Politics & Government

Bradenton Beach elections: Incumbent Commissioner Jan Vosburgh to go head-to-head with local resident Tjet Martin

BRADENTON BEACH -- Bradenton Beach residents have a decision to make come Nov. 4 in Ward 4: Incumbent Commissioner Jan Vosburgh is up against Tjet Martin, a local resident and Mayor William Shearon's longtime girlfriend.

Ward 2 Commissioner Edward Straight is running unopposed.

The race between the women in Ward 4 comes as the commission considers whether to remove Shearon from office. Vice Mayor Jack Clarke wrote a complaint about Shearon, accusing the mayor of failures including city staffing issues, mismanagement of the replacement of city computer systems and lack of transparency.

During a special meeting on Oct. 6, commissioners heard from many residents who spoke both for and against setting a process to remove the mayor from his position.

"I think the big thing is to make sure the city goes forward. As far as I'm concerned -- in the last year -- it seems like we didn't move forward at all," said Vosburgh, who has said that the mayor has both an anger and bullying problem. "We just talked about stuff that happened in the past and I don't think that's good, either. You have to forget about what happened in the past and move forward."

If re-elected, Vosburgh said she'd like to improve the morale among city employees, a task she said she's already begun working on.

"I always say unhappy employees are unproductive employees and we have a lot of unhappy employees in the city," she said.

Vosburgh said she has proven leadership qualities.

"It takes a while to learn that job," she said. "You just don't learn that job overnight."

If elected, Martin said she'd like to work to improve the technology used in Bradenton Beach City Hall, which she describes as antiquated.

"The technology is very backwards," Martin said, adding that the city's parking tickets look like they're from the 1930s. "It will make everybody's jobs a lot easier if we have up-to-date technology."

For Martin, another reason she decided to run for public office was because she said she saw a few commissioners discuss city business outside of commission meetings, and she didn't like it.

"And that's part of the reason I've requested public records. ... I've gathered public records from both of them," Martin said, in reference to Clarke and Vosburgh.

Martin also responded to criticism that her running for office would present a conflict of interest because of her relationship with Shearon. When she decided to run for public office, Martin said, she called the supervisor of elections office to inquire about whether this was allowed.

"There is no state law that says two people that live together, two brothers, two sisters, two spouses, a girlfriend and boyfriend ... there is no state law against what I'm doing," she said.

Vosburgh declined to comment on Martin's relationship with Shearon.

Martin addressed the issues surrounding Shearon.

"I think that Bill Shearon is bringing forth transparency to this city. He's letting everyone know right up front what's going on and it's just smashed him right over the head," she said. "All the other mayors let the staff run the city and Bill's trying to run it and some of the staff don't like it. They just want to do what they've been doing for years, whether or not it's right or wrong. ... I think there has to be a unity down there that's not right now. It's not very pretty down there right now."

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.