Rob Marlowe gives up his seat on the New Port Richey City Council tonight.
He’s looking forward to being able to ride bikes again with friends on Tuesday evenings, something he had to give up due to his obligations as a council member.
“That was really my biggest sacrifice of my being on council," he said. "It killed my ability to go out on Tuesday night bike rides with my buddies."
Marlowe, 59, has served as a city council member for six years and is currently deputy mayor. He chose not to run to keep his seat in this year’s city council election, and so he gives it up when two newcomers are sworn onto the board tonight.
A History of Service
Marlowe first moved to New Port Richey in 1963, when he was 9. He lives in the North River Road area, just a bit away from the house he grew up in.
Rob Marlowe was no stranger to service before he came on to the city council. He was the chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee of Pasco and the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce. He was also the first director of the Pasco Healthy Start program.
Marlowe is founding partner and co-owner of GulfCoast Networking on Grand Blvd in downtown New Port Richey. The shop focuses on network support for businesses, retail computer sales, computer repairs and Internet service.
“I think I brought a businessman’s perspective to the council and gave a voice to downtown businesses that aren’t bars or restaurants,” Marlowe said.
Unafraid to Speak His Mind
Marlowe came onto the council in 2007, along with Bob Consalvo. Marlowe had been concerned about a number of issues before his run.
Traffic humps on north River Road were among his frustrations. He called them the “worst decision the city has made in two years,” according to a a 2007 article in the Tampa Bay Times.
“They were,” Marlowe said to Patch on Monday. “They absolutely were!”
Worse than the decision to buy two church properties (the First Baptist Church in 2005 and the Gateway Church in 2006) the city has not been able to unload?
“They were right up there,” Marlowe said.
Marlowe said neighbors came out against the traffic humps. One resident, he said, had a sports car that was too low to the ground to get over them. Marlowe said that $1,200 damage was done to the front end of Marlowe's pick-up truck from the humps.
Marlowe also said that the City Council at the time before his election was “making poor decisions,” he said. One example was the denial of a variance a neighbor requested so he could extend a dock that Marlowe spoke for, he said.
Marlowe said there were cases when city officials “did not follow their own rules.”
Marlowe is well known for being unafraid to speak his mind. One of the big issues he was quite vocal on during his time on council was the idea of cutting city subsidies of special events.
He was in favor of cutting subsidies and was very vocal about that fact.
“We had to clip that back, and I think that’s good,” he said.
The city only allocated $30,000 in services to Chasco Fiesta this year. In
Victories, and 'Brutal' Parts of the Job
Marlowe touted the near-completion of the shell of the first building of Main Street Landing as progress made during his time on council. The development at the city’s western entrance has been built in fits and starts, and the city pledged to contribute streetscaping to it when Marlowe was on the board.
Also during his term on council, city leaders tried to get professional city management to get New Port Richey running on a more business-like basis.
That was primarily the job of former city manager John Schneiger and current city finance director Doug Haag.
“The city staff is now following the city’s rules a lot more closely than what used to be the case,” Marlowe said.
Last year, the city was notified of a troubling five-year deficit projection, and the council passed a budget that resulted in layoffs. Employees came up and begged council members for their jobs.
The budget process was “part of the reason I wasn’t real excited about running again. … It was brutal.”
On the other hand, it makes him proud to think about things the city has done well and some of the things residents have accomplished. He has also like hearing about successful youth projects completed by kids working with the Parks and Recreation department. Another highlight was seeing the excitement from the public in the council’s decision to close the doors on the potential developers of the Hacienda Hotel and instead keep it in public hands for now.
There's still a lot of work to do, Marlowe added.
The city has got to hire a full-time city manager, Marlowe said. The city lost two police chiefs when they were hired by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, and the city has to find a way to avoid being a farm team, Marlowe said. Crime has been a problem in the city and has gotten worse over the past few years.
Marlowe will be seated on the council at the beginning of tonight’s meeting and then will step away when incoming council members Jeff Starkey and Chopper Davis take their seats.
“I think they’re going to be great additions to the council,” he said.
Marlowe isn’t ruling out a return to the council himself in the future. He might run for mayor next year. He says for now, he is looking forward to concentrating on growing his business. He also wants to spend more time with his grandchildren. And of course, he's got time for those bike rides now, too.