TEMPLE TERRACE — The last time Temple Terrace elected a mayor, voters had a choice of one: Kim Leinbach, who ran unopposed last fall but decided to resign in May.
This time, voters will choose from three candidates in a special election Oct. 10 to replace him. They are: David Ganessingh, an accountant who serves on the city's Board of Adjustment; Mel Jurado, an industrial-organizational psychologist who represents Temple Terrace on the Hillsborough County Community Action Board; and former social worker Linda Ormsbee.
Leinbach, a former Temple Terrace city manager, resigned because of an illness in the family and also to take a job as interim city manager of Plant City, he said.
Ganessingh and Jurado both said in recent interviews that they think the city's biggest challenge is selling the city-owned property in the area known as Downtown Temple Terrace. They would urge that money from the sale be used to pay down on a nearly $24 million debt, an old loan that the city must refinance by next April. Ormsbee could not be reached for comment, but stated in an email, "I look forward to bringing resolutions to the issues at hand.''
City Manager Charles Stephenson is expected later this month to present the offers received by the city's real estate broker, Cushman & Wakefield. City Council members then will choose the ones they want to hear more from.
Ganessingh, 53, a Temple Terrace resident since 2001, said he realizes the city has been trying to lure a mix of businesses — retail, residential, office buildings — in a pedestrian-friendly enclave on the east side of 56th Street south of Bullard Parkway.
"I'm okay with the mixed use if we can get businesses to go along with that. I'm not sure that is possible.'' If not, the city has to look at alternatives, he said, because the empty space, aside from producing no tax revenue, gives the city a bad image.
Jurado, 58, a 25-year resident and founder and co-owner of the Profitable Group, a consulting and training organization, also said the City Council needs to act.
"We need to get serious, say yes, and move forward on one of those proposals,'' she said. "If we don't start moving, what will happen to our bond rating?''
The city has been paying only the interest on the $24 million it borrowed more than a decade ago to buy the redevelopment property and add infrastructure, and it's questionable whether the city can get the same deal next time. Both Ganessingh and Jurado said paying down the debt is vital. If the banks see that the city has a viable plan for paying off he loan, Ganessingh said, "then they would work with us.''
Ormsbee stated in her email that she has been a Temple Terrace resident for more than 10 years, worked for decades in federal and state social programs and has been in the real estate industry for 10 years. She studied business administration and public administration in college.
She stated that she wants to preserve home ownership in Temple Terrace and is a proponent of maintaining good jobs, businesses and employers; of assisting the homeless to be self-reliant; of senior and health issues; of strong community services; and "making our community the best in the Tampa Bay area to reside in.''
With his background in accounting, Ganessingh said he believes he can make a contribution to what he called a "great group'' in place on the council. He is a graduate of the University of South Florida with a major in accounting and has been working in accounting and tax for 15 years. He currently is with a CPA firm based in Temple Terrace. He has served on the Temple Terrace Board of Adjustment for five years.
Jurado, who holds a doctoral degree in psychology, was tapped by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 to head Florida's Office of Early Learning, and she is a former chairwoman of the Florida Boxing Commission. She said she would bring strong organizational skills and economic acumen to the job.
The mayor's job, like City Council jobs, is practically voluntary. The salary is $239.18 per month, plus $100 per month for travel expenses.
The mayor conducts the City Council meetings and can't vote on city issues except to break a tie. But the mayor can express his or her views in an effort to influence a council vote. A large part of the job is ceremonial and promotional. He or she attends events throughout the region, spreading the word about the city's assets to potential new businesses and residents.
Senior Researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Philip Morgan at [email protected]