MANATEE -- After 46 years in public service, Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle has decided to withdraw his name for re-election to the District 1 seat in 2016.
In an email sent to commissioners and county department directors Wednesday morning, county spokesman Nick Azzara shared an update from Bustle, in which the Republican states his plans not to run for re-election. Bustle, 80, a former mayor of Palmetto, had filed in April to run again in 2016.
"After a summer of rest, rehabilitation, recovery and careful reflection, I have decided not to run for re-election next year," Bustle stated in the update. "In 2016, I will finish my second term on the County Commission and begin a new chapter in my life's journey devoted to time with my wife, Edie, my family and friends."
As of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Bustle was still listed as an active candidate on the county Supervisor of Elections website.
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This month, Bustle returned to commission meetings by participating via phone. He suffered a stroke May 11 during a Manatee County Chamber of Commerce breakfast featuring briefings from state lawmakers.
"I was recently given clearance by my doctor to resume a limited schedule as part of the County Commission," Bustle said in Wednesday's update. "I participated in board meetings by telephone this month, and I plan to attend many meetings in person in October."
Bustle said he appreciates the "patience, prayers and sincere support from my colleagues on the board, my friends, my family and from the people of Manatee County."
"It has been a distinct privilege and honor to devote my adult life first in the service of my country and then in the service of my community," Bustle said. "After 46 years in public service, I say thank you."
Two other candidates have filed for the District 1 race, which covers Parrish and north county.
Corie Holmes, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Charles Smith in 2014 for the District 2 seat as a Democrat, filed in April.
Nathaniel Leonard, a Republican, also filed. Leonard lost against Bustle in the 2012 GOP primary.
"My prayers have been with him through this whole time," Leonard said late Wednesday.
Holmes said he would like to congratulate Bustle on his retirement and "thank him for service to his country and this county as a whole."
"We should be thankful that we had that type of leader," Holmes said.
With no incumbent in the District 1 race now, Holmes said "this definitely changes the game plan."
"I am no new face to doing what is right but bringing about a level of independent thinking to the board and really changing the direction of where we are right now," Holmes said. "The citizens of this county will determine this next election and that's the way the process is designed."
Holmes also expressed his concerns that Azzara sent out the email about Bustle not running for re-election.
"I have concerns when county staff is doing press releases for county commissioner election," Holmes said. "That is not why we hire county staff. He should be totally uninvolved. That is just my concern."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.