Four candidates vie for two seats on Manatee County Mosquito Control board

MANATEE -- Two seats on the three-memeber Manatee County Mosquito Control District board are on the ballot Tuesday.

Incumbent Ralph Garrison will face John Howell for the Group 1 seat.

Harrison Sherwin is challenging incumbent Tim Matthews for the Group 3 seat.

The board manages the special taxing district, with a $3 million budget to keep the mosquito population in check throughout Manatee County.

Each board member earns $400 a month and serves a four-year term.

The county mosquito control district was established in 1947 to help combat the potentially malaria-bearing insects.

Group 1

Garrison has served on the mosquito control board for 36 years.

"I first took the office as a civic duty," Garrison said, "but the more I got involved, I witnessed the evolution of mosquito control."

He said through the years he served on the board, the district has become one of the best in the country, striving to be on the cutting edge of technology.

Garrison said his experience on the board and being the owner of a local business, Suncoast Nursery, for 37 years has qualified him to continue to serve on the board.

"I'm a fiscal conservative and don't like to see the taxpayer's money wasted," he said. "The millage rate is lower than 16 years ago."

If re-elected. Garrison said he would continue the education program in schools, and would like to emphasize consumer awareness.

"Homeowners need to know they have to dump water from anything that holds water in their backyards," he said.

Howell said his background in mathematics, science and engineering gives him the qualifications to serve on the board.

"I'm equipped to understand the medical implications of mosquito control," Howell said.

He said with the threat of the mosquito-born disease chikungunya the board must be more knowledgeable.

"I believe I will be an asset to the board," said the retired professor at the Medical College of Virginia, "and can give good directions" to the district staff.

With a doctorate in biological mathematics, Howell said he is familiar with the scientific terminology and would understand the issues better.

Also, serving as an officer in the U.S. Air Force has given him the administrative experience he would need to work on budgets and serve on the board, he said.

"I want to serve the people of Manatee County," Howell said, "and feel I can do a much better job."

Group 3

Matthews said he wanted to continue on the work he has done over the 32 years he has served on the board.

"We've kept the taxes low while becoming the best mosquito-control district in the world," Matthews said.

He said he has worked on 24 budgets and the millage rate is less than it was two decades ago.

"We have a state-of-the-art lab and do a lot of research," the Palmetto police officer said. "The mosquitoes become resistant to the chemicals and we have to keep testing."

Preparing for future growth will be one of the issues Matthews will work on if he is re-elected.

"Also, I'll work to keep the taxes low and continue to build the best mosquito control district," he said.

Political newcomer Sherwin said he wanted to serve on the board because he wanted to see where improvements can be made in the administrative technology areas.

"I can offer the board new life and new technologies in operation of the budget," Sherwin said.

For example, he said the district's web site can use an upgrade.

"I couldn't even find the dates for the board meetings on the web site," said the technology trainer at Clare Control

Sherwin said he works with software and hardware everyday and this knowledge could help the district.

As a student at New College, he said he served on 13 committees working on million-dollar budgets and legislative initiatives.

"This has given me administrative skills," Sherwin said. "I don't want to just show up for the board meetings. I want to offer my skills in technological effectiveness."

But he said he would not go into the position to try to shake things up. Sherwin said he would learn all about the district and offer his advice.

"I want to give back to the community," he said.