CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard handed in his formal resignation letter Tuesday, one day after he quit in the middle of a budget workshop.
Council members were discussing funding for a new City Hall with a $90 million price tag—a project that has a $60 million deficit—when Hibbard called a recess, returned and resigned.
Hibbard had previously voted against the idea in a 4-1 vote.
In his official resignation letter, Hibbard thanked his staff and said he “loved serving the City of Clearwater and the citizens for officially 13 years.”
“To our council I hope that you realize how critical your responsibility is to making Clearwater a great place to live, work and play. Bring like other cities is not the goal, being better and more efficient is. Government is going to have to learn to be more creative in finding solutions for difficult challenges, that require finite resources. I hope that you will look outside the box and remember one of our greatest strengths has been our fiscal health. The City had a bond upgrade in 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession, which allowed for a more rapid recovery,” the letter continued.
The City of Clearwater plans to hold a special city council meeting in the council chambers at the Clearwater Main Library next Monday to discuss plans for replacing Hibbard. If they can’t come to an agreement within 30 days of March 21, a special election will be held.
“I think there are city council members that are driving our city into a ditch when they’re number one priority is a City Hall that cost $100 million dollars for themselves,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Chris Latvala.
Latvala has been a Clearwater resident for nearly two decades. He said council has other capital projects, including the Imagine Clearwater project that cost around $84 million.
“We need new leadership in our city government,” said Latvala.
While the resignation came as a surprise for Councilmember Kathleen Beckman, she said their work will continue.
“I think it’s the best decision to construct a new City Hall,” she said. “That’s a multi-modal transit center that incorporates municipal services, so it’s more than just a City Hall at that price. That’s what staff recommends. I think it’s efficient use of city resources.”