Richardson loses commission seat after runoff vote in Fruitland Park

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FRUITLAND PARK, Fla. —

There's been another shakeup at Fruitland Park City Hall. Incumbent commissioner Jim Richardson lost Tuesday's runoff election to political newcomer Christopher Cheshire.

Some voters are cheering the change.

"Mr. Richardson's manner of dealing with people made me not respect him," said Fruitland Park resident Sharon Watson.

Reached by phone in Gatlinburg, Tenn., where he's spending Thanksgiving with his family, Richardson said he feels like he still won.

"What I've set in motion they cannot stop, regardless of what they think they can do," said Richardson.

Richardson raised questions about city manager Ralph Bowers, now suspended and facing a sexual battery investigation.

Bower's alleged victim works for the city. But Fruitland Park Police Chief Terry Isaacs accused Richardson of meddling in the case, and a few days before the election, the chief staged a public protest.

One voter said he was shocked that Richardson lost and that he regrets not casting a ballot.

Richardson insists he never tried to influence witnesses in the case against Bowers. He said he believes the city manager will soon be gone for good, though he's afraid that without his voice on the commission the other members will agree to a pricey severance package for Bowers.

"They're going to probably approve his settlement to resign, and I don't think you should pay someone to resign, especially with all the things he's done," said Richardson.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office expects to complete its criminal investigation of Bowers next week.

Cheshire will be sworn in next Monday night.