SEBRING - John Shoop, president of Highlands Independent Bank, said Friday he will seek election next year as mayor of Sebring.
"I feel it is time to put my name in the hat," Shoop said.
If Shoop wins election in 2014, or is unopposed, he would replace George Hensley, who has announced he will not seek re-election. Hensley has either been mayor or a council member for most of the past 33 years.
Shoop said he's been thinking about running for some time now, but didn't want to oppose Hensley, who he considers a good friend. He said Hensley told him that he won't seek re-election and urged him to run for mayor.
Hensley said he's endorsing Shoop for mayor and believes Shoop will do a good job. He said Shoop "has already served the community in a lot of areas."
This will be the first time that Shoop, 54, has run for public office. But, he said, his family has some experience in campaigns for public office because his wife, Jan, is a Highlands County School Board member.
Another reason why he felt that now is a good time for him to run is that his son and daughter have moved away from home and that gives him more time.
He said that Sebring is a great community, and as mayor he would be looking to continue "moving it forward," he said.
The Community Redevelopment Agency is doing a lot of positive things , Shoop said, adding that "I would like to see that continue to grow."
Shoop sees the mayor as being an ambassador for the city, attending a lot of community events and meeting with people, he said.
Although the mayor doesn't vote on city issues, he said, the mayor does have a voice and the mayor can veto actions by the City Council. But no Sebring mayor has used the veto power, at least not anytime in recent history.
Although Shoop said increasing voter participation in city elections is desirable, moving elections to coincide with national elections as a way to accomplish that would take an extensive process . It would also be necessary to change the terms for council members to either two or four years.
The city is holding a nonbinding referendum on the issue next year.
As for Harder Hall, Shoop said, hopefully someone will be found who wants to preserve and use the building.
He said he doesn't believe that should be the role of the city.
Shoop moved to Florida from Wisconsin in 1980 as part of a job transfer with SunTrust. He said he worked in several cities for SunTrust before moving to Sebring in 1993. He said the former president of Highlands Independent Bank was retiring and gave him the opportunity to take over the bank, which he did in 2000.
He's also served as chairman of the Economic Development Commission's board of directors, is treasurer of the board of directors for the YMCA, a member of the Sebring Hall of Fame for the raceway, past president of the Sebring Chamber of Commerce and that's in addition to being a member of the pension board for the city fire department and the recreation advisory commission.
He's also supported the Boy Scouts, Dixie Little League and Sebring Fireman Inc.