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Safety Harbor City Commission: Who Is Richard Blake?

The local realtor and expectant father was elected to the City Commission after a landslide victory Tuesday. Get to know more about the newest Safety Harbor official.

Despite running a thriving real estate consulting business and volunteering for a couple of local boards, Richard Blake was a relative unknown in the community prior to election night.

But after winning the race for the open City Commission Seat #1, the 34-year-old Countryside High graduate instantly became a household name in town.

So how much do you know about the winning candidate who admitted in a recent interview that he "had no political aspirations" before this race began?

Let's take a closer look at city commissioner Richard 'Rick' Blake.

Personal History

Blake was born in Pinellas County and grew up in and around the Safety Harbor area. After attending Samford University in Alabama and working overseas for a few years, he returned here and decided to make the city his permanent home.

He opened a successful real estate consulting business nearby and joined a couple of community organizations, which eventually led him to pursue a higher office.

Blake and his wife, Katie, are expecting their first child next month, and it was his desire to raise his child in a special community like Safety Harbor plus his involvement with the Planning & Zoning board and waterfront park committee that led him to run for the open city commission seat. 

"Everything I had been doing coincided with what the commission is doing, so I decided to get more involved," he admitted in a recent interview with Patch.

Views on community issues

As a businessman and a young politician with a growing family, Blake has come out on record in favor of development and growth for the community.

He said he would like to find a way to increase the revenue streams for the city so it doesn't have to rely on reserves. And although he is in the real estate business, he doesn't just want to build for the sake of building.

"I'd like to see the city hold on and see what's out there as a revenue source," he said of the development proposal for the waterfront park property.

"I say leave it open and not miss out on a revenue opportunity. We've got to think of ways for the city to make money."

Regarding the hotly debated Firmenich property proposal, Blake is in favor of development on the 34-acre parcel, but only after carefully choosing the right development to fit in with the community.

"I think the key word to that project is balance," he said. "We need to consider the tangent properties and surrounding neighborhoods, consider their privacy."

"I'm not opposed to bringing 296 families to the area, as long as its done in a proper way - by maximizing greenspaces, maximizing buffer areas and concentrating on something that's architecturally appealing."

What's next?

Blake and his wife were exhausted from a long day of campaigning on Tuesday, but when reached by phone after the final numbers were announced, he expressed a number of feelings about his victory.

"I'm relieved, happy and excited," he admitted. "I'm excited to get to work for the city."

Over the next few weeks he plans to touch base with people he met while campaigning and listening to their ideas on how to better Safety Harbor.

He believed the fact that he has clear goals in mind for taking the community into the future, all while raising his own family in town, boosted his credibility with voters.

"I think people resonated with the idea of choosing someone who can improve the city and create successful sources of revenue while still enjoying the culture and atmosphere Safety Harbor has."

"They understand I'm someone who wants to improve the city without changing the culture."

As someone who was campaigning for Blake on Tuesday and is related to him by marriage, Natalie Barone's opinion of her son-in-law might not carry much weight with some people.

But her assesment of her daughter's husband on election day may have summed up what many voters were actually feeling about the candidate.

"Richard is bringing a child into the community. He's not going to do anything bad for the city," Barone said while holding a sign on McMullen Booth Road.

"If I didn't think he was a good guy I wouldn't be standing out here, no matter if he was my son-in-law or not."

Jeffrey Rosenfield November 13, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Great dialog folks. Way to keep it spirited yet respectful!
Harborite November 13, 2012 at 09:12 AM
Georgia, Why do you support changing Safety Harbor's "Old Florida" atmosphere? This is what makes Safety Harbor unique among all of the overbuilt cities in the Tampa Bay region. This is also what attracts tourists to our town and it is why most people choose to live here. The problem is not about bringing "new air" to Safety Harbor as you suggest. It is about whether we should bring large scale commercial developments like giant apartment buildings to our small quaint City. Would you be happy if the City decided to rezone your street so that we could put large apartment buildings there? Safety Harbor should continue to be Safety Harbor and not try to change into a big city like Tampa, St. Pete, or Clearwater. We have a unique City and we need to be vigilant to protect it. The priority of the City commissioners should be to support the best interests of the residents of Safety Harbor and not the best interests of outside developers whose main interest is to maximize profits.
Joe C. November 16, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Safety Harbor should mirror clearwater beach or st pete and build nice tall structures which will bring life and money. We need open minded people that welcome the future. Rick you will be a great assest to Safety Harbor!
Harborite November 16, 2012 at 10:50 PM
It's so funny that you're posting comments under my name. Ha Ha Ha! See me laugh.
Joe C. November 17, 2012 at 01:53 AM
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