Bradenton, Palmetto elections get first official candidates

BRADENTON -- Bradenton resident Keenan Wooten became the first official city council candidate for the Nov. 8 elections when he filed this week to run against Ward 5 City Councilman Harold Byrd Jr.

Wooten said he has been considering a run for office for about a year.

"The No. 1 reason I'm running is because I'm a native of the city of Bradenton and I have a lot of passion and care about the community," said Wooten. "I've taken my time with this decision and strategically looked at different areas of the community I can help and bring a renewed energy to the seat."

Wooten, 34, had no ill words for his opponent and long-time friend, noting, "He's doing an excellent job, but it's time for my generation, the millennials, to take a leadership role in the community. I just want to exhibit fiscal responsibility and bring business and community development to this seat."

There are currently no expenditures or contributions listed on his campaign financial report. Byrd, 55, said his focus is on the coming year's challenges and there is a time for campaigning and it isn't now.

"Right now, we have important issues with the transition of the (community redevelopment agencies) and other things on the table," said Byrd. "I have to do what I said I would do when I took the oath of office and right now that's what I'm concentrating on."

Byrd said he has never announced his election plans prior to the actual election year.

"Right now, I'm focused on being a councilman and serving the citizens," he said. "But I'll make a formal announcement some time after the first of the year and I'll take on all competitors at that point."

The Ward 5 seat is one of two city council seats to be decided in the 2016 election, as well as a mayoral election. Ward 1 is the other seat up for election in 2016 and Councilman Gene Gallo announced he will retire at the end of his term.

Lawrence Andress files in Palmetto

After 30 years in law enforcement, Palmetto resident Lawrence Andress will retire from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office in May.

"Instead of serving the community as a law enforcement officer, I want to continue serving, but in a different way," said Andress, 50, who said he attends Palmetto meetings when his schedule allows. He acknowledges that politics is something new for him, but he is looking forward to tackling issues that affect his city.

"I'm just getting started in this," he said. "But I'm willing to get in there and do what needs to be done."

Andress is the first Palmetto candidate to file and will be vying for At-Large Commissioner Jonathan Davis' seat. Davis filed to run for the Manatee County Board of Commissioners and win or lose, will give up his city seat after one term in office.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.