Phillips, DeBella Thomas Win Council Seats
Bill Phillips drew the most votes and Judy DeBella Thomas finished second in the three-way race. Eric Rhodes came in third.
Voters put former council member Bill Phillips back in office after nearly two decades while Judy DeBella Thomas finished second but retained her seat on the New Port Richey City Council. A former consultant for public agencies finished third in the three-way race.
Phillips, a national account manager for a nationwide roofing company, received the most votes with 349, or 40 percent.
DeBella Thomas, who works for Advanced Research Institute, received 288 votes or 33 percent.
Eric Rhodes finished third with 239 votes or 27 percent.
The two candidates who received the most votes will take their place on the council.
This is the second time on the council for Phillips who served from 1992 to 1994 and made an unsuccessful bid for the state House of Representatives in 1994.
DeBella Thomas served one-year on the council in 2008 and was elected in 2009 for a three-year term.
Rhodes has not held public office but has served on the city’s Land Development Review Board for several years.
The two new council members will have to grapple with ever-tightening budgets and the need for development in the downtown area.
In interviews Patch conducted before the election, all three candidates said a top issue facing the city was its shrinking budget.
DeBella Thomas said she wanted to avoid raising taxes to solve the money woes, though she said there may be changes in recreation fees.
In his interview, Phillips said his background in business and serving on committees and boards gives him the experience needed to tackle the city’s problems and he understands the budget comes from the pockets of its citizens.
DeBella Thomas pointed to the four years she has served on the council and the 34 years she has lived in the city as well as her experience as director of the Main Street program. She also said she goes over every line of the city’s budget.
Phillips grew up in New Port Richey, went to Gulf High, went to school out of state, and then moved back to New Port Richey in the 1990s. He eventually moved into Trinity and then back into his house in New Port Richey, which is in the footprint of the home where he grew up. He is married and has two sons.
In addition to his two years on the council, Phillips was on the committee that created the Penny for Pasco program.
DeBella Thomas was executive director of Greater New Port Richey Main Street program from August 2001 to October 2010 after she and her husband had an insurance agency in the city during the 1990s. She is married with three children and four grandchildren.
In his Patch interview, Phillips listed the city’s real estate and how it’s being dealt with as No. 1 among New Port Richey’s top three problems, just ahead of the shortage of revenue for the city. The third, he said, was the town not focusing on the entire city.
Voters in New Port Richey joined those in four other Pasco County cities holding municipal elections on April 10.