ANNA MARIA -- Anna Maria residents will find five candidates on their Nov. 4 election ballots.
They include incumbent Mayor SueLynn, her opponent Daniel Murphy and David Bouchard, Charles 'Chuck' Webb and Nancy Yetter, who are running for a commission seat.
SueLynn, who was first elected mayor in 2002 and 2004, did not respond to multiple calls and email requests for an interview, but ultimately issued a statement to the Herald. In it, she wrote that she works well with residents, city staff and other island mayors and that she has "the personal skills and patience" to resolve conflicts.
Projects that SueLynn said she would like to see through to completion include the development of the City Pier Park and completion of the cell tower.
According to SueLynn, one of the most important issues facing Anna Maria is the transformation from a largely residential community to a much sought-after vacation destination in recent years.
"There is a place for business, residences and vacation rentals in our City, but there needs to be a "balance" be
tween them... and right now we do not have that balance," SueLynn wrote. "Too many see this as a "losing battle" to those with deep pockets. We, those of us who call the City home, need to close our ranks -- change our perspective and focus on what an enjoyable place this City continues to be to live in."
Murphy, who says he's been living in Anna Maria longer than anyone running for office this year, feels he can bring fresh and good ideas to the city if elected mayor.
"We tend to spend a lot of time talking about the same issues over and over again," he said, using the parking issue as an example. "We don't have necessarily the leadership to go out and get things done. I can bring that to the party."
In Murphy's opinion, the greatest issue afflicting the city is over-development.
"We've been identified as a slice of paradise... now we have to figure out how to cope with that and how to master it so that we can retain a portion of our lifestyle that we've had here over the years," he said.
Yetter, who is running for re-election as commissioner, said she feels it's crucial to have a continuation of the current commission because she and her fellow officials have been working hard to prevent further erosion of citizens' way of life.
She said the "proliferation" of oversized housing projects that developers try to disguise as single-family homes is a big issue in Anna Maria.
"Every time you take a house and put eight bedrooms in it... that's not a single-family home," she said, adding that some then have a 'For Rent' sign in front of them. "We're just tired of people coming before us and basically lying about what the purpose (of the structure) is."
Yetter said she doesn't want the public to think she is "anti-business" or "anti-rental."
"The long-term renters are great -- they provide contributions rather than take away, and they respect everybody's rights," Yetter said. "People need to be respectful of others and I think people who embark on this plan to increase tourism do it without consideration of how it would adversely affect the city and its residents."
Asked why he wants to run for re-election, Commission Chairman Webb said Anna Maria is being turned into a "vacation rental ghetto."
"Vacation rentals are encroaching into our residential zones," he said. "We're taking steps to get that under control."
City officials enacted a new building moratorium on Sept. 22 that prohibits issuing building permits for new structures with four or more rooms that could be used as bedrooms. The move was a way for city officials to restrict short-term rentals, which critics say have eroded the quality of life in two residential zoning districts, R-1 and R-2. R-1 covers most of the city, while R-2 covers homes in a perpendicular strip on the eastern side.
Webb said the quality of life of Anna Maria residents has been "greatly diminished" by vacation rentals.
"It seems to be the same outcry all over the island," he pointed out. "I'm very proud that the commission has the courage to tackle this problem. Going forward what I'd be most proud of is if we solve the problem with the vacation rentals."
Bouchard, an engineer who has lived in Anna Maria for 12 years, said he chose to run for public office because he saw a need for a fresher view to help get the island on track for its inevitable growth.
"Every day our island is featured in another publication touting how fantastic our little beach community is," he wrote in a statement. "We should try to channel this growth in a positive and beneficial way for the citizens of Anna Maria."
Bouchard lists parking and technology as some of the city's issues, and said he and his wife currently own rental property on the island so they understand what it means to be both a business owner and full-time resident.
"I believe we need to embrace how the island has been changing and help guide it to make it a better place for both residents and visitors," he wrote.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.