Palmetto Youth Center Executive Director Reggie Bellamy has announced his candidacy to challenge District 2 Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith.
District 2 encompasses neighborhoods scattered in Palmetto, Ellenton and Bradenton.
Bellamy, like Smith a Democrat, is a lifelong Manatee County resident and has spent over 20 years working with Manatee County youth as an employee of the school district, head coach of the Palmetto High School basketball team, executive director of the youth center and more. Thus far there are three candidates in the race, including Republican Dimitrie Denis, who filed very early on in March 2016 and couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
If no one else enters the race, Smith, who was first elected in 2016, and Bellamy will square off in the Aug. 28 primary to see who will go on to face Denis in the Nov. 6 general election. Smith had very little to say about Bellamy entering the race on Tuesday, only acknowledging his filing with the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office.
“I’ve spent the majority of my life serving my community and see this run as an opportunity to do even more good for the place my family and I call home,” Bellamy said in a prepared statement Tuesday.
Smith in late January called for Bellamy’s resignation as the center’s executive director amid community whispers that Bellamy was planning to run against him, but denied that his actions were politically motivated.
Instead, Smith contends that Bellamy is stretched too thin professionally to focus on his duties as the center’s director, and that Bellamy is potentially being paid with tax dollars supporting the center for hours not worked. Those claims were largely dismissed by the county commission on Tuesday, noting that the center’s financial reporting obligations are up to date and there are no issues. Smith’s fellow commissioners also argued that the board of commissioners has no authority on how the center’s board of directors handles their executive director.
The Palmetto Youth Center board of directors has unanimously declared their support of Bellamy in response to Smith’s call for his resignation.
Bellamy says his experience with young people gives him the vision of what is needed for their future.
“Quality workforce training is imperative to Manatee County,” Bellamy said. “We need to let our students know that opportunities exist for those who do not go to a traditional college or university. They can have successful and lucrative jobs right here in Manatee County with the proper training.”
Bellamy is a former dropout prevention coordinator for the school district.
“I’ve seen firsthand the impact drugs can have on our community,” Bellamy said. “We are facing a serious opioid crisis. It’s important that we continue to efficiently use our taxpayer’s dollars to provide the proper educations and resources to address this issue. The safety of Manatee County residents, in all aspects, is important to maintain our quality of life.”
Prior to his duties with the school district in student support services at Buffalo Creek Middle School, Bellamy worked as a graduation coach and mentor facilitating graduation plans and encouraging students to stay in school. He has served as an academic adviser at the State College of Florida and was recognized as Omega Citizen of the Year for Manatee County in 2013 by the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
The 46-year-old holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Bethune Cookman University, is a military veteran and a Palmetto resident. This is his first attempt in seeking political office.