The voters in Bradenton Beach will elect a mayor and city commissioner on Nov. 5, and the two candidates in each race hold deep experience serving the Anna Maria Island municipality.
In the mayoral contest, former commissioner and incumbent Mayor John Shaughnessy faces Bill Shearon, a former commissioner and vice mayor who also served on the planning and commission board and various civic committees.
In the Ward 3 commission race, incumbent Ric Gatehouse is running against Janie Robertson, who held the seat the previous six years before term limits forced her. (The city charter requires a two-year hiatus before another candidacy.)
John Shaughnessy was first elected to the city commission in 2003 and was re-elected twice before term limits ended his tenure in 2009. After being lobbied to run for mayor in 2011, he returned to elective office.
Shaughnessy intends to complete several projects in the face of declining government assistance and loss of grant money in a still sluggish economy.
One key is establishing a partnership with Manatee County's Tourist Development Council to secure assistance in the restoration of the Bradenton Beach Pier, damaged twice since 2012 by tropical storms.
Shaughnessy reached out to the TDC to lobby for some tourist tax funding, an appropriate use of the money. The TDC would be wise to invest in such important infrastructure.
"We try to do the best we can with what we have to work with and the information we have -- and bear the consequences and responsibility for our decisions," he told the Herald Editorial Board.
One of the mayor's top accomplishments over the past two years is the peaceful settlement of a lengthy, costly and acrimonious legal battle with Holmes Beach.
The dispute centered around a 2008 quitclaim deed Bradenton Beach granted to the Sandpiper Resort on 27th Street on the border with Holmes Beach, which sued in 2011 after the Sandpiper installed a fences and a gate. Holmes Beach abandoned the litigation over the summer.
To Shaughnessy's credit, he says he won't comment on his critics' opinions. "They are entitled to express them," he stated. "I try to keep a positive attitude."
He has been attacked for something we consider to be sound public policy -- gathering information and suggestions from city staff before rendering decisions.
"I am proud of what my commission and staff have accomplished and look forward to continue serving," Shaughnessy concluded.
With his positive approach to governance and his well informed style of decision-making, he merits another term in office. The Herald Editorial Board recommends John Shaughnessy for Bradenton Beach mayor.
Ward 3: Gatehouse
Ward 3 Commissioner Ric Gatehouse was appointed to the seat in 2011 after the open position failed to attract any candidates. A retired merchant marine with experience in the dredging industry, he has been a volunteer member of the city's mooring field committee and board of adjustment. Currently the city's webmaster, he has stated that he would recuse himself on votes pertaining to that particular municipal function.
As a Bradenton Beach resident for more than two decades, Gatehouse takes a pragmatic approach to tourism -- realistically citing the fact that the city will continue to be a popular destination despite any attempts to turn back time.
But he also wants to protect the city's ambience and quality of life for year-round residents and ensure local businesses thrive.
He's been working hard on the parking and traffic issues, presenting a seven-point proposal to ease congestion in the small city.
One of his ideas is better utilization of the hundreds of spaces at Coquina Beach and then shuttling people to Cortez Beach and Bridge Street.
Gatehouse also suggests a park-and-ride plan in partnership with Manatee County and the TDC to reduce traffic, possibly with off-island parking on a vacant lot by the Seafood Shack in Cortez. Both ideas hold merit, and Gatehouse has demonstrated leadership on these key issues.
He vows to continue researching issues to become fully informed before reaching decisions with common sense as his guide.
We believe he has earned another term in office. The Herald Editorial Board recommends Ric Gatehouse for Bradenton Beach City Commission, Ward 3.
Candidates who do not receive the Herald Editorial Board's endorsement are invited to submit a response of up to 300 words by noon on Oct. 28.
Those can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 745-7047.