For Palmetto City Commission: Charles Smith, Eric Gilbert

October 16, 2012 

The two contested Palmetto City Commission races feature candidates with strong participation in civic affairs and public policy. Charles B. Smith was appointed to the commission to represent Ward 1 a year ago after his predecessor resigned. Eric F. Gilbert, seeking the At-Large 1 seat, currently serves as chairman of the city's Planning and Zoning Board.

Smith faces Carolyn L. Higdon while Gilbert is running against Jonathan L. Davis in these nonpartisan contests. Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant and Commission At-Large 2 incumbent Tamara K. Cornwell both retain their positions without opposition.

Both Smith and Gilbert are articulate and passionate about the future of Palmetto.

Smith's credentials run deep as a former vice mayor and commission member before his current term. He also served on a variety of major boards, including those of the Manasota League of Cities, the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Palmetto Community Redevelopment Agency.

Smith, a marketing consultant who help operate his family business, Manatee Harvesting Co., is also the president and chairman of the Manatee-Sarasota chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a national board member.

Smith has been the driving force behind the establishment of a city housing authority, which would be empowered to collect grant money and federal assistance to improve neighborhoods where blight has taken hold and provide affordable public housing.

Smith's laudable leadership on this issue includes a petition signed by residents calling for the creation of a housing authority.

Public safety would be enhanced through such neighborhood rejuvenation. Gilbert shares Smith's drive on crime prevention as both candidates plan to reach out to the community and police to build relationships and trust so residents come forward with information that leads to the arrest and prosecution of offenders.

Gilbert, elected twice as P&Z chair, has hands-on experience updating city planning and zoning ordinances to improve Palmetto's economy and better protect the health and safety of residents. As a small business owner of an electronic marketing company, he intends to use that experience to help bridge the gap between government and private enterprise.

His goal is to reinvigorate responsible economic development that creates jobs and revenue for the city that will allow for investments in streets and parks. Palmetto's culture, heritage and environment must be protected at the same time.

Smith is also focused on economic development and jobs, and both candidates consider the Community Redevelopment Agency a key component of those goals. We agree as the CRA has accomplished much over the past few years.

Smith and Gilbert both express clear and considered visions for the city commission. The Herald Editorial Board believes they are the best candidates. We recommend Charles B. Smith in Ward 1 and Eric F. Gilbert for the At-Large 1 commission post.

Candidate rebuttals

Candidates who do not receive the Herald Editorial Board's endorsement are invited to submit a response of up to 300 words by 4 p.m. the next weekday after the endorsement appears in print.

Those can be sent to or faxed to 745-7047.

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