Lakewood Ranch Herald

Manatee County's planning commission chairman is headed to Lakewood Ranch as the new community planning chief

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Richard Bedford, Manatee County's planning commission chairman who has served on the panel for 22 years, half of those as chairman, will assume a new role next week. Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc., developers of the master-planned Lakewood Ranch community, has announced that Bedford, 55, has been hired as the company's new vice president of planning.

He replaces Todd Pokrywa, who resigned in September to become a senior vice president for Viera, a master-planned community south of Cape Canaveral.

Bedford will start his new full-time position on Monday, Oct. 20, working at SMR headquarters on Convenant Way in Lakewood Ranch, and he's ready to "hit the ground running."

"I'm very excited. I've seen Lakewood Ranch grow from first approval in the early 1990s to what it is now," he said. "I'm ready to get up to speed and see what's new."

A licensed Bradenton architect and planner known for his development of Riviera Dunes in Palmetto, a mixed-use project of multiple high-rise residential towers, single-family attached and detached homes and a significant water marina, Bedford also has managed his own development company that concentrated on building more-affordable area housing for the general workforce.

His experience in workforce housing is expected to be put to use by SMR for its Villages of Lakewood Ranch South, the next, large-scale residential/commercial community project that includes more than 2,000 affordable-housing units, slated for south of University Parkway and north of Fruitville Road.

Bedford's fellow planning commission colleague, Albert Horrigan Jr., who has served with Bedford on the commission for about a year, said, "He runs one of the best meetings I've ever been involved with and keeps us on schedule and on time. Certainly, with his years of experience on the board, he really has in-depth knowledge of what the rules and regulations are in Manatee County and what the land development codes are, which will definitely be an asset," Horrigan said during a recent phone interview.

While it's uncertain whether Bedford will retain his seat on the planning commission because of his new position at SMR, he did inform Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunziker and told him he would gladly serve out his term on the board if the commissioners want him to.

"I told Ed I would serve out my term on the board with pleasure. Whatever the county wants me to do I will do."

The planning commission meets only once a month at the Manatee County Administrative Center in downtown Bradenton, unlike the county commission,which requires a more substantial time commitment.

"The nice thing about the planning commission is we don't have to make political decisions; we make recommendations. I'm not certain what the rules are, but we can't vote on anything that we're involved with personally or where there is a personal financial interest. Everyone potentially has conflicts. It's just a matter of coming forward and recusing yourself," Horrigan said.

Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter