In 2012, Bob Hackworth engaged in a spirited battle to oust Dave Eggers in the race to become Dunedin's next mayor, losing 52-48 percent. It was his third consecutive defeat at the polls, and running for office did not appear to be in his future anytime soon. But the longtime public servant now admits he is seriously considering another run at his former job, now that Eggers has announced that he'll be stepping down to run for the Pinellas County Commission seat being vacated later this year by Susan Latvala.
"I haven’t made that final decision yet," Hackworth told CL on Tuesday. "This all came about with the resignation of the guy who barely beat me two years ago, so I want to look at the race and see if there are any opportunities to see if I can provide the public service that I have campaigned on for years." But he cautions it's still early in the political calendar. "I want to see who else is getting in, and whether or not some of the issues that I care about will be addressed."
One thing is clear in speaking with the former Dunedin Mayor and City Commissioner — he's not a fan of Eggers, who was just elected for a four-year term in 2012, after serving on the Dunedin City Commission for two three-year terms."In retrospect, if there was any hint that either of us wasn't committed to a full four-year term I think the election would have turned out a lot differently," Hackworth says of Eggers' recent announcement.
When he spoke with CL last summer regarding our story
about the possibility of the Toronto Blue Jays leaving Dunedin for Palm Beach Gardens, Hackworth was critical of what he said was a lack of urgency on the part of some city leaders about the possibility of the team leaving the only city it's played spring training games in since 1977 (The team's lease runs out in 2017).
But a deal to relocate and share a facility with the Houston Astros in Palm Beach Gardens has seemingly fallen apart, and members of the organization have been expressing an interest in working with city officials about improving their facilities.
Hackworth isn't convinced there won't be another potential suitor in Florida or Arizona trying to lure the team, though.
"I’m still seeing a less-than-robust commitment to fund whatever it is that we need to do to retain them," he said, adding that the legislature has made state money available for any city or county to compete and help entice a major-league franchise. "It's better than it was a year ago, but I don't think it's a good thing to lose your mayor halfway through negotiations, either."
"If you want to compete, you need to put your best package forward, and I still see a certain kind of being timid about what we can do or what we want to do and ... I’d just approach it a little differently."
He also has concerns about the potential for changing the city's Land Dedication Ordinance, which has funded lands for parks acquisitions over the past forty years.
Under the ordinance, developers must either allocate space in the neighborhood for recreational use, or pay an impact fee that city officials can then use to purchase public parklands elsewhere. It was enacted as a measure to ensure green space was preserved as Dunedin's population grew. But there has been talk in the past few years about loosening those regulations. "I disagree with the current mayor, but he seems to be getting some traction with the Commission," Hackworth laments.
Hackworth previously served seven years on the City Commission, including one term as mayor. He opted not to run for re-election in 2008, opting for a somewhat quixotic and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to knock Bill Young out of Congress. In 2010 Hackworth was caught up in the GOP tsunami, losing to Susan Latvala in District 4 for Pinellas County Commission. (You might recall how Latvala nationalized the local contest, invoking Nancy Pelosi's name in opposing Hackworth.) And then there was his late entry into the 2012 mayoral contest.
Hackworth says he's in no hurry to make a decision, and will likely do so before the summer.