Brothers seek to keep Palmetto Commission a family affair

myoung@bradenton.comMay 20, 2014 

PALMETTO -- One brother is leaving the Palmetto City Commission and another is seeking to take his place.

Ward 1 Commissioner Charles Smith will give up his city commissioner seat to run for the District 2 seat on the Manatee County Board of Commissioners.

With Smith leaving city office to run for county commissioner, his brother, Harold Smith, filed papers May 15 for Ward 1 commissioner. A bail bondsman with Smitty Bail Bonds in Palmetto for 10 years, Harold Smith said he is prepared to hold office. He cited experience with the city's agricultural side by working in the fields and volunteering with youth sports.

"I've been preparing myself to run for office for quite awhile but it didn't make sense to run against my brother," said Harold Smith, 49. "I want to carry on my brother's input, but I have input of my own to help the city grow and help the city as a whole, not just Ward 1."

Charles Smith, 50, said his brother is a "fine businessman and has been involved in the community for many years. I have endorsed him and will serve as his campaign manager. He's been following me around for the past six months studying the issues that will help keep the city moving forward."

Palmetto's other seat up for grabs is Ward 3 held by Commissioner Brian Williams, who has been in of

fice since 1992. Williams, 68, has not yet filed for re-election, but confirmed Tuesday to the Bradenton Herald he will seek another term.

"I think we have moved forward with some very positive changes over the years and we've been able to provide that change in a stable progression of not trying to do everything at once," said Williams. "That's important because the community needs to progress, but still respect the folks that are here for what Palmetto was and what Palmetto still is."

Stepping up to challenge Williams is Eric Gilbert, owner of Vizzybrand Marketing in Palmetto. Gilbert, 43, filed for the Ward 3 seat in January 2013 following a close 2012 loss to at-large Commissioner and Vice Mayor Jonathan Davis. Gilbert has served on the city planning and zoning board for six years.

He said Williams indicated he would not seek another term in this year's election and he filed on the recommendation of Williams himself. But he's OK with the challenge ahead.

"Ward 3 especially needs some better business direction," said Gilbert. "Downtown businesses are struggling and I have over 20 years of business experience. I love my city and want to help my city grow, but we need the right kind of growth where businesses can provide jobs. Palmetto is an interesting place and I don't want to lose that heritage, but we need new lifeblood businesses that can thrive, but find it in a balanced way."

The qualifying period for the Nov. 4 election is June 16-20.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.

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