The city of Palmetto continues a remarkable string of civic improvements and economic development gains over the past few years, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. As a city commissioner since 1992, Brian Williams has dealt with both the good and bad times.
Seeking re-election on Nov. 4 to his Ward 3 post and currently serving as vice mayor, Williams has played a role in the city's resurgence. With the implementation of a new downtown core development plan after four years of work, this comprehensive strategy for the Community Redevelopment Agency holds greater promise for the city. Commissioners also serve as the board of directors for the CRA, and they deserve credit for pressing ahead with a more aggressive agenda than in the past.
Williams cites the CRA's success in securing grants for some major projects, including $1 million from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to expand and upgrade the popular Riverside Park boat launch. That project, currently under way, should bring more boaters and visitors to the city.
Across the street, the city owns the old Shell gas station property and adjacent acreage, prime riverfront land that should attract quality development. Next door at Riverside Plaza sits It Works Global, which relocated its headquarters to Palmetto in 2013 -- a coup for the city with a major new employer adding to the economy. Thanks to government incentives, the wellness and lifestyle company is hiring local vendors to serve its needs.
A hotel may be in the offing on vacant land next to the Bradenton Area Convention Center, a long sought asset and another coup. After recent major improvements, Sutton Park is becoming a destination and the site of large festivals. Williams plans to pursue additional public-private partnerships to spur the economy and growth, remove blight and rehabilitate neighborhoods. His plans include putting city-owned land back on the tax rolls through those partnerships and developing the old gas station plot into a welcoming gateway into Palmetto.
Williams' challengers in this election both espouse good ideas. Eric Gilbert chairs Palmetto's Planning and Zoning Board and touts his business background as vital to the commission. John Geeslin penned a pledge to voters that articulted his concerns about government accountability, transparency and accessibility, issuing a challenge to his fellow candidates to embrace the vow and he would endorse their campaign. Gilbert did just that, and Geeslin is abandoning his campaign in favor of Gilbert's.
Both Gilbert and Geeslin raise issues with a city proposal to build a new $15 million police station as does Williams, and a public debate should be held.
While we applaud their civic engagement and encourage a continuation, we see no reason for a change on the city commission as Palmetto's progress has been on a fast track under current leadership. The Herald recommends Brian Williams for Palmetto City Commission, Ward 3.
Candidates who do not receive the Herald Editorial Board's endorsement are invited to submit a response of up to 350 words by 4 p.m. the next weekday after the endorsement appears in print. Those can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 745-7047.