Bradenton newly elected officials look ahead, veteran councilwoman to step down in January

Veteran steps down; newcomer joins the board

mvalverde@bradenton.comNovember 11, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Come January, the Bradenton City Council will bid farewell to one of its longest serving members. Ward 2 Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey will resign from the council in 2013 after serving the city since 1998.

Since Barnebey decided to run for mayor, city codes required her to submit a resignation from the council. She lost the race to incumbent Mayor Wayne Poston.

"She's going to be missed on the council, all the years, time and effort," said Ward 5 Councilman Harold E. Byrd, Jr. "It's hard to imagine a Bradenton City Council without her being on there."

Her colleagues don't expect a "drastic" change in the council dynamic following her departure since it is only one person leaving, they said. But at least one change will be obvious in January, according to Byrd, who has served with Barnebey for five years.

"We won't be as diverse, we'll be an all-male council," he said of the five-member body. "That's going to be an apparent change."

Barnebey declined to comment for this story.

On Election Day, Bradenton voters decided to elect local businessman Gene Brown as the city's new Ward 2 representative.

Byrd is optimistic about Brown's contributions as a councilman and hopes he votes independently on city matters.

"Independent determina

tion based on the facts presented is better than any alliances," he said. "That independence, I think, is good government."

Mayor Poston won a fourth term in office Nov. 6 after defeating Barnebey and Richard O'Brien, a University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee professor.

"We have a lot of projects in mind, we are just going to keep moving forward," Poston said.

The city will now place a particular interest in the 14th Street West corridor, McKechnie Field and Village of the Arts to boost the city's entertainment district, said Poston.

And with buses no longer stopping at the Manatee County Historic Courthouse, the city may look at ways to "expand Old Main Street all the way to Village of the Arts," said Poston. He sees the possibilities of new restaurants along the courthouse area.

Manatee County and Bradenton officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday for a new bus station downtown, relocating customers from a stop by the courthouse to the new station.

Poston doesn't believe Barnebey's departure will significantly change the council's direction.

"I think this will be a smooth transition," Poston said. "I think Gene Brown will be a good addition to the council, he's done a lot of community work."

"I'm just excited and ready to keep going," he said.

Brown, vice president and chief operating officer of Brown & Sons Funeral Homes & Crematory, has been part of the Bradenton Police Pension Board and the Merit Board. His community involvement includes the Boys and Girls Clubs of Manatee County and a 12-year presidency of the Manatee High School Booster Club.

"The economic development downtown will help the rest of the city, to keep the momentum going is important to me," Brown said.

Linking the city's amenities such as McKechnie Field, the new Manatee Players theater and the arts district can help improve the city, he said.

"My goal would be to try to work with the rest of the council, the mayor and citizens to figure out how to make us the best city with the amenities that we have," Brown said. "I want to thank the citizens of Bradenton for the great honor of electing me and overwhelmingly supporting me."

Poston and Brown will be sworn into office in January.

"I'm certainly going to miss Marianne," said Councilman and Vice Mayor Gene Gallo. "She's not only a council person, but she's been a friend for years."

Only time will tell if and how much the council's vision will change after January, Gallo said.

"Marianne had her feelings about development, about what was going on downtown. She always thought there were too many bars downtown," Gallo said. "Those are the things you'll see differences in."

After serving on the council for 21 years, Gallo said that if he were to deliver a message to a newcomer, like Brown, it would be, "when you think you are right you stand up for what's right, and if you're wrong, you be a man and apologize."

Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff said Barnebey has been "a big asset to me because she knows the city history. ... She knows the story behind the story."

Roff doesn't foresee "a lot of earth-shattering changes in the future," he said.

"I think we're in good shape," Roff said. "But I certainly respect her service."

The fact that Brown is a businessman like him is something Roff looks forward to as they work on the council, he said.

"I think Mr. Brown is very similar to Ms. Barnebey and will make a great contribution to the council," said Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith. "Everyone looks at things a little differently and that's what makes a strong council."

Smith said that even though they have disagreements on city issues, "Marianne and I always had a good relationship ... always kinda like friends squabbling."

He has served alongside Barnebey for more than a decade.

"I have a lot of respect for Ms. Barnebey, for her excitement for the community," Smith said. "She's dedicated to the city of Bradenton, where she grew up."

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