On Nov. 8, voters in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach will each select three city commissioners in the only contested municipal races in Manatee County on Election Day. The top three vote-getters in both contests will win seats.
Among the four candidates in Anna Maria, two are incumbents. Commissioners serve two-year terms with other seats open in even-numbered years.
Here are the Anna Maria candidates. (The Holmes Beach profiles ran in Sunday’s edition and can be found at Bradenton.com.)
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The mayor of Anna Maria from 2002-06, SueLynn wants to return to city service to have a voice in the major issues enveloping the community.
Those include determining the future use of the six bayfront lots the city purchased this year, the placement of new cell service technology and the proliferation of vacation rental properties.
“It also appears to me that the city is at a tipping point in terms of its development and future,” the retired management consultant says.
Her biggest concern is the increase in rental properties as the number of year-round residents falls.
“There is no turning back to the Anna Maria of 10 or so years ago that was primarily residential,” she says.
“We now must commit ourselves to finding the means to maintain a balance between the city’s business interests and the residents’ quality of life. We have to stop the exit of year-round residents and still keep Anna Maria as a preferred vacation destination.”
The next big issue is the city budget, specifically finding additional sources of revenue to finance maintenance of infrastructure and payments on the six lots. “The commission is going to have to assess where the city is now and where it wants to go,” she says, “and then they are going to have to get creative, not give up and make some hard decisions that they probably would not have considered several years ago.”
The current commission increased the millage rate for 2011-12, but SueLynn does not want an increase next year. “The commission is going to have to find alternative means to bring revenues in,” she says.
She favors discussions among island cities about shared or consolidated services. “This could be done and still have each of the three cities maintain their own legislative system and unique character,” she says.
Now finishing his fifth term on the commission, most years as chair, John Quam wants to ensure that the single-family residential character of the city is maintained and protected while supporting the defined business district.
“Our city is nearly built-out, tourism traffic is increasing and the majority of residential homes are turning into rentals. The full-time resident count is decreasing. The quality of life for the residents has already changed.
“I feel the commission must accept change, but continue to set policy in the best interest of residents, business owners and visitors.”
He lists his accomplishments as playing a key role in solving some controversial issues, including beach corridor parking, a problem that stymied the commission for 25 years; the 2007 adoption of an updated comprehensive plan and passage of a charter amendment that requires super majorities for amendment approvals; a Pine Avenue parking plan, and infrastructure projects.
Quam, a retired marketing and logistical executive in the chemical industry, cites the commission’s effort to improve wireless service with the installation of new revenue-generating technology as a current hot-button issue.
He also wants to figure out how to collect revenue from the many tourists using Anna Maria’s roads and infrastructure, mainly day trippers visiting the beach. “This is a very important issue to me, as currently the tourist traffic does not generate any revenue to the city coffers,” he says. “We do not have parking meters. Beach parking is mainly in right-of-ways in the residential district, with one small parking lot at City Hall.”
Residential property owners take the brunt of the parking woes, he says.
On the city budget, he says he is committed to providing quality service to residents at the lowest possible cost in order to optimize taxpayer dollars. Anna Maria property tax rate only rose this year because of the purchase of the six lots, justifying a millage rate increase, Quam says, but that will only last one year.
A long time resident of Anna Maria, Dale Woodland is seeking his fifth term on the city commission. The owner and operator of a swimming pool company, he calls his commission service “the best job I’ve ever had.”
His goals remain the same, preserving and protecting the city’s quality of life. “I support development, but not over-development,” he says, adding that density and intensity should be limited. “There is one thing I’ve learned in office; when you have something special, the pressure for over-development will always exist.”
Woodland, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative, voted to approve the city purchase of the six lots above the appraised value. “It is a good investment for our city’s future and I’m confident with a public-private partnership the city will be able to meet the financial obligation without a tax increase and in a much shorter term than the proposed 20 years.”
He intends to pursue several “out of the box” ideas on raising revenue for the city without increasing taxes -- all voluntary for businesses, visitors and residents. One is a surcharge on restaurant bills, with diners and restaurateurs paying 1 percent each. Another is a surcharge on utility bills with an opt-out option.
Woodland says the city cannot halt vacation rentals but must do better policing the noise and other complaints, adding the city also needs to find a way to generate revenue from the vacation properties. “I love sharing our community and beaches with all visitors,” he says.
A member of the city’s planning and zoning board, Nancy Yetter cites taxation and the loss of full-time residents as the two major issues facing Anna Maria.
“Proper budgeting and management of the budget can reduce the need for tax increases,” she says. In order to maintain the number of full-time residents, “we need to consult with AMI citizens and businesses to find ways to make living here more affordable and attractive to our families.”
As a commissioner, she wants to ensure the community remains a unified and works together to preserve its beauty. “It is my desire to protect and preserve Anna Maria’s village atmosphere and quiet residential neighborhoods,” she says.
On growth and the recent heated battles over Pine Avenue development, Yetter says: “We have had a ‘Them vs. Us’ attitude in the past, and it didn’t work. We need to seek balance and unity.”
Since many residents are retired, the city needs a proper business environment in order to provide jobs. “If we want to encourage younger residents to remain on the island, we need to be able to make it attractive for them to open small businesses,” she says.
Yetter concedes it’s impossible to stop tourism. “However, we can mitigate any negative impact that results from tourism by implementing innovative solutions to traffic, trash, noise and parking. Also, it is important that we show respect for each other and not create an atmosphere where it is impossible to enjoy our beautiful surroundings.”