New St. Pete Beach Commissioner Melinda Pletcher

New St. Pete Beach Commissioner Melinda Pletcher

Melinda Pletcher is a force of nature to watch. She moves forward at what seems to be a million miles an hour, but once she slows down for you, you have her full attention. She and her husband, Steve, raised two girls in Pass-a-Grille, and they still live on the water in Vina del Mar. Her husband has his own semiconductor business on St. Pete Beach. His family owns Middle Grounds (and formerly owned Robby’s Pancake House); her father lives locally as well.

She makes her priorities clear when she talks: family. She started a Mom’s Day Out at Pass-a-Grille church in 1992, and where her girls spent their time, so did she, volunteering alongside them at school and in their extracurriculars.

With the girls in college now – one at FSU and one at USF-SP –  she spends more time working as a Realtor, specializing in Vina and the beaches. Business, she says, is on the rise. She keeps a packed schedule, but last year she decided to run for the District Four Commissioner. No one ran against her, and she took her seat on the St. Pete Beach commissioner in March, shuffling her schedule to make the city a priority as well.

“My entire life, I’m a bleeding heart for a good cause, and I see our city as worth me prioritizing,” she says when we sat down last week.

“I chose to do it because I thought it was the right decision for the community. Somebody’s got to do it; there’s not a lot of folks who compelled to take on the responsibility. I felt like, after serving six years on the historic board, there are a lot of things we need to address in our district.”

Top on her list? Design guidelines for Pass-a-Grille.

I was really proud of our city for being proactive rather than reactive when it came to [the comprehensive plan]. I liked that whole concept; I liked the dynamics that was in place. I though that was a responsible thing for our city to have undertaken. They, at that time, left Pass-a-Grille, out of the comp plan. They did it for a reason: Pass-a-Grille is very unique. When I was appointed to the historic board, my first order of the business was to interview consultants to create design guidelines for Pass-a-Grille.

“I learned a lot,” doing that, she says. “Unfortunately, we had made our selection and when it was time to initiate the contract, we had lost our funding because it inadvertently hadn’t been extended in the budget.

“We’ve gone six years and we don’t have design guidelines in Pass-a-Grille. What’s allowable is not favorable, and what’s favorable is not allowable. We’re trying to initiate ‘performance-based’ code. We have height restrictions and we have setbacks and that’s all.

“What performance-based code could allow is a reduced rear-yard setback for a garage if you build your house at minimum-based flood. What people are doing is they build [their homes] up so they can put the garage underneath.”

That’s an example; the city could work the code in a number of ways, but would, Commissioner Pletcher says, need to hire a consultant to come up with the guidelines or do it at a planning level.

“We would retain our character and charm,” she says. “The goal would be to create a sustainable, character-driven district.

On a grander scale, she admits she still needs to come up to speed on a few things. First on her list is how the city earns and spends money.

“I’m still learning that, still learning how I can bring a positive impact to the city as a whole,” she says. “I’d like to get a better grasp on the budget. I’ve looked over the budget and that itself is what I’m focusing on right now.”

She says she’s looking forward to making a difference on St. Pete Beach.

“I can bring something to the table. I will always prioritize my community and people. I love our town,” she says.

Contact Commissioner Melinda Pletcher at The Gabber will print periodic community updates from Commissioner Pletcher.