So far, three people have announced plans to run for two New Port Richey City Council seats being vacated by incumbents this year.

  • Members Judy DeBella Thomas, Bill Phillips vacating seats
  • Qualifying period for candidates ends Feb. 20
  • Election scheduled for April 10

Jim Blackwell moved to the city four years ago. While he’s originally from Texas, his wife, Carol, grew up in the St. Petersburg area.

He said he brings 40 years of experience as a municipal engineer to the table that he thinks can help the city invest in itself.

“Every city employee I’ve talked to tells me how underpaid they are,” Blackwell said. “I think if I can save, or help the city save money, we might be able to raise those wages.”

One of his ideas: adopt a one-contractor system for garbage collection that is bid out every three to five years.

“There are four garbage trucks that drive by my house every Monday and every Thursday, and they literally tear up the street,” he said. “So, the street department is set with rebuilding all of the streets.”

Blackwell applauded the addition of the restaurant Beef O’Brady’s to Main Street. He said he’d like to see the city hire someone full-time to work on bringing new business – particularly anchor businesses – to town.

“We need more business in this city. New Port Richey was a town that was most devastated with the economic turn down of a few years ago with the housing market,” Blackwell said.

A familiar face

A candidate who would be a familiar face to council chambers is Marilynn deChant. Active in the community since 1985, she served on the council from 2005-2009 and said that experience can benefit New Port Richey.

“I’ve been around,” deChant said. “I know what I am doing, and I guess I just want to have an opportunity to be here and share some new ideas.”

A main priority for deChant is focusing on neighborhood improvements, like increasing property values and curbing crime.

“We do have a focus on our downtown right now, which has been wonderful,” deChant said. “Now, while this is flourishing, at least getting ready to flourish more, I think we need to start focusing on some of our neighborhood issues.”

She said one thing city leaders need to keep an eye on are state talks about the viability of community redevelopment agencies.

“The reason they were created was to have a tax improvement base for cities, for municipalities,” she said. “I don’t want to get into the weeds with that; however, that would be one of the things that we need to be aware of.”

An advocate for preserving the past

Attorney Joan Nelson Hook is another candidate in the running. Hook said she moved to New Port Richey 25 years ago.

“It’s an opportunity to participate in the rule-making activities of a city I’ve really, really become fond of,” said Hook of her council run.

Hook is a member of the city’s library advisory board, and said that work won’t be forgotten if she’s elected.

“I’m very dedicated to helping to expand and improve the library – maybe even move it,” she said.

Hook said she’d also like to simplify the process of getting permits for building or home renovations.

While she praised the revitalization of downtown and the development happening there, she also said it represents a future challenge for the city.

“We need to preserve the past, like the Hacienda and some of the buildings downtown,” she said of the historic hotel along Main Street.

City Clerk Judy Meyers said the qualifying period for candidates runs until Feb. 20, so it’s possible these won’t be the only candidates voters have to choose from this spring.

The election is scheduled to take place April 10.