Politics & Government

Republican businessman Steve Jonsson announces bid for seat on Manatee County Commission

Steve Jonsson
Steve Jonsson

MANATEE -- A day after incumbent John Chappie dropped out of the Manatee County Commission District 3 race, Republican businessman Steve Jonsson filed for the seat Tuesday.

"I'm not a politician," Jonsson, 65, said. "I have never been. I've always been a businessman. I'm concerned with where Manatee County is going. I feel my voice is one that will be valued on the commission."

Jonsson said he was approached by people in the community after word got out Chappie was going to withdraw from the 2016 election.

"When he finally made his announcement (Monday), I said, 'OK, I might as well go ahead and jump in,'" said Jonsson, who lives in West Bradenton. "Maybe it's time for someone to get into it that could have a clear vision and a clean slate and not be beholden to different values and sort. I love Manatee County. I'd like to see it protected and that our quality of life will continue to be what it has been."

Chappie, first elected to

the commission in 2008, said he withdrew because "it's simply time to go in a different direction." Chappie declined further comment Tuesday.

Chappie, who has received $38,965 in election contributions to date, has 90 days to disperse of any funds he has remaining either by returning contributions to donors, making donations or repaying any loans he made to his campaign, according to the Supervisor of Elections Office.

The only other announced candidate for the District 3 seat, which represents West Bradenton and Anna Maria Island, is unaffiliated candidate Matthew Bower. Bower, who is a member of the Manatee County Planning Commission, is a financial adviser and former legal practice administrator.Jonsson, who has lived in Manatee County for 39 years, has had a 30-year banking career, which included serving as founder, president and CEO of Liberty National Bank. Prior to that, Jonsson co-founded Flagship National Bank in 1999, which was shuttered by federal and state regulators in October 2009.

"We ran a very successful bank for a number of years," Jonsson said Tuesday.

"It was a bad economic time back then and we got caught up with it. Nobody got hurt except for some investors and that's the risk you take when you invest in businesses."

Jonsson, who moved to Bradenton in 1977 after accepting a job an investment adviser at Merrill Lynch, is a real estate consultant for "a select group of local real estate investors."

With his business background, Jonsson said he knows how to run a budget.

"It's time to bring someone with real-world business experience and a strong conservative finance background to the dais," said Jonsson, a past member of the Mote Marine Laboratory Advisory Board and chairman of the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County.

If elected, Jonsson said he wants to preserve the quality of life in Manatee County. Protecting the coastlines and making sure growth pays for itself are among his other priorities.

"I think I would be a good steward of the county from a budgeting and planning standpoint," he said. "I want to see the coastal lines being protected because that's one of our biggest assets in Manatee County."

Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.

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