The election is still more than a year away, but already three people, mostly newcomers to politics, have filed to run for the upcoming open at-large seat on the Palmetto City Commission.
The seat is currently held by Commissioner Jonathan Davis, who is running for mayor next year.
The candidates, in alphabetical order: Sheldon E. Jones, Alice Scott Kaddatz and Nicole L. Velazquez.
Sheldon E. Jones, 52, said he was born and raised in Palmetto, one of many generations of his family to do so in the city and Manatee County.
Jones said he served in the U.S. Army from 1986 to 1993, and has worked for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 20 years. He and his wife have also been foster parents for four years.
With his job, Jones said he knows the community and its residents well and believes this gives him an advantage come November. He hopes to give people in the community a voice in city government.
“I’ve been to almost four different parts of the city working for the Postal Service so I got a feel from everybody beside me,” Jones said. “... People know me and they know the character I bring.”
His campaign, he said, will focus on bringing diversity, accountability, new business in Palmetto.
- Accountability and diversity: Jones hopes to add diversity to the Palmetto Police Department and improving response times.
- New business: Rather than watch business to go Ellenton or up to State Road 64, Jones wants the city to put a plan together to bring in new, quality businesses to Palmetto. He suggested reexamining offered incentive programs.
- Roads and infrastructure: While work is already being done or planned for major roads, Jones said he wants to see more work —including roads, streetlights and other infrastructure — being done for “inner parts” of the city.
“I’m open to all ideas. I’m also great listener to understand some of the things (citizens) want and will fight for a better city,” Jones said.
Alice Scott Kaddatz, 59, is not a new name to many. A self-proclaimed life-long and fifth-generation resident of Palmetto, she has attended city commissioner meetings off-and-on for decades.
“There seems to be a need for new people up there, I think,” Kaddatz said. “I think I can be a positive influence.”
This is not her first attempt at running for office. She previously ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat incumbent Charlie Kennedy on the Manatee County school board in 2018. Kaddatz and her daughter also successfully sued the school district as part of the Roderick Frazier case in 2016.
Her campaign will focus on what she calls “smart growth.”
“I want to make sure Palmetto continues to do smart growth,” Kaddatz said. “We all know traffic is a huge issue, they need to address roads and sewage as they address new motels and everything to make sure everything is coming together properly.”
- Infrastructure and transportation: Kaddatz said transportation has become “almost unbearable” and believes roads and sewage should be addressed as new building projects arise. She appreciates the city’s efforts to add sidewalks near schools.
- Schools: She worries about the closure of the middle school, and what challenges that will bring to the community in the future. Kaddatz said her knowledge of the school board will come in handy here.
Nicole L. Velazquez, 42, is a newcomer to local politics. Originally from Wisconsin, Velazquez moved to Manatee County in 2006 and Palmetto in 2011. She now runs her own handmade goods business, Orange Blossom, selling handmade costume items as well as gifts online and works as a substitute teacher for Manatee County schools.
Before starting her own business, Velazquez worked as an adoption case worker for the Safe to Learn Coalition.
“I think I can bring a fresh perspective as someone coming to the city with fresh eyes,” Velazquez said.
Her campaign will largely focus on redevelopment in the city, encouraging more businesses to come to the area and home ownership.
- Redevelopment: Bringing in jobs and keeping local money with in the community, but making sure the development stays true to the community and not replacing it. She also hopes to see the multi-modal trails come to fruition and further connect the city.
Bringing business to Palmetto, with an emphasis on local businesses: Velazquez hopes to encourage residents to start their own businesses in town and become more invested in the city.
- Home ownership: While it’s great to have affordable housing coming in the forms of apartments, Velazquez said she was astounded when the rent for her last apartment was more expensive than her mortgage payment on the house she now owns. She hopes to promote home ownership and programs and grants that help make it possible.
“I feel very strongly there’s so much potential in this community. We need more people to come forward and help make that a reality. That’s why I’m running instead of waiting on someone else to do it,” Velazquez said.
There are also three candidates for mayor in the 2020 election; including incumbent Shirley Groover Bryant, current city commissioner Jonathan Davis and former Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith.