CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — The city of Clearwater is now without a mayor.
Monday morning, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard resigned from his office in the middle of a special council work session after calling for a five-minute recess. Council had be discussing a new City Hall with a price tag of $90 million.
Upon returning, Hibbard made the announcement.
“This is probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever done in my entire life, but I know it’s right because I’m not a quitter,” Hibbard said. “But I’m not the right leader for the council anymore.”
During his announcement, Hibbard said he is concerned about where the city of Clearwater is going over budget concerns, saying that it was simple math and the city was “not doing very well on the test.”
It’s been a debated topic for decades – the development of a new City Hall in Clearwater. The proposed lot is just south of the Municipal Services Building on South Myrtle Avenue.
“I voted for it I think it is the right decision we put it off for years,” said Kathleen Beckman, councilmember.
“We’re stuck in a downtown in an office building we’ve been there five years,” said David Allbritton, councilmember. “It’s time it’s time for Clearwater to have a new City Hall.”
Councilmember Allbritton said it was a 4-1 vote last year. The new city hall comes with a $60 million deficit, one that Hibbard disagrees with.
“He was the one on the City Hall that he didn’t want to build a new City Hall. He wanted to have it here in the library,” said Allbritton.
Hibbard had one year left in his four year term. According to the city’s website, he’s lived in Harbor Oaks with his wife for 23 years. During the recess, Hibbard said he had just called his wife to tell her the news.
“I’m a busy guy,” he said. “I’ve always believed in making sacrifices for public services, and I love Clearwater.”
“In good conscience for my family, for my own health and other things, I cannot remain the mayor,” Hibbard said.
After his speech, Hibbard packed up his things and walked out in the middle of the meeting.
The council took another recess before returning, saying while the mayor’s resignation was a shock, there is still work to do and that nobody should freak out.
“It was a surprise to me I didn’t see it coming I think it was a surprise to all of us,” said Beckman. “The work the staff had put a lot of time and effort into preparing for this meeting. It’s very important for our budgetary process and setting priorities.”
The resignation comes as the City officially seated new city manager, Jennifer Poirrier, earlier this month after firing the former the city manager, Jon Jennings, in January.
8 On Your Side has reached out to the city of Clearwater as well as Hibbard for a statement.