Politics & Government

Former Bradenton police deputy chief Warren Merriman files to run for mayor

BRADENTON -- Former Bradenton police deputy chief Warren Merriman, convicted last week of a theft charge, has filed to run for mayor of Bradenton.

"I believe that Bradenton needs change. You have a mayor in office now for 16 years," Merriman said when reached by phone Tuesday evening. "He's done his job. He's done his time and it's time for a new vision and new voice for the city of Bradenton."

Last week, the 44-year-old Merriman was ordered to serve three months probation after being found guilty of one count of petit theft for submitting hours he did not work during an off-duty detail at McKechnie Field, but had a subordinate cover so he could go to a tennis match. Merriman was sentenced by Senior Circuit Judge Lee Haworth in a non-jury trial, which closed a saga begun in September 2014 when allegations against the 17-year Bradenton police veteran became public.

Merriman maintained his innocence throughout but was fired from the department in January 2015.

So far, Merriman is running against incumbent Mayor Wayne Poston and Eleuterio Salazar Jr., a Bradenton community organizer.

Poston did not immediately return calls for comment.

Merriman's wife, Devon Carr Davis, a real estate agent, is running for the Ward I seat on Bradenton City Council against incumbent Gene Gallo and Tamara K. Goudy, a local business owner.

Merriman said he's drafted a quality of life strategic plan for the city of Bradenton that encompasses public safety, traffic concerns, and making sound development decisions for the city.

He told the Herald he considers himself the people's choice.

"That's my motto: I'm the people's choice for mayor," Merriman said. "In the last few months, I can't tell you, there wasn't a day that passed when I wasn't in a local restaurant or coffee shop or just walking through Bradenton when someone didn't say: 'Warren, please run for mayor.' That resonated with me and that came into my decision-making."

Merriman's campaign treasurer and friend, Jeffrey Woodin, said the city of Bradenton needs "fresh blood."

"I support Warren 100 percent," he said, adding he supported Merriman during the Bradenton Police Department investigation. "Warren's been a dear friend of mine for many years."

Asked if he would address any areas of the Bradenton Police Department if elected, Merriman said he would like to see the agency reaccredited. He also brought up newly sworn-in Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan.

"I've spoken to her personally in the past and I really look forward to seeing what she's going to do for the city of Bradenton," he said. "I support her in that position and I look forward to seeing the results she's going to bring."

Merriman said he's always been involved in politics.

"When one door shuts, a new door opens," he said. "And that's why I filed."

Election Day is Nov. 8.

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

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