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Holmes Beach commissioner challenges for TDC seat

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

Two Holmes Beach commissioners are vying for a four-year term on the Manatee County Tourist Development Council.

        Commissioner Jean Peelen announced last week she is seeking the advisory board position currently held by fellow Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens, who has declared her interest in maintaining her seat.

        The TDC recommends how local tourist development tax dollars are spent. More than $1 million in February and nearly $7 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year were collected from the 5 percent resort tax on properties rented for six months or less in Manatee County.

        Peelen said she hopes to be appointed to the TDC so the Island can be better represented on the board, and to influence how tax dollars are spent.

        “I’ve been studying this,” she said, “and though people have been saying the Island can’t get money for infrastructure, I believe we can.”

        She favors Anna Maria Island being promoted as a year-round place to live, and that tourism be directed to Bradenton.

        “Anna Maria Island — it’s the place you want to live, raise children and retire,” Peelen said.

        Peelen said Haas-Martens is failing to bring back to her constituents what is happening at the TDC. Last week, Peelen actively sought support at meetings in the city of Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach.

        “I would like to ask you as a commission or as an individual commissioner to write the county commission to support my decision to be on the TDC,” Peelen said April 19 at the Bradenton Beach city meeting.

        Bradenton Beach Commissioner Gay Breuler recommended to the commissioners that they support Peelen in her effort to be appointed to the TDC, but no official action was taken. Similarly, at a city of Anna Maria meeting, Peelen said several commissioners supported her efforts but elected to take no formal action.

        On learning of Peelen’s interest in her seat, Haas-Martens said she had no comment, but added she is qualified to serve on the TDC and has held the seat since 2000 when she replaced the Palmetto mayor.

        Longboat Key Commissioner Hal Lenobel also has applied for the TDC position, according to Monica Luff, TDC administrative liaison. Lenobel is currently serving a 2012-14 term on the town commission.

        Applications close May 1. County commissioners are expected to select the new TDC member at their board meeting May 22, according to Luff.

        Historically, the 5 percent resort tax revenue collected on short-term rentals supports the activities of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau  — including the Manatee Convention Civic Center, Crosley Estate, and a host of publicity and marketing projects — in addition to beach renourishment projects on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.

        The council advises the Manatee County Board of Commissioners, and consists of nine county-based members; one county commissioner member who serves as chair; two elected municipal officials, one from the city of Bradenton and one from another city; four members who are hoteliers subject to the resort tax; and two tourist-industry members who are not subject to the resort tax.

        County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, former Holmes Beach mayor, is the current chair of the TDC.

        Haas-Martens, with a background in finance, banking and real estate, was first elected a city commissioner in 1998, and has since been re-elected to consecutive terms. As commissioner, she has served as chair, deputy mayor and currently serves as vice-chair and chair of a focus group. Her term on the city commission expires in November 2012, and she is seeking re-election.

        Peelen, a former attorney with the U.S. Department of Education, was first elected to a two-year term on the city commission in November 2011. Peelen currently serves as chair of a focus group and is the city liaison to the Anna Maria Island Community Center, Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs’ Communities for a Lifetime, Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and Manatee County Council of Governments.

        Lenobel ran unopposed for the town of Longboat Key commission at-large spot, and is a golf columnist for the Longboat Key Observer.

        Islander reporter Mark Young contributed to this report.

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