In the interest of informing readers, the Bradenton Herald sent a questionnaire to the 10 candidates for Manatee County Board of County Commissioners.
This year, incumbents for District 2 and District 6 county commissioner face challengers, but an open seat in District 4 will guarantee an new face to the dais.
Incumbent Commissioners Charles Smith and Carol Whitmore each face two challengers, and because Commissioner Robin DiSabatino is not seeking re-election, four candidates have qualified to run for her seat.
Questions were posed via email and candidates responded in their own words.
To find out what county district you live in, enter your address on Manatee County's Land Development GIS map. Be sure to check the box that says "Political Districts." Residents who live in District 1 (Priscilla Whisenant Trace), District 3 (Stephen Jonsson) or District 5 (Vanessa Baugh) will not vote for a new commissioner for their districts this year but they will help select a commissioner for the at-large seat on this year's ballot.
The party primaries are Aug. 28 and the general election is Nov. 6.
Note: If a candidate has not yet responded to Bradenton Herald's questions, a short biography of the candidate written by a reporter based on publicly available information will appear below. If the candidate does respond, this article will be updated.
Charles B. Smith, District 2 incumbent, is seeking his second term for county commissioner. According to his county commissioner biography, Smith was born in Batavia, N.Y., but raised in Palmetto. He was on the Palmetto City Commission previously. His family has run Manatee Harvesting Company Inc. for more than a half century. Smith runs and body builds as hobbies.
COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 2
Q: What is your background (family, job, hobbies)?
: Born and raised in Manatee County, a graduate from Manatee High School and Bethune Cookman University and a veteran of the United States Army. Currently, the Executive Director of the Palmetto Youth Center, Student Support Specialist at Buffalo Creek Middle School and the Head Boy’s Basketball Coach at Palmetto High School. I enjoy bike riding and help others. I have one son.
: My background, I have a AA in business, a BA in criminology from the University of South Florida, and I’m currently working on my MBA with emphasis on community economic development from the University of Southern New Hampshire. My background is in the private sector, both public and private sector. I have seven kids. My oldest daughter, she’s in the U.S. military, she’s across the seas in South Korea. We have six at home, 11 to 14-month-old, and I love every bit of them. All we do is hang out and have fun.
Q: What are the issues in District 2 you feel are most important?
Reginald J. Bellamy, D: Currently, the hot topic in District 2 is the traffic and which bridge option will best impact the community while not destroying the minority churches and businesses. I will advocate for solutions to alleviate traffic congestion and travel time. We all want our community to be safe therefore I will work with law enforcement to keep our community safe.
Dimitrie Denis, R: I would say traffic, economic development and infrastructure needs. A county commissioner who hasn’t lost touch with District 2.
Q: District 2 has a lot of opportunity for economic development and growth. How do you intend to address this?
Reginald J. Bellamy, D: My plan would be to support efforts to diversify our economy and create new jobs by working with our schools and investing in workforce development.
Dimitrie Denis, R: By repurposing many of our buildings, repurposing many of our business entities, and then second, drawing investors into the community. But inspiring a sense of entrepreneurial spirit into District 2 so we can have a lot of homegrown job creators.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish if elected/re-elected?
Reginald J. Bellamy, D: I strive daily to help others and if I am elected it would by my honor and pleasure to dedicate myself to representing the families of District 2 as well as the community.
Dimitrie Denis, R: What I want to do, I want to start to see the population of black men incarcerated decrease in Manatee County. I want to be able to create business in Manatee County in general and put these young kids to work. I want to be able to replace and repair all basic infrastructure in communities that need that. In order to get investments, we need to address those infrastructure problems.
Q: Why are you the best candidate?
Reginald J. Bellamy, D: My entire life I have served at many capacities. I look forward to the opportunity to becoming a conduit to connect, inform and impact District 2 and the community.
Dimitrie Denis, R: I’m the best candidate because I’m the highly educated one out of all the other folks that are running. Out of me, Bellamy and Charles Smith I have the highest education. We had dilapidated drains and sewage. Because of my effort and my community's effort, we were able to get that addressed. We are now going to have streetlights.
COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 4
Q: What is your background (family, job, hobbies)?
: Mark D Black, 54, a retired small business owner, US Army vet, with local government experience. He earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from Purdue University Global, in 2017. The father, grandpa, and a foster dad enjoys sharing time with family, policy research, college football and the beach.
: A little of my history, I was born in Milwaukee in 1961. In 1966 my father who was a physics for in the Neutron Devices Department at General Electric was transferred to the new plant constructed in the defense triangle in Pinellas County. My mom worked in the Pinellas County School System as a Library Aid and Researcher to be close to my 2 sisters and I. I graduated from Largo High school early in January 1979 and started St. Pete Jr. College. In 1985 I moved to Manatee County with Savings of America as an Operations Officer. There I met my husband and settled in District Four. We started our Commercial Painting and Wallpapering Company which specialized in new construction restaurants. For the next 30 years we worked all over the Southeast United States, never missing a turn over date and employing up 35 fellow residents of Manatee county at one point. I was a fully involved as an on site owner. I was awarded the 1991 New Entrepreneur Small Business of the Year . I have 2 children Eric and Charlotte but dozens of kids passed thru our home. In 2015 we closed our business uneasy about selling our name. After years of volunteering both my construction and domestic skills I knew the need of being involved in my community. I decided to seek the office of County Commissioner for my District of 30 plus years. Helping others and volunteering in my community is my passion.
: I was born in Bradenton in 1961. Shortly after my parents returned from the mission field as Methodist Missionaries to the Belgium Congo. Now the Democratic Republic of Congo. After moving out of the area, I returned to South County in 1977. I then lived in what was then Willow Run – now called the The Gates. I then moved to Bayshore Gardens Parkway, where my family lived for many years. I graduated from Bayshore High School in 1979. While at Bayshore I played football, was an active member of the then DeSoto Boys Club – with Carl Weeks as the club director – and worked a number of jobs including the Italian Fisherman Restaurant, Lloyds Restaurant, Miller Trailer and Tropicana – where my father was the senior staff engineer. I left the area to attend Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. During summer breaks I always returned and continued to work at Tropicana as well as taking jobs at Miller Trailer and Western Sizzler. I graduated from Samford University with a degree in Public Administration in 1983 and immediately went into Cumberland School of Law where I received my Law Degree in 1986. I returned to Bradenton to work for P. Allen Schofield, Attorney at Law located in South County. The firm eventually began Schofield, Spencer and Little. In 1999 I joined with Scott Kallins ultimately forming the current law firm of Kallins Little Delgado.
Professionally, I have been a 31 year member of the Florida Bar and the Manatee County Bar association where I served a three year term as a director. I am one of 7 out of approximately 100,000 attorneys to be Board Certified in both Civil Trial and Marital and Family Law. I was recognized for Service to the Community with the Manatee County Bar Association Community Service Award (2004) and the William C. Grimes Award for Lifetime Achievement in Community Service (2013). Together with my law partners Scott Kallins and Jim Delgado, we created the Kallins, Little & Delgado Scholarship Program which has awarded over $195,000 to more than 145, Manatee County High School seniors during the past 10 years. I have been active in the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, where I also served on the legislative affairs committee and public schools funding committee. I graduated from the Leadership Manatee Program class of 1993. I served as Chairmen of the Infrastructure Committee for the Manatee County Blue Print for the Future. I was a member of volunteer committees that supported the funding of Children Services and Capital Improvement Program which provides support for existing schools and the building of new schools. Most recently I served on the Manatee County Children's Services Tax Advisory Board (2012-2015). The Board was appointed by the County Commission to distribute the $8,000,000 collected annually through ad valorem tax. During my tenure, the Board was responsible for evaluating numerous grant applications and distributing support based on each grant’s merit.
It has always been my belief that as a long-term resident of the area, I had a duty and obligation to give back through community service. I began volunteering at the DeSoto Boys Club. This was the start of what was to become a 22 year involvement with the Club’s Board. I served in virtually every capacity and on every committee, including becoming president of the Corporate Board. During my time on the Board, the Club transitioned from being a predominantly United Way funded organization to being completely independent of United Way’s financial support through the increased focus on endowments and fundraisers. The Club’s next transition came when it began providing services to young women which in turn, lead to the creation of separate Boys and Girls Clubs. Ultimately, these various clubs were consolidated into a single, solid organization – the Boys and Girls Clubs of Manatee County. In June of 2003, I received the Boys & Girls Club National Medallion, the highest honor and award the Boys and Girls Club can give a volunteer. In the 72 years the club (in its various forms) has served the youth of Manatee county, there have been only 12 such awards. I also volunteered, served or worked with a number of other organizations.
: I was born and raised in Sarasota and have lived in Manatee County for 30 years. I paid for 100% of my college tuition and living expenses at Florida State University by working part-time jobs, and qualifying for scholarships and grants. I was the first person in my family to earn a college degree. I have been married to Joaquin Servia for 24-years and we have 3 children. I’m a certified, award-winning, professional community planner. I devoted 18 years of service to Manatee County Government and have worked for King Engineering Associates for the last 12 years. My hobby is community service, which is how I spend most of my free time.
Q: What are the issues in District 4 you feel are most important?
Mark D. Black, R: Black believes aging and inadequate infrastructure, flood mitigation, public safety, community redevelopment, and business growth must be the focus in district 4.
Laurie Galle, R: The safety of all citizens is my largest concern. Not fearing that your home or car will be burglarized. Not fearing that your child or spouse will over dose or be assaulted. After graduating from the Sheriff's Department Citizens Law Enforcement Academy, listening to 2 years of funding requests and meeting with deputies the needs are clear. As I have talked to residence over the last year all agree more deputies. The funding must be found within the budget. Improving our community with better forward thinking, infrastructure and services is the next need. As redevelopment and infill takes place our patchwork systems must be upgraded also. New methods, technology and materials need to be integrated into our communities. During these processes the community must be kept in the loop to avoid frustration and anger. District Four has so many opportunities for employment, education and expansion. The time is now to start capitalizing on these opportunities. As a 30 plus year resident, volunteer and small businesses owner in District Four , I feel I am ready to advocate and facilitate these opportunities.
Melton H. Little, D: Broken or no sidewalks at all This is an issue that’s had no resolution for 50 years until recently. Thanks to the passing of the tax for infrastructure as well as other county funds, plans are in the works to complete sidewalks on Georgia Avenue, Case Avenue, Marilyn Avenue, Dartmouth Drive and Columbia Drive. In the works are plans to run sidewalks on Florida Boulevard from 26th Street to 34th Street and to put in sidewalks on Harvard Avenue. However there are many streets that still do not have sidewalks and there are no immediate plans to put them in! As the area has grown, roads that were originally “local” roads have now become thoroughfares. Florida Boulevard is heavily trafficked, It needs to be widened to 12 feet and bicycle lanes need to be installed. There needs to be traffic calming measures for Florida Boulevard as well as Columbia Drive and Harvard Avenue. These streets have now become throughways. Better street lights Street lights serve a multitude of purposes. They allow residents to walk after dark, reduce crime, help mark major intersection and as such attract new homeowners and increase property values. Drive South County at night and you’ll see just how poor the lighting is. Affordable housing This is an issue I’m currently in the process of investigating and determining a path for resolution. There appears to be a myth circulating that there isn’t any affordable housing when there actually is. Is the issue really centered around lack of financial assistance for low income families, a low inventory of affordable housing, the need to build or redevelop areas with adequate affordable housing or a combination of all of these factors? When I get to the bottom of this issue, I’ll post a paper with the details on my website - melton4manatee.com. Proper development with citizen input While I support the right of an individual to utilize their property as they desire, they must do so within the rules set out in the County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code. Developers must be held accountable and without exception. Equal in importance to this issue is allowing the community to be heard through the proper forum and channels. In a recent situation, Commissioners did not require a new public hearing for a proposed development after changes had been made to the plan. A lawsuit has been filed against Manatee County by interested parties. The suit alleges the county’s handling of the approval process was flawed and there were clear violations of due process. South County needs a meaningful park Lincoln Park is slated for a new pool, East Manatee gets a 33 acre tract dubbed “Braden River Preserve”, Premier Sports Campus was purchased for $5.2 million, $1,023,520 are being released for improvements on Anna Maria Island including bike paths, dog park improvements, bike racks and a kayak launch. While all of these efforts are worthy causes, South County remains grossly underserved. I already have a plan in place for a state of the art recreational park that will provide the residents of South County the facilities and amenities they need. The park that I am proposing will also be a draw for new families, businesses and sporting events.
Misty Servia, R: The most important issues to address in our district are quality of life concerns. These issues include: - traffic and flooding relief, - public safety matters, - economic redevelopment along our main corridors, - attracting jobs that provide a living wage, and - getting answers for our Bayshore residents on the pollution that has plagued the old high school site for decades. Please view my full plan at misty2018.com.
Q: District 4 is a center for redevelopment, but with it comes problems with stormwater and aging infrastructure. How do you plan to address this?
Mark D. Black, R: The Southwest Tax Increment Financing District, which encompasses much of district 4 is expected to have $10.6 million banked to reinvest in and encourage redevelopment in the district. I will ensure we spend our portion of that money wisely and start bringing district 4 into the 21st century Black said. Black states he will encourage multiuse development that creates space for new businesses and residential housing opportunities, while simultaneously updating and improving our infrastructure. Reducing square footage requirements and increasing density allowances affords consolidation of business, employment opportunities, and living space in one area. Which will decrease traffic, increase the tax base, and be attractive to investors. Also, it appears later this fall a storm-water-fee will be established and levied on property tax or utility bills to pay for storm-water retention projects. There is more work than money, with $17.9 million in unfunded drainage and related work in the proposed Public Works budget. Flood mitigation, storm-water design and upkeep must be a priority. I will ensure district 4 flooding and aging infrastructure issues are assessed, prioritized, and scheduled for service pending resources.
Laurie Galle, R: As redevelopment moves forward in District Four the voice of longtime neighborhoods and businesses must be heard. By being" in the room" for the last two years I have had the opportunity to listen. Communication is vital to all parties involved. One size does not fit all. By engaging residents early and often projects will move smoother. My field experience in the construction industry and knowledge of my local neighborhoods will help me as the link between the residence and government. As the CIP moves forward and space for new projects becomes available getting District Fours projects recognized and added will be constant responsibility. The FIF fees (Facility Improvement Fund) paid by developers when Lake Flores and Aqua by the Bay get started will help with much needed improvements.
Melton H. Little, D: Manatee County sits on nearly $5.8 million in SWTIF funding (projected to grow to over $10 million in 2019) designated for the improvement of South County and minimal action is taking place for District 4! Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a funding mechanism that dedicates ad valorem tax revenues that result from improved property values within a designated area over a prescribed period of time. This creates an incentive to work toward area improvements and allows a portion of tax revenues to be maintained for use within the area where the tax was paid. South County is full of vacant and declining retail centers. There are desperate needs such as updating deteriorating infrastructure, attracting new residents to the area and providing affordable housing. Additional needs include the creation of ample sidewalks, new or improved lighting for our streets and the ability to draw new small businesses to Southwest County. I will champion the effort to get funding released to address these needs for District 4.
Misty Servia, R: My focus will be to prioritize the needs for new infrastructure and identify the areas where public safety is in jeopardy. One of my top priorities is to repair or replace drainage pipes in the areas that experienced the terrible flooding with Hurricane Irma last year, and press the county and the SWFWMD to accelerate the current drainage study that is underway. Additionally, I will advocate for sidewalks, traffic calming measures, and lighting in our older neighborhoods to increase safety in those areas.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish if elected?
Mark D. Black, R: Black’s goals include budget accountability and more efficient use of resources. Relief for the traffic and congestion plaguing the county. Infrastructure upgrades and quality redevelopment in south county. Properly designed and maintained storm-water systems that mitigate flooding, protect property and provide peace of mind. Improved sheriff community relations and decreased crime in our neighborhoods. “I will ensure development is good for the county not just profits for developers.’’ “Accountable, accessible, and ethical I will work for the people.”
Laurie Galle, R: My goal as the next commissioner for district four is to work better with my fellow commissioners. As someone used to working with others towards common goals in a time restricted forum I have the experience needed. Being willing to listen and communicate is vital to the needs of District Four. Moving ideas from the plan stage to the action stage in an atmosphere of corporation.
Melton H. Little, D: To get proper action taken towards resolving the issues I have outlined. From planning, participating, budgeting and fostering organizational changes within the various groups I have worked with, I learned to build coalitions, the art of compromise, to stand firm when needed and to understand and include other’s opinions as part of the decision making process.
Misty Servia, R: As your commissioner, I will be regularly engaged with all District 4 neighborhoods to hear their concerns and work on solutions to problems plaguing our residents. I want to ensure their voices are heard. I will be laser-focused on bringing our fair share of the money to south county for improvements to our district. I will bring strong leadership and experience to the Board of County Commissioners with the goal of setting policies that will improve our community to make Manatee County the best it can be.
Q: Why are you the best candidate?
Mark D. Black, R: Black, states his business background, government experience, and recent education have prepared him to better serve the people and make sound decision on their behalf. He will bring fresh ideas, integrity, accountability, and transparency to local government. He is committed to serving the people, creating a community with a higher quality of life, good stewardship in managing the people’s business, and working to resolve our greatest challenges.
Laurie Galle, R: After owning a construction subcontracting company for 30 years I have learned to work with others towards a common goals. For the last 2 years I have committed myself to the preparation to be the next district four commissioner by attending almost all of the County Commission Meetings, Planning Commission Meetings, Land Use Meetings, Board Workshops, and various other inter governmental meetings. By being" in the room" I have seen and heard those situations not shown by the camera. I have learned and can hit the ground prepared on day one. I am familiar with projects in the works and on the drawing board. After 2 years of budget workshops being the only candidate present has given me a better understanding of the massive county budget. I am ready to take district four forward in the next four years.
Melton H. Little, D: I’m running for office because frankly, the state of indecision, failure to lead and inaction in South Manatee County is unacceptable. It is time that someone steps up to the plate, addresses the issues that hinder South County head on and get something done about them. I thought long and hard about the idea of running for a seat on the Commission before committing to the process – Will I have the time to do the job? I’m driven. I’ve worked since I was nine. I will always make the time. Am I qualified for the position? I’ve had years of leadership, team management and decision making. I believe I’m qualified. Can I get positive things done for South County? Without question.
Misty Servia, R: I am the best candidate for this job because I have worked in this community for 30 years on growth management issues. I clearly understand the perspectives of our local government, the business community, and our residents. My heart is devoted to Manatee County, as evidenced by my decades of community service, and my reputation as a hard-worker and a collaborator who brings people together. My experience as a project manager has given me excellent large budget management skills, and my strong fiscal accountability is evidenced by the way I have managed my family and business finances. When elected there is no learning curve; I will hit the ground running and fighting for south county.
COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 6
Q: What is your background (family, job, hobbies)?
: I was born in Sarasota in 1966 and have spent my entire life in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. As a kid I use to canoe and camp on the Peace River. I learned to waterski in the Manatee River and the Braden River. I still love to paddle but now use a kayak. I enjoy bicycling although more limited due to traffic.
: My wife Monica and I met while we were both on a missions trip to Peru and soon fell in love. We have four children ages 9, 8, 6, and 3. We are looking forward to our fifth child in October! We had the privilege of taking in our nephew from the time he was a teenager as well, so we are accustomed to having a crowd. I have worked as a minister for well over a decade, serving with Youth for Christ (3 years) and pastoring a church (4 years). In 2010, after the earthquake in Haiti, we focused our efforts for the next seven years on helping the people recover. We were able to help with food soon after the quake, plant churches and outreach centers for those living in tent camps, and serve children left as orphans after so many died. With four children at home I do not find much time for hobbies, but I enjoy horseback riding, the beach, and outings with the family.
: I have been a nurse since 1977. Still practice today as a nurse one day weekly when my schedule allows to keep informed of the ever-changing healthcare world. Married to Dr. Andre Renard who retired from surgery 4 years ago. Have 4 children between the both of us and 8 grandchildren. Hobbies are gardening, planting yearly crops in our earth boxes and being involved with senior & animal welfare.
Q: What are the issues in the county you feel are most important?
Candace M. Luther, NPA: I have a love of nature and wildlife, and the environment is very important to me. I am a dental hygienist, so I also love to work with people and have a desire to help them achieve not only optimal oral health, but overall health. This has given me much insight to the effects of drugs and pollutants on people's health, especially over intake of fluorides which result from phosphate mining within our watersheds. This has led to to a great interest in protecting our drinking water supply. Our water supply will not sustain the rapid growth we are currently experiencing, and corporations risk polluting the aquifer and the rivers where not only Manatee, but also Sarasota, DeSoto and Charlotte Counties obtain ther drinking water with waste contamination. Much of the public is not aware of these risks and it is an issue that cannot be ignored. Bayshore High School and Tallevast are good examples of what can happen when pollutants contaminate the aquifer and are consumed in well water. The hundreds of Bayshore, VoTech and MCC alumni and employees who were poisoned and have become sick, and the families of those who have died still haven't gotten answers after years of asking for help.
James A. Satcher, R: Also, I am committed to supporting our law enforcement officers and deputies who put their life on the line for this community. The disrespect towards law enforcement in this nation should not have a place in our county government. We must be willing and creative to help provide security for our school children. Rather than increasing the funds for security after the Parkland tragedy, some on the County Commission suggested decreasing what the county had done for years. I disagree with this proposal. My wife and I have already joined the battle against human trafficking and the opioid crisis locally, reaching out to trafficked and exploited women in our community and leading former addicts to freedom. We were also given the opportunity to have input with the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative before President Trump issued his executive order that empowered law enforcement and civil courts to fight human traffickers. Tax hikes hurt seniors and families. The current commission is already signaling a desire to raise the millage. I am making a commitment to our seniors and families to never vote to raise your taxes!
(Incumbent) Carol Whitmore, R: Most important issue over the entire county is the traffic congestion and growth. 10,000 citizens moved to manatee county last year, higher than was projected. Bridges, older intersections and older roads need repair and expansion. Sidewalks/lighting in the older neighborhoods are in plans to be built in areas that did not require these very important safety infrastructure projects years ago. We need to hold the state accountable and push to get our roads improved and new ones built.
Q: Climate change is not just affecting South Florida, but Manatee County as well. Looking toward the future, how do you plan to address this?
Candace M. Luther, NPA: Climate change is happening and although we may not be able to solve it on a local level, we can change how we respond to it's effects. The warming of sea waters is creating more intense storm events and sea level rise is creating more flooding associated with these storm events. Adequate drainage is a problem now in this county and during times of heavy rains because there is nowhere for the floodwaters to go. Cleaning out and/or enlarging existing drainage to improve the flow of storm waters is something that could help improve this. Another thing that could help with the aftermath and cleanup would be to have a county wide preparation trimming of trees and shrubs before the storms hit. This could help prevent downed power lines and blocked roads during and after a storm, and lessen the cleanup after a hurricane. Last year the evacuation plan was pretty much nonexistent. Our Public Safety Director's plan was to, "keep everyone posted," of what is happening. Really? How about making sure the citizens have adequate supplies and have adequate shelters ready? To keep increasing the population in coastal areas is only asking for a higher number of evacuees, more crowded roads with people trying to leave, and increased need for shelters. Not increasing this need in the first place would be the smart thing to do, but if they keep increasing the population density, Manatee, we are going to have a problem. Don't forget those of us with animals are not going to leave our beloved family members behind, so they better have a plan for them too. When I heard last year that you could only bring your dog if you had a crate I laughed. I have an 86lb greyhound who has a 56 inch kennel that I can't possibly take to a shelter. Good thing I have kayaks and life jackets for him and his sister in case my house floods and we have to get out. Perhaps the Convention Center could be used as a shelter, and perhaps they should ask for proof of residence in the county for at least one member of a group entering to avoid people trashing our county facilities. Maybe even designate people in an area to a particular shelter by voting precincts or something so they know who and how many might be coming. I am not in favor of rapid growth because I already know this is a nightmare waiting to happen.
James A. Satcher, R: The beauty of our beaches, waterways, and land make us the envy of much of the world. Their preservation is vital for our economy and our children. I am also in favor of preserving our historical monuments and standing up to outsiders with a political agenda.
(Incumbent) Carol Whitmore, R: Climate change is a fact whether you believe its related to human activity or not. Weather events are more extreme and violent all over the world. Our Comprehensive Plan is being rewritten as we speak with this in mind and the land development code will follow. County is looking at drainage, setbacks, new projects holding more water, clustering of developments, more open space to hold more water and improved drainage requirements to carry waters safely to the bays. Sea Grasses health have improved to that of in the 1950's thanks to code changes in the past that new developments must treat their run off before it leaves the property and the ban on certain fertilizers during rainy season. The the run off that does make it to the bays, has improved on quality with less nutrients proven with our current seagrass health.
Q: Growth in the county is a positive for economic development, but some residents feel it just brings overcrowding and more traffic. How would you promote smart growth for new and current residents?
Candace M. Luther, NPA: Growth is a big topic of conversation and concern these days. Obviously growth is going to happen and those who work in the construction industry rely on it for their livelihood. How it is done will make the difference between whether it is good or bad for the community. Moderation is key, just like many other things in life. The problem that has been occurring is with the amendments and exceptions to the comprehensive plan. Rezoning parcels from one home per acre to 3.5 or 4 homes per acre is too much increase in density to the existing infrastructure. Instead of an all or nothing approach, this needs to be done sensibly. If there needs to be an increase, why can't we meet in the middle with a compromise of say 2 or 2.5? Is doubling the profit not enough? Why must it be 3 and 4 times the original number stated in the comp plan? The county needs to have people working in planning that can properly evaluate the land surrounding these parcels to make sure there are no negative effects on the adjacent parcels such as flooding when they raise the height of the new parcel before building. When you have 25,000 new homes proposed, you also have to think about what will happen when you add 50,000 more cars to the roads. I bought my home 18 yrs ago off of a dead end street. It was quiet and I even use to see a Florida Panther running through the fields where a development now stands. I often wonder what happened to that panther or if anyone even cares. The dead end street is now a major road through town and I can't even make a left turn off of my own street anymore without waiting 5 minutes for a few second break and stomp on the gas and pray. There are more homes in the process of being built on this street as well. It is too much in too small of an area. The homes are approx 6 feet apart and are literally crammed in as tight as possible. I don't think this kind of increase in density is necessary, and I think it is just plain greed driving it. I just climbed through Rattlesnake Slough with one of my neighbors the other day to assess the drainage and there is all kinds of overgrowth of foliage in the creek that will cause a problem in a large storm event. He told me the county refuses to come clean it out and that they expect these many older retired residents to do it themselves. This is the main drainage canal for the entire area. This is ridiculous. Do we wait until after more homes have been flooded to assess the problem? There are empty strip malls all over town. Why not build condos on those properties? Probably because no one is interested in building affordable housing because they can't charge $350,000 each for those. Businesses won't thrive if workers can't afford to live here. Affordable doesn't have to mean the projects either. Many who live here make under $50,000/yr. Do you know how difficult it is to support a household on that? I do, and it's not easy.
James A. Satcher, R: Traffic sucks away our citizens' time, budget, and patience. A commitment to Smart Growth and infrastructure improvements instead of development driven sprawl is required to keep Manatee a great place for businesses and residents. We have to take this issue seriously and make a change if we want to see results.
(Incumbent) Carol Whitmore, R: Smart growth is looking outside the box and looking at current trends that tell us what most moving into the county want and what fits their life style. Trending for the last few years is small lots and smaller homes. We again are looking at clustering and ways to provide open space by higher density. Incentives to give those that want to live in these areas to the builder's thus reducing the buyer’s costs. The recent zero carbon footprint project approved on Cortez road across from Cortez fishing village is a prime example. I am just as concerned about how fast our growth has occurred but cannot put a gate at the entranceway to our county to stop those that want to live in this great county.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish if elected/re-elected?
Candace M. Luther, NPA: If I am elected, I intend to bring a voice back to the citizens who have been ignored for years. There are many who have gone before the BoCC, myself included, with concerns and suggestions only to be ignored and some even ridiculed by those who are elected to represent them. This is not how it is suppose to be. The only time many of them even pretend to listen is during an election year in hopes that the general population will think they care and re-elect them again. As soon as the election passes the disrespect returns. I have been trying to fight the animal cruelty issues in this county for years. Not only do they not address my concerns, they do everything they can to cover them up. I have applied for the Animal Services Advisory Board 3 times and never once was I even nominated. I would like to know why. Is it because I know too much? As a commissioner, I will be able to change that. I will listen to the people and research the issues and make decisions based on facts and the wishes of the people I will be representing. I don't care who pays who how many dollars to get what they want. The people of Manatee County have opinions that matter, and there isn't a price on how much someone's opinion counts. One corporation's wishes shouldn't destroy another citizen's land rights and livelihood. I am not wealthy. Does that mean my opinions don't matter? This needs to change. Pay for play needs to end.
James A. Satcher, R: Manatee County's people and beauty give us a tremendous competitive advantage for attracting the best employers in the world. I would like to see incentives to attract businesses and developments that address a need for the community. I am opposed to kickbacks and secret deals. I am in favor of creating a pro-business environment that does not play favorites.
(Incumbent) Carol Whitmore, R: Number 1 priority is to get a bridge over the Manatee River to move traffic safely and efficiently. Ft. Hammer Bridge is a perfect example how it has elevated traffic in the very north east part of the county. I will listen to the public and push FDOT and our legislators to get this project started and push the State to get other State road projects moving. Relationships with Tallahassee is very important so we can get in to speak to the decision makers and I have those relationships.
Q: Why are you the best candidate?
Candace M. Luther, NPA: I think I am the best candidate because I am a lifelong resident who has witnessed the history of this county and an average citizen who can look at things from all sides. I can understand how decisions are going to affect all people, especially the average person like myself. I cannot be bought off by special interests, I am one of the most honest and ethical people you will ever meet, and I have the citizens' best interest at heart. I want to keep this county that I call home a great place to live for all citizens, not just the elite who seem to be controlling everything now. We The People of Manatee County deserve better representation, and I want the chance to do that.
James A. Satcher, R: I hope to bring civility, compassion, vision, and common sense back to our County Commission. I am a Conservative Republican with an open ear to hear from the people and a strong voice to speak on their behalf. I hope Manatee County will vote James Satcher on August 28th.
(Incumbent) Carol Whitmore, R: Public service is about serving the public. I am able to work with fellow commissioners and all elected officials in our county. I bring a steady hand and have the attitude that I am in office to serve the public. I have been here when our unemployment was 12%, today it is 3.2% working 24/7 to get our citizens back to work by promoting businesses moving into Manatee County. I answer my own emails and return calls since in office so I can talk to you.