BRADENTON -- Long-time Ward 5 Councilman Harold Byrd Jr. will seek another term on Bradenton City Council.
He has one challenger in the Nov. 8 election, 34-year-old Keenan Wooten.
Byrd first served as Ward 5 city councilman from 1989 until January 1996 after losing a tight three-way race during the 1995 election. Byrd, 56, left office to begin pursuing his law degree at Florida A&M University. While attending law school, residents began asking Byrd to run again, he said.
He was again elected to the Ward 5 seat in 2007, and has held the seat ever since.
While he intends to refocus on law when his political career is over, Byrd said his responsibility as a public official comes first.
He recently completed his master's degree in public administration from the University of Phoenix in December and received his certification as a redevelopment professional through the Florida Redevelopment Association in anticipation of the city council assuming control of three city community redevelopment agencies.
"The city is poised to make great strides in redevelopment, especially within the urban corridor," said Byrd. "With the creation of an economic development department and the restructuring that is taking place, I felt the need to bring my added education and experience to the table to be an important decision maker."
Byrd said the city did well to soften the blow of the Great Recession under council and administrative leadership.
"We have a lot of great things going on downtown, but now is the time to bring that same focus and energy back into the neighborhoods," said Byrd. "The city held up during the economic downtown, but there are a lot of neighborhoods still hurting.
"Now we need to focus on redevelopment and revitalization of those neighborhoods by looking at housing rehabilitation programs and continue to focus on affordable, workforce and millennial housing as well taking on the big challenge of homeless issues."
Byrd knows his opponent and calls the Wooten family his friends. While he said there is a time for new blood in the political system, now is not the time.
"My opinion is that we need honest, confident leadership to pull all these things together to enhance the lives of residents in the city of Bradenton," he said. "I feel I serve at the will of the citizens, but also offer my experience and education to try and make Bradenton a better place."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.