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Largo mayor challenges Roche in Pinellas County Commission race

Longtime Largo Mayor Pat Gerard is running for the Pinellas County Commission.

The 63-year-old Democrat has filed to run for the District 2 at-large seat held by Norm Roche. She has served as mayor for seven years, winning election to the office three times. She served on the Largo City Commission for six years before that.

In addition to her experience in office, Gerard has extensive experience in the social services sector. She worked as director of the Spouse Abuse Shelter of Religious Community Services from 1986 until 1992 and currently is the chief operating officer for Family Resources, a nonprofit group that provides counseling and shelter to troubled teenagers.

“I think I have a lot to offer the County Commission with my city experience,” she said. “I’m known for being able to bring better relations between the cities and the county.”

Gerard’s decision to run adds another big name to the 2014 race for Roche’s countywide seat.

Republican state Rep. Ed Hooper has also filed and has so far raised $50,000 in campaign donations. Roche, whose recent move to Dunedin fueled speculation he might challenge fellow Republican Susan Latvala for her District 4 seat, said today he will fight to keep his seat for a second term.

If successful, Roche said he would not seek a third term, as he believes that commissioners should be term-limited as a result of a 1996 referendum approved by voters. The referendum was challenged in court and has not been adopted into the county’s charter. A circuit court judge recently ruled against a lawsuit claiming four commissioners — Ken Welch, Latvala, Karen Seel and John Morroni – should be removed from office, as each has served at least two terms.

“I always promised I would honor the term limits,” Roche said.

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