Treasure Island Mayor Larry Lunn says the pandemic interrupted what he had intended to accomplish in his first term as mayor, which is why he’s seeking another three-year mayoral term next month.

What You Need To Know

  • Incumbent Larry Lunn says estimated $250 million progject “will put Treasure Island on the map”
  • Opponent Tyler Payne says the plan isn’t popular with some business owners
  • Treasure Island’s mayoral election is March 9
  • More Pinellas County headlines

First and foremost on his agenda is to enact a major redevelopment of the downtown area, centered between 104th and 108th Avenues and Gulf Blvd. Lunn says the estimated $250 million redevelopment project “will put Treasure Island on the map” and give daytime beachgoers more options in the city when the sun goes down.

But his opponent, City Commissioner Tyler Payne, says the plan isn’t that popular with the business owners he’s spoken with.

“He wants to completely wipe out our downtown area, and what that would do to our small businesses is just not what I want to see happen to our city,” Payne told Spectrum Bay News 9, speaking from the Fusion Resort Hotel. “I think that we can do it more responsibly, we can do it more gradually, and the property owners and the business owners that I’ve talked to are not interested in his plan.”

Incumbent Treasure Island Mayor Larry Lunn

Lunn disagrees, saying that he’s shown a “concept video” of the proposal to about 200 people, and has yet to find “one single person who doesn’t think that sort of concept should be employed in the downtown development.”

And he says that the pandemic has reduced the demand for rental space; that a substantial part of downtown Treasure Island is either underutilized or not utilized at all; and that there are some businesses that currently “don’t fit in a downtown.”

Lunn turned 85 this past week, making him 55 years older than the 30-year-old Payne. That could be relevant in a city where more than 40 percent of the residents are over 65 years old, according to U.S. Census figures.

Payne isn’t buying that’s a disadvantage for his candidacy, saying that he’s met many voters who trust his experience (he serves as executive vice-president at IcareLabs, a family business that manufactures prescription eyewear) and that they’re just ready for a change in leadership.

Challenger Tyler Payne. Treasure Island’s mayoral election is March 9.

“Even the older residents are ready for a fresh perspective in City Hall, and that’s what I plan on bringing,” he says.

Payne also says that his youth is significant when it comes to comparing how the two men use technology and community with the residents, referring to an email newsletter he issues monthly and his regular interaction with residents via his Facebook page.

Lunn admits he’s no expert when it comes to social media. But he says he’s wise enough to have recently hired someone who is. “That’s the thing that I look at,” he says. “My job in this community is like an orchestral leader. We have a lot of good talent, but they need to be orchestrated. And I want to make some music.”

Payne is a fourth generation Treasure Island resident whose family has lived in the city since 1970.

Lunn, a former attorney and business executive, is an Indiana native who began vacationing in Treasure Island in 1967 and ultimately moved to Treasure Island after retiring in 2006.

One of the issues that Payne says is currently lacking within the city’s building department is adequate customer service.

“We need to have our city manager and our building dept. director be focusing on customer service, and it’s not something that I’ve heard the current mayor focus on whatsoever in these past three years,” he says.  “I bring it up very often and it just gets swept under the rug. But it’s a very serious issue and it’s what I hear most when I’m knocking on doors and talking to constituents.”

Lunn doesn’t deny that there have been issues there.

“Well, I’ve been involved in the removing some of the people in our community development department that have not been as effective and have not been as responsive to the citizen’s needs,” he says.

Both candidates say they respect each other, but Payne was clearly upset earlier in the week when a meme was posted on Lunn’s Facebook page showing a doctored photo of the mayor carrying Payne on his back a la the image of Tom Brady/Patrick Mahomes “Bring Your Child to Work Day” meme.

“In the context of an election, I just found it very inappropriate and unprofessional,” Payne says, adding that if the two weren’t running against each other “I may have thought it was funny.”

Lunn says he’s not even aware of who posted the meme on his Facebook page, “but obviously it was intended as a joke.”

“I’m not the kind of person that would demean anyone,” he says. “It’s not my style.”

The post has since been taken down.

The election takes place on March 9.

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