Politics in Clearwater have historically been quiet. But this year is different.
The crowded Seat 2 race is open, with the winner set to replace Jay Polglaze who is leaving office due to term limits. Two challengers are running to replace Bob Cundiff in Seat 3.
Here’s who’s on the ballot.
Bunker was born and raised in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He spent his career in various posts throughout the country working in radio and film and is the only candidate in any of the races on the Clearwater ballot this year who has taken a vocal and firm stance on Scientology, a controversial issue pitting a powerful religious organization against its critics.
Bunker first came to Clearwater in 2000 when he accepted a position with the Lisa McPherson Trust managing multimedia for the group, which sought to expose deceptive and abusive practices within the Church of Scientology and assist people they believed were abused and defrauded by the group. Bunker recorded interviews with former Scientologists and protests against the group.
“It’s a small point, but the council needs someone who knows how Scientology works and is not afraid to call it out when needed,” Bunker wrote on his campaign website. “Can I shut down Scientology? No. Will I chase them out of town? No, but too many people are afraid and I can lead by example. It’s not religious bigotry to say the fraud and abuse should stop. It’s the right thing to do.”
Bunker has a dark history with the Church of Scientology. The group once attempted to have him evicted from a condo because of his affiliation with the anti-Scientology movement.
Michael “Mike” Mannino
Mannino served as the 2019 chair of Clearwater’s Charter Review Committee and serves on the city’s Municipal Advisory Code Board, the Citizens Advisory Committee for Forward Pinellas and is a 2017 graduate of Clearwater’s Citizen Academy.
Mannino is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility and low taxes. If elected, he plans to focus on job creation and growth, smart growth that manages development within the confines of the city’s resources and fostering a business friendly environment.
Mannino also wants to serve as a leader in ensuring the city hires the best possible person to replace the outgoing City Manager and City Attorney who will both be retiring during the next term.
Rector is the vice chairman of the Clearwater Regional Chamber and is the author of a self-help book “Monday Morning Messages: Teaching, Inspiring and Motivating to Lead, published in 2005.
He also currently serves as general counsel and management adviser for Sports Facilities Management and Sports Facilities Advisory in Clearwater.
Rector is also running on a platform of fiscal responsibility and low taxes. His campaign priorities include improving quality of life for residents through an emphasis on parks, trails, beaches and waterways, increasing sustainability, improving neighborhoods, encouraging smart growth and establishing a business friendly environment in the city to promote job growth.
Rector is a graduate of Leadership Pinellas and continues to volunteer with the group and is a recent graduate of the Clearwater Citizens Academy.
He also served as the 58th President of the Junior Chamber International, a 200,000 member group representing more than 100 countries that volunteers in their communities to promote both local and global sustainability and success. During his work with that group, Rector traveled to nearly 50 countries to volunteer on various community projects.
Eliseo Santana Jr.
Santana is a retired tech worker for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and a U.S. Army Veteran. He touts his “eclectic” skill set as a unique qualification to serve on City Council.
After working with the Sheriff’s office on its technology needs, Santana earned a Master of Business Administration. In 2016, he ran unsuccessfully for the Pinellas County School Board.
Santana is running to establish better lines of communication between local government and its constituencies, particularly Hispanic voters.
He supports the city’s Imagine Clearwater plan and wants to improve local small businesses.
Teixeira has a detailed outline of her vision for the city that includes improving government services and amenities ranging from the city’s permitting process to upgrading public infrastructure.
Her priorities include streamlining outdated permitting processes, restoring fiscal responsibility and accountability to the city, improving education, creating local jobs, improving infrastructure, improving the local economy and building a sustainable city.
Teixeira is a member of the Downtown Development Board and serves as president of the Downtown Merchants Association and as vice chair of the Clearwater Partnership.
A teacher by trade, Beckman is running to restore the voice to Clearwater residents in dealing with their local government, which she believes is broken.
She wants to identify ways to make the city’s budget more lean, improve the environment and health outcomes for residents, increase the city’s affordable housing stock and improve overall quality of life throughout the city.
Beckman also wants to increase transparency and accountability in city government. As part of her campaign, Beckman promises to be a “hands on” leader for all Clearwater residents.
Robert “Dr. Bob” Cundiff
Cundiff is the Seat 3 incumbent and the current Vice Mayor for the city.
His main campaign priority is continuing work on council ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely in the city’s nearly $500 million budget.
Cundiff has consistently voted against raising property taxes in the city.
He’s also active in the community who holds frequent meet and greet forums throughout the city to speak directly with constituents.
Cundiff opposes what he describes as unsuitable development within or near residential neighborhoods.
Cundiff serves on the Tampa Bay Estuary board, Homeless Leadership Board and the Pinellas School Transportation Safety Committee.
Elias is a more than four-decade resident of Clearwater who has served on numerous local boards including the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Clearwater Downtown Partnership and Leadership Pinellas.
“I’m running to be a voice for every neighborhood. To help build consensus and get results. To focus on building a stronger city for the future,” Elias said in his initial campaign announcement. “A city that diversifies its local economy through a renewed focus on science and technology firms. A city that protects its natural beauty and foundational economic engine. A city that listens to its residents and executes on their vision.”
Elias also wants to strengthen the city’s code enforcement.
“The strength of Clearwater is in its people and its neighborhoods. For decades I’ve called Clearwater home, and I’ve seen firsthand the wisdom of engaging each and every neighborhood in writing the next chapter of our city’s history,” Elias said.
Thomas works as the senior human resources director at HCR ManorCare Dunedin. He previously served as a member of the Board of Education in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
During his two terms in office, he served as the board vice president, chaired the personnel committee and was a member of the finance committee. He was also a member of the County Intermediate Unit Board.
Thomas wants to create a thriving startup economy in Clearwater.
“I would love to see more people invest in our city, and I intend to help create and streamline more opportunities for these stakeholders,” Thomas said when he announced his candidacy last year. “My record is very clear, as a former member of the Board of Education, I wasn’t afraid of voting ‘no’ on issues that I felt didn’t serve the best interests of the taxpayers. My dedication and record of public service make me ready to serve the great city of Clearwater on day one.”
Clearwater’s municipal election is March 17.
The ballot also includes six referendums. That includes two ballot questions asking voters whether to allow the city to give away or sell certain property for less than market value, a procedural question releasing the expired lease on Clearwater Marine Aquarium, whether to block former council members from holding paid positions with the city until two years after they’ve left office, moving the City Manager’s annual report from September to November and whether or not the city should adopt a Charter Review Advisory Committee every eight years instead of every five years.