Meet the City Council Candidates: Judy DeBella Thomas
Incumbent Councilwoman discusses her views on important issues facing the city
In advance of the April 10 election for the New Port Richey City Council, Patch talked with the candidates for their views on issues facing the city.
There are two city council seats open and three candidates. The two top vote-getters will each win a seat.
Here's our Q & A with DeBella Thomas. This is a three-part feature. Our profiles with candidates Eric Rhodes and Bill Phillips will appear on Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Councilwoman Judy DeBella Thomas served one-year on the council in 2008 and was elected in 2009 for a three-year term. She is seeking re-election for her second term this year.
- DeBella Thomas has lived in New Port Richey since 1978
- Works for Advanced Research Institute, starting in June 2011
- Worked as executive director of Greater New Port Richey Main Street program from August 2001 to October 2010
- Married with three children and four grandchildren\
Q: What makes you the best candidate for this position?
A: DeBella Thomas pointed to the four years she has served on the city council and the 34 years she has lived in the city. She also was director of the Main Street program for 10 years after she and her husband had an insurance agency in the city during the 1990s.
“All of these things combined make me a good candidate. It gives me a perspective that I believe is unique.”
Q: How would you address projections of a possible budget shortfall in the next fiscal year?
A: “I go over the budget line by line. The first order of business is to find any waste or duplication of services.”
She said difficult financial times have already meant cuts to personnel and services while testing city workers who have not had raises in four years.
“There have been constraints on personnel in response to the budget. The staff are really stretched pretty thin.”
Q: Are cutting services, raising taxes or fees among the possible solutions?
A: “I don’t see raising taxes.”
She said there may be some fee changes for the recreation department, but doesn’t anticipate a tax increase.
Q: Redevelopment continues to be a major issue for the city. What would you want to change to spur redevelopment?
“I think I’d like to change the process to make it easier and more transparent for developers coming into the city. We need to cut through the red tape. I hear too often it’s difficult to work with the city.”
One way would be to make the process easier for anyone to follow and understand without getting mired in technical government language, she said.
“We need to speak simply to people who come into the city. The city needs to just adopt a business-friendly attitude.”
She pointed to a conference between developers, landlords, tenants, city officials and other businesses in 2004 that yielded better understanding among all sides and opened communication. “Perhaps we need to come around to something like that again.”
Q: How should the Hacienda Hotel be redeveloped?
“It will be wonderful to have the Hacienda back to what it once was. The building itself must be preserved. It’s in our mission as a Main Street city to preserve historic buildings.”
She said others have expressed interest in taking part in the project.
“It’s exciting to see where we will go.”
Q: What should be done to get the Main Street Landing project moving forward?
A: “It is moving forward and we are seeing progress.”
Q: Should the city provide all or some of the redevelopment money the developer of Main Street Landing is asking for?
A: “It’s not really the city’s place to use tax money but cities can be very creative when working with developers.”
She said cities can help in other ways without using taxes to help or lure developers and projects.
“We need to keep looking at the prize.”
Q: Do you think the city has a crime problem?
A: “Every city has a crime problem but I’m confident the police chief and staff are doing an excellent job.”
She pointed to community efforts by the department to educate people about synthetic marijuana and its dangers.
“The police department is being very proactive. It needs to be addressed on a grassroots level.”
Q: What should be done to address deficits at the recreation center?
A: “We are looking at the fee structure. We need to look at the fee structure across the board. I think we’re coming up with a fee schedule that’s very equitable.”
She said the city has a goal of revenue meeting 60 percent of the center’s expenses and revenue has reached 44 percent. Efforts to increase the types of use and marketing should push the center closer to that goal.
“I’m enthused about the things we’re putting in place. I see the recreation center as a major asset and benefit to the city.”