Port Richey and New Port Richey candidates vie for city council seats

Residents in the cities of New Port Richey and Port Richey will have a couple of choices to make as each municipality has two city council seats to fill in elections that will be held April 13.

Neither city is offering early voting, but those who have requested vote-by-mail ballots should have already received them. They can also still be requested but must be mailed in time to be in the hands of the Supervisor of Elections by 7 p.m. on election day.

New Port Richey candidates

In New Port Richey, the ballot will include four candidates, and voters can make two choices.

Incumbents Matt Murphy and Mike Peters are each vying to win another term on the council. They face challengers Kate Connolly and Rachel Giuliani Hagenbauch.

Born in North Miami Beach, Connolly is 30 and has lived in the city for four years. This is her first run at political office. She is currently sales manager and was previously a political director at One Brand Marketing. She has also worked as an advertising account manager, a political campaign manager, a marketing assistant, a tutor and mentor and a freelance photographer, graphic and web designer.

Connolly received her associate’s degree from St. Petersburg College and her bachelor’s degree in international affairs from the University of South Florida.

“I’m running for New Port Richey City Council because I love our city but I know we can do even better to grow together and improve the quality of life for all residents,” she said. “We’re well on our way with big goals, especially in the downtown, but there are still many gaps to fill.”

She also wants to ensure safety for the city’s residents, better access to local resources and parks and improvements for local business and the environment including the Cotee River.

Hagenbauch, 35, is also a first time candidate. Born in Queens, New York, she came to the city 10 years ago. She is a stay-at-home mother who is currently home schooling. She has worked in a variety of service jobs with employers ranging from Publix to Marriott as well as work with the Tasty Tuesday Community Market with the city of New Port Richey. She also studied mechanical engineering at ITT Tech.

Hagenbaugh said she believes New Port Richey needs some changes saying that the council’s policies have become “increasingly inhuman” and she wants to address the needs of regular city residents. “The council has made it clear that they are out of touch with working class families, people of color, the poor and unhoused residents of our city. I want to be a voice to those communities on council,” she said.

Her top three priorities are to address food insecurity, address what she considers unjust city policies that unfairly impact people of color, the working poor and the homeless and creating a robust citizen liaison department to address needs and concerns.

Murphy was first elected in 2018. Murphy, 50, is a Massachusetts native who came to the community with his parents when he was a child. The owner of the Farrell Power Company, he is a Gulf High School graduate who received his associates degree in electrical technology and his bachelor’s degree in business management. He is a state certified electrical contractor and a veteran.

“I’m running for re-election to finish the work we as a council and city have started. To continue to improve our downtown, our neighborhoods, our businesses and continue to make it a place where you would want to raise your family and grow,” Murphy said.

He said that resolving the city’s homeless population are his top issue. He wants to see work towards transitional housing, mental health counseling and job programs.

Murphy’s top three priorities for another term are wise spending of the tax dollars, preserving the city’s history, culture and natural beauty, supporting local businesses and redeveloping downtown.

Peters, 66, has only been on the City Council since November when the council chose him to replace Jeff Starkey, who had moved out of the city. A Florida native, Peters has been in Pasco County for more than 30 years and in the city for six. He is the owner of Mike Peters State Farm Insurance, an agency he started in 1988.

He earned his associate’s degree at Polk Community College and his bachelor’s in accounting at Florida State along with further training in his industry. He said he is running because he believes it is the right thing to do given the confidence he was shown from the sitting council in selecting him for the interim position.

He said his goal is to “continue the momentum established in the downtown core and move it out to the U.S. 19 corridor. Most importantly we must continue that momentum into our neighborhoods .” He wants to accomplish this by directing economic development funds to areas beyond the downtown core in neighborhoods.

Peters also hopes to encourage more public input and involvement with the city.

Port Richey candidates

In Port Richey, there are three candidates seeking two seats: incumbents Tom Kinsella and Todd Maklary and challenger Seth Kapp. Both Maklary and Kinsella won a special election in September 2019 to fill seats of two council members who left after the arrest of former mayor Dale Massad.

Kapp, 40, is a native of St. Petersburg who has lived in the city for nearly 30 years. He is a licensed insurance agent who has worked in restaurant and business management. He is a Ridgewood High School graduate and earned his associate’s degree in business administration from Hillsborough Community College and studied at the University of South Florida.

His background working with challenged businesses is why he chose to run. He said, “it is imperative that our city works within its budget and minimizes wasteful spending around the city. The wrong answer to any wasteful spending is to just raise taxes.”

With city finances as his first priority, he said he wants to analyze spending and then “provide police, fire and other departments, with what they need to get the jobs facing them done. We need to make sure that these departments are the top priority along other projects.”

Kapp also wants to make city growth and stabilization of the city’s administration other priorities on his watch. He is a first-time candidate but said he would not seek any political office in the future beyond city council.

Kinsella, 68, is a native of Ohio who has been in Pasco County for 43 years and in the city for three. He is the manager of security and safety at the Moffitt Cancer Center. He previously served with the International Police Task Force with the United Nations serving in Bosnia and East Timor. He retired as a sergeant with the Pasco County Sheriff’s office in 1998 after 21 years.

He received his law enforcement training and certification through St. Petersburg College and the University of Louisville, Southern Police Institute. He sees transparency and accountability as top priorities for the council in the coming months.

While he originally ran to help stabilize the city and believes that has been accomplished, Kinsella said he sees that the city has much more potential and wants to be a part of that.

“I personally feel we have a hidden gem of a city that offers beautiful waterfront areas for people to enjoy. I wholeheartedly believe that we have opportunities to prosper and grow our local business and beautify our community through providing resources to businesses and services to our citizens, while being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers,” he said.

Maklary, 44, is originally from New Jersey but has been visiting Florida most of his life. He moved to Port Richey just over three years ago. He is director of development services for Colliers International. He earned his bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from Pennsylvania State University and his master’s in business administration from Rider University.

He is seeking another term to continue what he started, which he said was “bringing transparency and trust to our local government.”

Maklary said he is “also running to continue the work of making Port Richey the jewel of Pasco all of our residents know it can be. We have had a tumultuous past 18 months, but now I truly believe we can move forward with the projects that have been promised for the past 20 years.”

Maklary’s priorities include finally accomplishing long-awaited canal dredging, using community redevelopment money to make visible improvements to the waterfront as well as other city business areas and continuing to improve city accountability and transparency.