BRADENTON -- Saying he has unfinished business and plenty of energy and enthusiasm still for the job, Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston announced Tuesday he will run for re-election to a fifth term.
"We've made a lot of progress since 2000," said Poston, 71. "Not being critical of anyone, but the former mayor used to say that Bradenton rolled up the sidewalks at 5 p.m. We were the financial center of Manatee County, and that's it. I think we are a lot more than that."
Since being elected in 2000, Poston said the city has experienced unprecedented success under his leadership. Among the accomplishments, he said, are the Riverwalk, the downtown Hampton Inn & Suites, the turnaround of the Village of the Arts, the Bradenton Area River Regatta and negotiations in 2004 to keep the Pittsburgh Pirates' spring training in the city.
"We also worked with the Manatee Players to get them into a new facility, are working with the South Florida Museum for a major expansion project, just announced a new downtown hotel that's coming, have attracted new downtown businesses and have even more that I can't talk about yet that will bring even more jobs into the city," he touted.
Poston said the city is heading in the right direction, but more work is ahead.
"We did a great job getting the city through the economic downturn," he said. "We were still able to move forward with projects like Riverwalk through smart spending, and my goal through all of that was to make sure that no one in Bradenton felt like the city was getting behind. I think we did that, but it's important to say that even though the economy is turning around, we aren't there yet and we need continued fiscally conservative leadership."
Poston said his energy levels and enthusiasm for the job are the same as when he first took office 16 years ago.
"We've accomplished a lot but I have unfinished business," he said. "I made a list of 27 major things I wanted to get done when I first took office and we've finished 24 of them. I'm not going to say what the rest are right now until they are done."
While the city has undergone transformation under Poston's leadership, he said the biggest challenge to overcome in his next term is dealing with homelessness. There, too, Poston said progress has been made with organizations like the Bill Galvano One Stop Center.
"There are two types of homelessness in Bradenton, and one of them we've done a good job with is the temporary homeless where there is a system in place for them to get help," he said. "But the other part of it is the lack of mental health treatment, and that's a really difficult challenge to overcome when there is a lack of state and federal dollars coming in to address that problem."
Poston said over the past 16 years of his leadership, Bradenton has become a destination point.
"We've put Bradenton on the map, and it all goes back to that key negotiation with the Pirates in 2004 that has made such a big difference," he said. "The Pirates spend over $400,000 a year in marketing Bradenton and put $6.5 million of their own money into McKechnie Field improvements with more expansion and improvements coming. What Major League Baseball team does that? It's been a great partnership and even the regatta is tied into that partnership because without the Pirates, we wouldn't even know all these Pittsburgh folks who have brought the regatta here. That was a key turning point for the city."
So far, Poston is being challenged in the November election by political newcomer Eleuterio "Junior" Salazar.
Salazar, 28, the founder of the Multicultural Manateens, Multicultural Council and Manateen Multicultural Council, said he filed to run for mayor because he believes "it's time for a change."
He received the President's Volunteer Service Award from former President George W. Bush at the White House in 2005 and remains the youngest person to have received the award.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.