are heard and give them the opportunity to move forward in life.”
Jonathan Wade Sr., pastor of St. James’ African Methodist Episcopal Church, has a history of community activism dating back to the early 2000s. He was the past president of the North Greenwood Association and worked for the major part of his career as a social worker and addiction counselor.
He said he made the decision to run for city council to bring diversity to the podium, help promote more environmental initiatives such as solar power expansion and to help strengthen city districts.
“It has been an aspirational of mine for many years,” Wade said of public service. “I’m a neighborhood guy. Every neighborhood must be fair and I want to be part of it.