Retired county administrator Hunzeker starts campaign to unseat Baugh from commission

After working as the Manatee County administrator for more than a decade, Ed Hunzeker has filed for a seat on the Manatee County Commission.

Hunzeker, a Republican who retired from his longtime post in March after 12 years on the job, is setting his sights on the District 5 commission seat, a position currently held by GOP Commissioner Vanessa Baugh.

Hunzeker submitted the necessary paperwork on Monday, and Baugh said she planned to file for re-election in the near future. Both will face off in the Republican primary next August. The winner will advance to the general election.

“Hunzeker will bring his proven leadership skills, deeply rooted knowledge of Manatee County and conservative principles to the commission,” a news release said. “He is a strong supporter of President Trump and a defender of the Second Amendment.”

In an interview on Monday afternoon, Hunzeker said there was a connection between his past accomplishments and his priorities for the future. He wanted to ensure the completion of several projects, including the development of county offices, sports fields and a library in Lakewood Ranch.

The development will take place on 75 acres of land, north of the Premier Sports Campus.

“I was instrumental in getting the board to acquire Premier Sports and those 75 acres, in order to bring the county government to where the people are located,” he said.

He also prioritized the 44th Avenue East extension, and the search for a new location to replace the Lena Road Landfill, which is on track to meet capacity in the next 25 years.

When it comes to finances, Hunzeker said he hoped to curb tax increases and to instead rely on Manatee’s growing tax base.

“I managed the county through the recession without raising taxes,” he said.

In an interview on Monday afternoon, Baugh said she looked forward to competing with Hunzeker in the 2020 election.

“The voters in Manatee County, the residents in District 5, they all know me,” she said. “We have a good relationship. They know they can trust me, and I work very hard for them.”

Baugh was chairwoman of the commission in December 2016 when it voted 4-3, with Baugh in the majority, to not renew Hunzeker’s contract when it expired in January 2018, and to start a national search for a successor. But nine months later, in September 2017, the commission reversed course and extended his contract until January 2019.

The commission voted 6-0, with Baugh absent from that meeting.

Hunzeker retired in March, and was succeeded by Cheri Coryea.

In response to Hunzeker’s announcement, Baugh said, “I wish him the best and we’ll have a good time running.”