Either Bob Worthington (left) and Sam Henderson (right) will serve as Gulfport's new mayor.
Often Beach Boulevard seems to be the main focus for politicians. What do you feel is the city’s Achilles heel?
Probably 49th Street district is the Achilles heel, but the 49th Street district is so different than Beach Boulevard, or the other areas of Gulfport that are strictly residential. 49th Street is your business district that is more industrial in the fact that we have all different types of shops; we have a tire shop, a boat repair facility, welding shops and such like that. We have been working on cleaning it up. The city has put in planters to help beautify the area. We haven’t seen business buy-in necessarily, and we need to work on that.
How do you fix it, bearing in mind that you will be one person on council?
I think it’s trying to get businesses to buy in to the beautification of cleaning up their own area, so to speak, maybe paining, repairing the facade on their buildings to make it more appealing. It’s kind of hard to do with an automobile facility because they’re not that concerned with beautification although I do think Safety Tire has done great with cleaning up their area, their facility and I think it’s paid off greatly for them.
At the debate, you said in the event of a hurricane, we may need the reserve money. How much money is enough?
How much is enough is going to depend on the degree of storm damage that we get. We need to keep our city crews out working, therefore we’ve got to be able to pay them. Our police and fire and all the city staff will be working a lot of overtime assisting our citizens and cleaning up the roads. Our number one priority is going to be getting heavy equipment in here so we can clean up the roadways. Roadways have to be cleared in order to bring in assistance from outside of Gulfport. FEMA is not the answer to all the problems. When FEMA would come in is probably going to be two weeks after any type of incident. We have to make sure our citizens have food and water to sustain life, and necessary medical attention that we can sustain ourselves for at least a two-week period until FEMA is able to reach us.
It depends on the degree of devastation. For example, the only way to get into Pinellas County is by bridge. If we have a tidal wave type situation or a tidal surge, it’s going to take out the bridges and/or their approaches, therefore until the bridges are replaced or assistance can come in by helicopter or by boat as in landing crafts from the military, we’re on our own.
How should we get that money?
We’re going to need to have that money from the reserves to start out with. When FEMA finally gets around to paying for assistance to cities, it’s sometimes a year or more, and we the city have to make sure that vital services such as electrical service, water and sewer and our roadways are up and working properly, and that money is going to have to come from the reserves until we are reimbursed. FEMA doesn’t give you money in advance; they reimburse you. After we have finished our vital needs, then we work on such things as the marina, other buildings such as the Casino and city-owned property, and street lighting and such like that.
What is a justifiable expense for spending the reserves?
At this time today, I don’t really see a reason the reserves should be spent. Our tax base in improving, our ad valorem base is improving, we can see, looking out in the future, the experts are telling us it’s going to continue to improve. Under ordinary circumstance, bright sunshine-y days, I don’t see a need to spend our reserves. It is called a rainy day fund.
When you stepped down you said you wanted to spend more time with your family. Last Tuesday night at the debate you said pressure from the Republican party was a reason. Which was it, and what has changed that you now feel it’s appropriate to be back on city council?
The reason at the time was because of being pressured by the Republican party and I don’t feel in local politics that we should be carrying the message of any political party. And, at the time, I just decided rather than to deal with it and work around them to just take a sabbatical.
You and your brother have lunch every day. His wife, Christine Brown, will start on council this term. No one can expect a family not to discuss work. How, in a family as close as yours, can voters be comfortable with a strong link between you and Councilwoman Brown, regarding the “Government in the Sunshine” laws.
How can we do it? Ask my wife what I did for a living. I worked secret and top secret security clearances. She still doesn’t know what I did for a living, other than the fact that I went to Honeywell every day. And my brother still does not know what I did for a living. I can tell you that Miss Brown and myself are individuals and we certainly don’t think alike. Our ideas for Gulfport are somewhat different. Just from past history of knowing her, she is very strong willed, and I believe the city will see her pushing the community’s ideas – she doesn’t need anybody else’s ideas. She’s got some ideas I think will surprise people. I don’t know what they all are, but I can’t wait to see. I think she’s going to shock me.