Politics & Government

Whitmore, Servia, Bellamy win seats on Manatee County Commission

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore thanks her voters for a convincing victory

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore thanks her voters for a convincing win in Tuesday's general election.
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Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore thanks her voters for a convincing win in Tuesday's general election.

Manatee County voters Tuesday elected two new members for the county commission — Misty Servia and Reggie Bellamy — and re-elected Carol Whitmore, the longest-serving member of the board.

In District 2, Bellamy will take over from Charles Smith, who he beat in the Democrtic primary in August. On Tuesday, he received 10,438 votes, or 58.2 percent of the vote, to defeat Republican Dimitrie Denis.

While Denis declared for the race more than two years ago, Bellamy decided to run just days after Smith claimed he was being stretched too thin and wasn’t properly fighting for funding at the Palmetto Youth Center, where he serves as executive director.

The Army veteran is well-known in the community and also works as the head boy’s basketball coach at Palmetto High and a dean at Buffalo Creek Middle School. Now, he’ll add county commissioner to his list of titles.

Bellamy raised about $33,000 and spent $16,000 in his bid to become District 2’s next commissioner. In contrast, Denis raised about $9,000 and spent nearly every dollar of it, including more than $2,000 in the final two weeks before Election Day. Bellamy spent $5,000 in that same period.

Denis and Bellamy could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday night.

District 2 covers neighborhoods in Palmetto, Ellenton and Bradenton.

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After a fierce battle in District 4, Republican Misty Servia edged out her Democrat opponent, Melton Little, with 52 percent of the vote. Servia will take the place of Commissioner Robin DiSabatino, who decided not to run for re-election to the board.

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Misty Servia before the start of a debate in this file photo. gjefferies@bradenton.com

Both candidates fired shots at one another as Election Day drew near. Little claimed Servia was being bought out by special interest groups looking to “buy a spot” on the board, while Servia pointed to an ethics investigation that revolved around Little giving tickets to a judge presiding over one of his cases.

Melton Little, a Democrats running for the District 4 commission seat, deflected a question from the audience about the ethics investigation surrounding his Palmetto-based law firm. His Republican opponent, Misty Servia, called it a huge deal.

Servia has been a community planner in the area for more than 30 years and says she wants to increase funding for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office in her district, tap into the money the county keeps in its reserves and create a “Citizens Growth Oversight Committee.”

The Republican said she’s looking forward to working with constituents and her fellow commissioners.

“I am filled with gratitude and excited to serve the people of District 4 and the county,” said Servia. “It doesn’t matter to me if you’re Republican, Democrat, independent or any other party because we are all people in this community and we need to all work together to maintain and improve our quality of life, and that I what I hope to foster.”

Servia brought in more money than Little did, with $122,000 in campaign donations. She spent $86,000 in her battle against the Palmetto-based lawyer. Little raised $96,000 and spent $67,000.

Little could not immediately be reached for comment.

District 4 covers a southern quadrant of Manatee County from Cortez Road and 34th St. W. to University Parkway and Lockwood Ridge Road.

In the county’s District 6 at-large race, voters were confident that Republican Carol Whitmore, 63, should serve a fourth term after decidedly beating the 51-year-old Independent Candace Luther.

With all of the precincts reporting, Whitmore cruised to victory with 63.37 percent, or 96,606 votes to Luther’s 36.63 percent, or 55,845 votes.

“I’m very happy and very excited and now I’m on a mission,” Whitmore said after the election. “Part of that mission is to help bring unity back to the board so we can all work together to get these major projects done.”

Whitmore said she has four goals in her next four-year term and the biggest one is working with committed partners to raise $7 million to build a new county animal shelter. Secondly, she plans to push the Florida Department of Transportation to speed up its environmental study on a proposed third bridge over the Manatee River.

Currently the study is scheduled to begin until 2023, but Whitmore said that is unacceptable and wants FDOT to push forward by 2019. Whitmore also wants the county to expedite its purchase of Piney Point, which she said is “an environmental disaster waiting to happen.”

If financial contributions play a factor in determining an outcome, the race was never close as Whitmore raised more than $100,000 to Luther’s $5,000. Luther said in October, “If we beat her with the amount of money we’ve raised, it’ll be the greatest grassroots win ever.”

But that didn’t happen. Luther has tried to run against Whitmore before one other time, but dropped out ahead of the primaries as a Republican.

Luther did not immediately return a call on Tuesday night.

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