PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Voters in Clearwater chose Frank Hibbard to be their next mayor, and it wasn't even close.
- Hibbard takes 55.5 percent of vote
- Joe Ayoub gets second term as Safety Harbor mayor
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With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Hibbard took 55.5 percent of the vote, with 12,939 votes. The next closest was Elizabeth Drayer, who garnered 5,552 votes (23.8 percent).
Hibbard will succeed current mayor George Cretekos, who is term-limited.
"I didn't think I'd be walking into a pandemic, but we as a community and as a nation we'll get through this, and we'll be stronger for this, and we'll be stronger for it," Hibbard said after the results came in, referring to the myriad challenges that the coronavirus will bring to Clearwater.
Attorney Elizabeth Drayer came in a distant second place with 24 percent. Former City Councilman Bill Jonson was third with 16 percent, and small businessman Morton Myers finished fourth with 5 percent of the vote.
Hibbard was the clear establishment choice for the seat. He won most of the major endorsements and raised the most money of all the candidates in the field.
The Church of Scientology has been considered a major factor in why downtown Clearwater hasn't had the success of its fellow Tampa Bay area major cities. Hibbard said during a debate last month that Scientology was not a "virus" and that people couldn't catch it if they ventured into downtown.
"I told people if they really wanted to see downtown Clearwater turn around, they have to come to the businesses," he said. "We've really shown through the Capitol Theater how things can be successful in downtown Clearwater. We have to frequent the restaurants and the retail that we have. And once they see success, there will be other businesses that follow."
Unlike Tampa and St. Petersburg, Clearwater is considered a strong-city manager form of government, where that position makes the budgetary decisions and the mayor acts as one of the five city councilmembers. Bill Horne, the city manager of Clearwater for the past 20 years, is stepping down later this year. So is the city attorney.
"They're incredibly important," he said about their departures. "We're going to be losing a lot of institutional knowledge from those two people, so we will be doing a national search for our new city manager."
He said that he hopes to have a replacement for Horne by the fall.
Voters in Clearwater also filled two city council seats: Mark Bunker won city council seat two by exactly 200 votes in the closest Clearwater race Tuesday. Kathleen Beckman, meanwhile, won city council seat three handily, with more than double the votes (10,931) of runner-up Bud Elias (4,887).
Clearwater's mayor and City Council members serve four-year terms.
A number of other cities in Pinellas County held local office races and also referendums.
John B. Hendricks came out on top in the race to be Madeira Beach's next mayor, while Joe Ayoub won another term as mayor of Safety Harbor, defeating challenger Tanja Vidovic in a race that turned bitterly negative.
For a list of the results of referendums in municipalities across Pinellas County, including those in Clearwater, Pinellas Park, Oldsmar, and Tarpon Springs, visit our Elections Results page.