Keenan Wooten announces bid for Bradenton City Council seat

With still more than a year to go before the election, a race for the Ward 5 seat on the Bradenton City Council has emerged already with two candidates.

Friday, Bradenton native Keenan Wooten announced his intention to run for the seat.

“I’m also eager, more ready to be engaged and open to new ideas, and more able to give new energy to serve in this city,”

Wooten, 38, previously ran for the seat in 2016, losing to Councilman Harold Byrd Jr.. Byrd, who has held the seat since 2007, is not running for re-election in 2020.

The other announced candidate for the seat is Eleuterio “Junior” Salazar Jr., a former candidate for mayor.

Ward 5 extends from downtown Bradenton to the Braden River, taking in large sections of East Bradenton south of Manatee Avenue. and neighborhoods south of downtown between First and NInth streets.

Wooten said he wants to see smart growth and infrastructure plans for the future while maintaining Bradenton’s unique qualities, changes he said will help relieve traffic congestion and encourage economic development, affordable housing and community policing.

He emphasized having the city use vacant and under-used properties and promised to get Ward 5 a grocery store, that he said has been promised for decades.

Wooten also looks to advocate at the state level for funding to help the community tackle red tide and other algae blooms to protect local waters and tourism business.

A Southeast High School graduate born and raised in Ward 5, Wooten also holds a master’s degree in adult education from University of South Florida and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Florida A&M University. He now works as the student support specialist and athletic director at Electa Arcotte Lee Magnet Middle School.

“I work in a profession that is all about leading our younger generation to a brighter future. I believe that I can bridge the gap between the generations and I plan do that,” Wooten said.

His family has been in in Ward 5 for generations, he said, including his ancestor Solomon Williams, the first black locomotive engineer in Florida. The locomotive he worked on, “Old Cabbage” is on display at the Historical Village of Manatee County and was the backdrop for Wooten’s announcement Friday.

“I believe there is no one who understands the people of this ward more than me. And earning support throughout the city, not just Ward 5, is also really important to me,” Wooten said.

Wooten also touts receiving several awards including Visible Men Academy Impact award and NAACP Manatee County Branch Community Service award for his regular community service. He also regularly attends St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, where he holds a leadership role for the the youth usher program.

“As someone who lives in Ward 5, who goes to church in Ward 5 and works in Ward 5 I’m thrilled that someone is announcing their candidacy who lives in Ward 5. As ridiculous as that sounds I think that’s important,” said Sherod Haliburton, CEO of Manatee Community Federal Credit Union at Friday’s announcement.

Wooten will face Eleuterio “Junior” Salazar Jr. in the November 2020 election. Salazar announced his campaign in July, noting he wants the community to take ownership and become more involved with local government. He also previously ran for mayor of Bradenton.

Salazar said he would start moving into Ward 5 after he announced his candidacy.

Controversy surrounded Salazar after offensive social media posts from now-deleted accounts using his name came to light. Salazar acknowledged the posts and said they were made by someone else. He continues to campaign for the seat on the city council.