Incumbent Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac spent her first term climbing the leadership ropes on several key regional water and transportation boards as well as civic and business organizations. Along with her 34 years of experience as a professional land planner in both the public and private sectors, she is well acquainted with the diverse challenges confronting this community.
Her opponent in the contest for the District 7 At-Large seat on the commission, Jack Richardson, is campaigning under the No Party Affiliation banner. An industrial property manager and independent business owner, he challenged a sitting Republican in a majority GOP county. His grit is undeniable.
Benac’s position on the referendum to increase the county’s sales tax by a half-cent to fund infrastructure projects — maintenance and improvement to existing infrastructure — reflects an analytical and reasonable rationale. The county lacks a designated revenue source to more fully fund upkeep of parks, roads and other aging assets and improve stormwater drainage, sidewalks and lighting. Public safety would be enhanced, especially with additional funding for the sheriff’s office.
The goal, Benac says, is to greatly improve the quality of life for existing residents. She also rightly notes that deferred maintenance is more expensive maintenance.
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Commissioners took a tough stand on impact fees by adopting a major increase to ensure new development funds its fair share of its own infrastructure costs. Benac justly debunks the persistent myth that impact fees can be spent elsewhere in the county when state law forbids any such money grab.
Richardson opposes the sales tax referendum while wrongly asserting the county is spending vast sums to support new development in East Manatee. Impact fees exist for that purpose.
County approval of new developments sticks in the craw of many residents, but commissioners are legally bound to follow the rules. When a commissioner votes to violate that state mandate in order to appease development opponents, that makes the county vulnerable to a lawsuit for making political decisions should a majority vote prevail.
People have an inalienable right to live where they want. Builders simply satisfy that demand. Those new residents contribute to the county’s economic vitality by patronizing grocery stores, restaurants, automotive shops and physicians, accountants, lawyers as well as other commercial enterprises.
Manatee County’s population is increasing, Benac states, because of our “wonderful environment, strong economic growth and great lifestyle for families and retirees alike.”
Benac’s résumé is replete with significant public service.
As a longtime planner, Benac is singularly positioned to address growth issues, especially on traffic as the county’s representative on the Sarasota Manatee MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) and the Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority. She cites her ability to bring transportation funding for vital projects as an asset, and she was able to get the replacement or expansion of the aging DeSoto Bridge designated the top regional priority for funding.
In addition to new roads, such as the 44th Avenue extension project currently under construction, Benac cites the need for alternative transportation and mobility options, including transit, trails, ferries and other traffic management programs.
Benac’s service on the Manasota Basin Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District included planning and funding long-term water supply projects. Her environmental record includes contributions to the policy boards of the Sarasota and Tampa Bay National Estuary Programs.
She has also served on the boards of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. and Leadership Manatee, among other organizations.
After only one term on the commission, Benac has established valuable credentials as a leader who builds up the community in many ways and is highly qualified for another term. For Manatee County Commission District 7 At-Large, the Bradenton Herald Editorial Board recommends Betsy Benac.
Candidates who do not receive the Herald Editorial Board’s endorsement are invited to submit a response of up to 300 words. Those can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 745-7097.
View candidate forums
The Herald, in partnership with Manatee Educational Television, has videotaped candidate forums in these contested races. These forums can be viewed on www.youtube.com/manateeeducationaltv (click on Videos). METV is also regularly airing all the forums, and the station can be viewed on Brighthouse channel 614, Verizon FIOS 31 and Comcast 19. For METV air times, visit www.metvweb.com.