Clearwater, one of central Florida’s tourist meccas, usually becomes busier at this time of year, during spring break.
But the city government was just rocked by something truly out of the ordinary.
SHOCKING: Common Food Linked to Age-Related Memory Loss [sponsored]
The mayor turned in his resignation during a tense budget meeting. He said he made the quick decision due to concerns over the direction his colleagues were taking with city funds.
Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard called for a five-minute recess Monday and made the announcement afterward. Before the recess, the council had been discussing how to pay for a $250 million shortfall for about 30 projects, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The Times wrote that Hibbard “packed his briefcase” on the spot.
Hibbard had pushed back against building a new city hall and municipal services complex for $90 million, including a reported $60 million in deficit spending.
In the meeting, Hibbard was reportedly the only one to push back against the new building’s $90 million price tag.
All three council members said it was their top priority for the city of Clearwater, which has a population of about 116,000 people and is 23 miles from Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Urgent: Common prescription drug now linked to Alzheimer’s? [sponsored]
Hibbard called his resignation one of the toughest decisions he’s had to make.
“I’m not a quitter, but I’m not the right leader for this council anymore and I’m concerned where the city is going, because this is simple math and we’re not doing very well on the test,” Hibbard reportedly said.
“I love Clearwater and I love some of the things that we’ve gotten done. I think [an upcoming parks project] is going to be phenomenal. I think [Jennifer Poirrier] is going to do a great job as city manager, but in good conscience for my family, for my own health and other things, I can’t remain the mayor.”
Council member Kathleen Beckman’s mouth was agape as Hibbard spoke.
Beckman, the vice mayor, then reconvened the budget workshop and urged her colleagues to carry on despite being “shell-shocked,” the Times reported.
Another council member, Lina Teixeira, reportedly put her face in her hands.
One person on the council tried to calm the situation.
“I don’t want anybody freaking out right now about this,” council member David Allbritton reportedly said. “We’ve got enough people up here to make the decisions and keep everything on track, and that’s what we plan to do today.”
In Clearwater, the mayor is a member of the city council. In other words, the mayor more resembles a council president than a chief executive. The executive duties go to the city manager.
DISTURBING: Peeping Joe Biden [Sponsored]
After leaving the meeting, Hibbard told the Times he made the decision on the spot.
He called his wife, Teresa. She asked whether he could live with the decision. “I’m not going to have a choice,” he told the newspaper when asked the same question.
“This is so out of character for me … I don’t do things lightly,” Hibbard said. “I don’t want to criticize the council, but it’s an overall vision for where the city is going and being fiscally responsible. We talk about affordability and everything else, but we’re not doing the things that continue to keep a cap on costs.”
Hibbard was in the last year of his four-year term, and had already announced he would not seek reelection. He had previously served as mayor from 2004 to 2012, and took office again in March 2020, just as the pandemic was beginning.
He seemed very aware of the length of his term. The Times reported that his office included a digital clock with a countdown to the end of his term.
After the budget meeting, the city’s attorney told the council he wanted to speak with Hibbard to confirm his intentions before they discussed replacing him.
By that time, Hibbard had already cleared out his office.
Sponsored: The 3 foods that GROW cancer
Hibbard, a Republican, works as a financial advisor in downtown Clearwater, according to his LinkedIn account.
He told a Fox affiliate that he’d like to do wealth management full-time again, while using his free time to play more golf.