Voters who favor term limits would find an easy target in Gene Gallo. He has served as the Ward 1 representative on the Bradenton City Council since 1991. The case against term limits, though, rests on the loss of legislative experience, institutional knowledge and political skills governing competence. Not only does Gallo know the ins and outs of council responsibilities and capabilities, his knowledge of the city runs much deeper.
The 77-year-old’s public service began in 1960 as a firefighter. His steady rise in the Bradenton Fire Department and leadership skills earned him a promotion to fire chief, where he served for 11 years before his first election to the City Council. His decades of dedication to the city earned a major reward in 2003 when the Downtown Fire Station was named in his honor.
Initially, Gallo announced he would step down from public service when his current term ends on Dec. 31 — telling the Herald: “I’ll miss serving the people. When people call me with problems, I’ve been able to resolve their concerns 99 percent of the time to their satisfaction. That’s been great.”
Two candidates then stepped up, political newcomers Devon C. Davis and Tami Spyker Goudy. Upon rescinding his retirement, Gallo cited the will of the people as his motivation. The three share similar priorities if elected — public safety, economic development and attainable housing among them. Revitalization, infrastructure improvements and a thriving entertainment district along Ninth Street West also make the list as does the sale of the City Hall property.
A lifelong resident with deep family ties to the city, Davis notes that her business experience — two decades as a Realtor, and specifically, her contract knowledge, negotiation skills and budgeting background — as valuable to public service as well as her commitment to customer service and accessibility. Davis is married to Warren Merriman, a candidate for Bradenton mayor.
Goudy owns two local small businesses — one on speech therapy, the other on pest control — and she cites her fiscal responsibility and managerial skills. She has spent the past eight years on spreading public safety education to city residents through the West Bradenton Crime Watch, a nonprofit she founded — which yielded experience with city government and the police department.
Gallo’s long participation in governance sets him apart, especially now that downtown Bradenton’s potential expands exponentially as new businesses, new employees and new assets arrive, topped by the pending expansion of the South Florida Museum, the relocation of the SUNZ Insurance headquarters to downtown Bradenton from Sarasota, and the development of a major hotel by City Hall. Bradenton’s agreement with the hotel developers calls for the city to build a parking garage close to the hotel site, an arrangement that Davis opposes but Gallo and Goudy support.
The candidates also part company on the Manatee River Regatta, with Gallo and Goudy supportive while calling for greater cost controls — a sensible and responsible approach for an event that has put Bradenton and Palmetto in the spotlight statewide and beyond. Davis calls the event an “epic fail” because of the Green Bridge closure and the high cost to the city.
Gallo describes his council service not as a job but as a “way of life for me and my passion,” he noted in his response to a Herald questionnaire. “I Want To Serve,” he underscores in bold.
His devotion to the city through 56 years and counting is unquestionable. For Bradenton City Council Ward 1, the Bradenton Herald Editorial Board recommends Gene Gallo.
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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.