This is one of seven 2014 Safety Harbor municipal election candidate profiles conducted by Safety Harbor Connect. The city election will take place on Tuesday, March 11. There is a candidate forum on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at City Hall.
Name: Andrew “Andy” Steingold
Running for: Mayor
Birthplace: Miami, Florida
Lived in Safety Harbor since: 2000
Professional History: Maney & Gordon, P.A.(Law Firm), 2008-Present, Partner Elected Office history: 2005-2006 Safety Harbor City Commission (elected 2005 and re-elected 2006), 2006-1/2013 Mayor (appointed 2006, re-elected 2007, re-elected 2008 and re-elected 2011).
Volunteer/Organizations: Paint Your Heart Out Safety Harbor; Countryside Jr. Cougars Football coach; North Pinellas Youth Flag Football Coach; Safety Harbor Youth Basketball Coach; President of Pinellas Mayors Council, 2009-2010; Metropolitan Planning Council Member, 2009-2010; Pinellas Planning Council Member 2006-2008; Pinellas County Charter Review Member 2010; PSTA Interim Member, 2012.
Five Questions Regarding Your Candidacy:
1. What made you decide to run for office?
Initially I wasn’t going to run. But after all the calls I received, even at the last minute, I received overwhelming support from the community to run for mayor. This isn’t isn’t about me. It’s about community support to have a mayor who’s going to do the will of the people. I had two and a half hours to gather 100 signatures, so I got an army of people together and we got it done.
I’m 100 percent in. There was a newspaper article that said I allegedly was interfering with city business. I wasn’t organizing people behind the scenes, I’m a citizen here. I’ve tried to stay away from any kind of conflicts for the past year. But as a citizen, it’s tough to stay away.
2. What part of your personal or professional experiences make you believe you are suited to run for public office?
I ran for commission in 2005, ran again in 2006 and in July of 2006 I was appointed interim mayor. I had to run for mayor again in 2007, and then I was mayor from 2008 until 2012. So this might be my sixth or seventh election. It’s certainly been a privilege in the past to serve the people of Safety Harbor. I put my heart and soul into doing the will of the people. In the past year you see the will of the people was not done.
3. What do you believe are the biggest issues affecting the community today and where do you stand on them?
You start looking at the developments going on at this point, with some there is zero lot line, and thats’ not preserving the quaintness of the city. We’re at a point of no return in regards to preservation. If we continue on we’re going to lose the quaintness and charm of Safety Harbor. It would appear to me that the current leadership is trying to turn Safety Harbor into something it’s not. I would like to see some of the foliage maintained in these projects. There seems to be an exfoliation taking place in some of these lots which dismantles the uniqueness and charm of Safety Harbor.
Regarding the Firmenich property, I’m not anti-development, but there’s got to be a balance between preserving the quaintness and charm of the city. What began to happen as it moved forward, people in the surrounding communities were not for it. In October of 2012 I brought up the fact that these people were not for it. I had a problem with the commercial development and the traffic. I don’t fault the American way of capitalism, but not at the expense of the people of Safety Harbor.
As for the waterfront park, I think it’s a long-term, 10-25 year, project. I think citizens should play a role in shaping it over time. I’m glad it’s open to the public, but to begin to reshape it and begin to spend millions of dollars for a greenspace we purchased just to preserve an open area is crazy. We bought it to preserve a piece of Safety Harbor, not to develop it with brick & mortar.
The first time I ran I was a big proponent of the downtown. We had a vibrant downtown, but I cautioned be careful what you ask for. The downtown is vibrant, eclectic with a good variety of shops and restaurants. Safety Harbor has always been primarily a residential community, so we have to be responsive to the needs of the residents. You don’t want to be downtown Tampa.
With the Jolley Trolley, that was one of the projects I reached out to when we had a meeting of the mayors years ago. I said it would be nice to bring it here. I think it’s good for the downtown businesses. It’s all the more reason maintain what the city has. People like the uniqueness. If you make it a concrete jungle, you lose the uniqueness.
4. What are your goals for the City and the Commission should you be elected?
I want to address the development code and the zero lot line issue so the city can have better control of development in the downtown area. I’d like to see more greenspace, and have developers replant trees, not bushes. I think the city loses its identity as these trees are pulled, whether they’re preserved trees or not.
I have other concerns as well, like the single stream recycling. I think it is very positive, but what concerns me is with one sanitation pickup per week, the city seems to be doing less with more, and I’ve always prided myself on doing more with less. I don’t think we reduced the fees, so we raised the milage rate but haven’t reduced fees.
I think I know everybody running for office, and I think I could work with all of them.
5. Any additional thoughts or comments?
I live here. I’m engaged in the community. I have kids that live here. I have a vested interest in the city and it appears they’re trying to turn the city into something it’s not. People live here because it’s a small, quaint city. It’s a great little place to live. But people are starting to see that what attracted them to the city is starting to fleet away, and that concerns me.
I have no ulterior motives. If I believed in the direction of the community, I wouldn’t run. It’s not about me, it’s about the community. Actions speak louder than words, and this election will decide the direction and the future of the city.