Mar 21, 2023 - News

Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard abruptly quits mid-council meeting

Frank Hibbard speaking at a podium

Frank Hibbard speaking at a city event. Photo: Courtesy of City of Clearwater/Facebook

In a shock to Clearwater's City Council and to politicians across Tampa Bay, Mayor Frank Hibbard resigned in the middle of Monday's council meeting.

Driving the news: Hibbard announced his decision after calling for a recess about an hour into the meeting, where he had been pushing back on efforts to make a new $90 million City Hall and municipal services complex the city's top budget priority.

  • "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," he said.
  • "I know this is shocking but I just, I'm the wrong guy right now. … So thank you all, God bless you and this city. I wish you all the best," he said before walking out.

Between the lines: Hibbard later told WTSP he believed the board was moving forward with "reckless spending."

  • "This isn't that big of a deal," he said of his resignation. "They'll move along."

Context: Hibbard previously served as mayor from 2004 to 2012. He was elected again in 2020, and his term was slated to finish in March 2024.

  • He announced last year that he was not going to run again. The Tampa Bay Times reports he kept a digital clock in the office where he works as a financial adviser to count down the days, hours and minutes until the end of his term.

Flashback: Hibbard has led the city through a turbulent period, the Times reports.

  • Hibbard took office as mayor the month the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S.
  • In the summer of 2021, Hibbard found long-time city manager Bill Horne dead of a suspected heart attack after their decade-long ritual of Saturday golfing.

What we're watching: In his announcement, Hibbard recommended former Council member Hoyt Hamilton as his interim replacement.

What they're saying: St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch tells Axios he was surprised but respects Hibbard's decision.

  • "Frank is no shrinking violet," Welch said. "He's taken on tough issues in the past in a straightforward way. As a committed public servant, I know this has to be something he thought through and made a tough decision on."

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