Voters will head to the polls on March 13 to decide who will represent the city as Gulfport City Council Member for Ward 1 and Ward 3.
To help inform the community, Gulfport Patch will publish a City Council Candidate Question of the Week for both Wards.
Below, you will find the answers for the Ward 1 Candidates: David Hastings and Dan Liedtke.
Gulfport Patch Question of the Week: How can the city and its leaders help lure new businesses to Gulfport?
"First of all I want to say that I have been encouraging new businesses in this city ever since my wife and I opened up our businesses 15 years ago. As soon as I opened my CPA firm in 2001, I became the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountant's High School Coordinator for Boca Ciega High School.
"As such, I travel to Bogie each year and tell students about college and a possible career in accounting, hoping they may one day return to Gulfport as a business owner. Also for the past 11 years I have participated in the Great American Teach-In and have spent 11 full days teaching students how my wife and I became small business owners, also with the same hope of bringing them back to this great place to live and work. You know how rewarding that experience is after only one year!
"Last year I was asked by Bogie's Principal, Michael Vigue, to become an Advisory Board member of their Project Lead The Way Program, which mentors Engineering students throughout their Bogie high school experience. We set the school's engineering curriculum and monitor their progress, so that when these students graduate they will fit into top college engineering schools or for those who can't/don't want to go to college, they will do well at furthering their engineering knowledge at a post secondary school like PTEC.
"I am joined by Lawrence Burke and Bob Newcomb and various educators. Why a CPA mingled with these top professionals? I asked the same thing, but the idea from our cities' viewpoint is to produce top engineering students in Gulfport, and hopefully industries will follow, and they want respected business and civic leaders to assist in that goal.
"Also you may have read about a new Gulfport mentoring group of professionals, lead by the same Lawrence Burke and our Chamber (Bob Newcomb) to help residents deal with the home buying and building experience in Gulfport which as a CPA I have also volunteered to help with. Once this gets up and running I want to quickly expand that to BUSINESSES which will greatly reduce the stress of dealing with all the various city codes and departments.
"Also as a CPA I can definitely help any new business with the numerous business and entity selection decisions they face. Imagine a new business owner coming to a city and being given all this assistance for FREE. Other cities will be scrambling to offer the same services or they will loose potential taxpayers.
"At Council we are also working to streamline the business opening experience. We are also working to make Gulfport as appealing as possible thereby increasing our chances of not only attracting more homeowners but businesses as well. We are working with the Chamber's new Executive Director, Bob Newcomb, to foster a renewed partnership that will benefit everyone.
"We have embraced Brownsfield and are requesting financial assistance through a $400,000 grant that will enable us to clean up several pieces of property along 49th St thereby passing an "environmentally clean" title to a subsequent owner turning an otherwise unbuyable business property into a viable business opportunity.
"Even in these tough economic times there are positive things that we can do to encourage new businesses to pick Gulfport."
"One of the first things we need to do is create new demand that warrants new businesses.
"Luring New Residents
"There are a lot of opportunities out there and we need to be thinking 'out of the box' and stop believing that we are just victims to the world economy.
"Contrary to popular belief Gulfport is not 'Built Out.' There is still a lot of undeveloped land and vacant lots just waiting for a house to be built on them. With the largest military cuts since the end of WWII looming we should be looking at incentives to entice veterans to build and/or retire in Gulfport. One thing we can be doing now is actively working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs to take advantage of existing programs and possibly develop new programs that will entice some to come to Gulfport.
"Another item that needs attention is the roadway of 22nd Ave S and Gulfport Blvd. In heavy rains only two lanes are passable for almost 3 miles of this roadway. I believe improving this roadway would help create additional demand in Gulfport. If the road into Gulfport from the interstate was less hazardous and more of a pleasure to drive then maybe more people would be inclined to come to Gulfport. The county has a plan to improve this roadway but has put those plans on indefinite hold due to budget restraints. I am not willing to wait 10 years for the county to re-establish this project. Finding the funds to do this project may be difficult but can be done if we put the right efforts into it.
"Increased Police Presence on 49th Street
"If we ever expect to create any new businesses along 49th it will require increased police presence and possibly extending the patrol border a couple blocks east of 49th Street.
"The strength in Pinellas county’s law enforcement comes in part from its diversity and the multiple departments that exist within the county. We need to continue to support the Gulfport Police Department and all remaining components of the GPD. The decision to outsource the dispatch was rushed and there are already complaints being heard about response time. The outsourcing of the Gulfport police dispatch to the county sheriff is now done. It doesn’t look like anyone can look back. So let’s move forward and look for other ways to improve and empower our city's police force so we can provide better protection along the 49th Street corridor and city wide.
"Creating a safe environment to conduct business with initiatives that will increase demand are solid foundations we can build on to help support existing businesses as well as help create new ventures in Gulfport."
Have a question for the candidates?
If you would like to submit a question for the candidates, email the Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's Note: The "Question of the Week" for the Gulfport City Council Candidates for Ward 3 is posted in a separate story.