Bradenton Beach voters will witness the first contested city election since then-political newcomer Commissioner Jan Vosburgh defeated Michael Harrington in 2010.
Former Commissioner Bill Shearon announced his candidacy for mayor in May and incumbent Mayor John Shaughnessy confirmed July 22 he will seek a second term.
Shearon cited a lack of accountability and personal responsibility in the current administration as reasons for his candidacy and criticized the city for not following its procedures and policies.
Shaughnessy would not comment on Shearon’s opinions.
“We are friends and his opinions are his opinions,” said Shaughnessy. “I don’t run that kind of campaign. Everything is decided in November and that’s it. In the meantime, we all need to work together. We are doing what we think is right and hope for the best and, if not, we accept the responsibility.”
Shaughnessy is a former Ward 1 commissioner, who served six years on the dais before term limits forced him out of office in 2009. He took two years off before making a successful run for mayor when the incumbent mayor declined to run for the seat.
He’s led the city through some difficult financial times.
“We are doing the best we can with what we have to work with,” he said. “A lot of what we are dealing with is economy related and we’ve had a lot of grants cut, but you still have to keep the city alive. That means doing things that are unpopular sometimes, but they have to be done.”
Shaughnessy said he wants another term as mayor to address unfinished business.
“We accomplished a lot when I was a commissioner under John Chappie and that’s a standard I set as mayor to carry on,” he said. “We have a few projects going on that I would like to see finished. They are taking longer than anticipated, so I want to make sure that I see them through.”
Shaughnessy said he would like to see more of the city’s citizens involved with the local government process and intends to find a way to boost volunteerism for city boards in his second term.
He’s proud that he was able to work with Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti to resolve the 27th Street lawsuit between the cities and the Sandpiper Resort Co-op, while improving what had become a strained relationship under the prior Holmes Beach administration.
“Everything has turned out for the best so far and I think we are doing pretty good,” said Shaughnessy. “There are always bumps in the road and as soon as you get over one, there is another one not too far away. You just keep your head about you, surround yourself with good people and get as much information as possible before making a decision.”
Shaughnessy said one of his biggest assets as mayor is bringing a common sense approach to government.
A second former commissioner enters race
Bradenton Beach Ward 3 Commissioner Ric Gatehouse declared July 29 he will seek a term on the dais.
Gatehouse assumed office in February 2012 after former Ward 3 commissioner Janie Robertson termed out of office in November 2011 after six years on the dais.
The city first had trouble finding someone to the fill the vacancy, and controversy arose over Gatehouse’s appointment, but eventually city commissioners appointed him to the seat.
This is his first time running for election and he faces the very person whose seat he took — Robertson, who took out qualifying papers July 24.
“This isn’t something I’m dashing out there to do for something to do,” said Robertson. “It seems as if my desire to make things work as best they can is beyond my control and I can’t stay out of it anymore.”
Robertson said the current administration doesn’t listen well to the public.
“It doesn’t do any good to stand up before them and make a suggestion if you don’t have an official say,” she said. “There is a total lack of history on this board. Not one of them served the city before waltzing onto the board unopposed. They don’t understand that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they have a meeting.”
Robertson began service to the city on the comprehensive plan review committee in 2004 and held various volunteer board positions before serving as commissioner for six years.
“I know stuff and I know the history,” she said. “I think they need me up there for the combination of my history and my experience.”
Robertson said more fiscal responsibility is needed and the current administration struggles with basic procedures that could get the city in trouble.
“They need to think things through better than they do,” she said. “It’s a procedure thing that they don’t understand well enough how to do city business.”
While Robertson says her tie to the city’s past is an asset in her run for office, Gatehouse said it’s that kind of history from which the city is struggling to break free.
“People have to look at your record,” said Gatehouse. “The record of previous commissions includes giving up city authority to third parties.”
Gatehouse said examples what the city gave up include the old telecommunications ordinance, sanitation and an attempt to have the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office take over law enforcement from the city’s police department.
“I never think it’s good to have a third party dictating policy for the city and that’s one thing I never want to go back to,” he said. “I’ve seen some pretty questionable decisions made in the past.”
As an example, Gatehouse cited the purchase of Gulf Drive property by the city for $350,000 a few years ago. The purchase was the result of a long ongoing lawsuit between the city and its owner and was paid for out of the city’s reserve fund.
“There’s not a lot we can do with that,” said Gatehouse. “So we are looking at making it a sea turtle and native plant educational park.”
Gatehouse said he hopes to conclude unfinished business.
“We’ve made some strides in the last two years in looking at things from a common sense perspective,” he said. “We look at our decisions with an eye on long-term ramifications and that’s something that has been lacking in prior commissions.”
Gatehouse said the current commission has done a good job with the budget. In this year’s budget, Gatehouse led the effort to ensure infrastructure projects were prioritized and budgeted for the first time in years, “and we got them done.”
If successful in his election bid, Gatehouse said one of his priorities is parking. He is putting together a plan to address the matter and hopes to present it to the commission later this year.
Gatehouse said he wants to continue his service to the city, “because I think we are moving in the right direction. I want to be the kind of commissioner that is no nonsense but has common sense.”
Woodland, Aubry seek re-election
Two of the three Anna Maria commissioners up for re-election in November are committed to staying on the job, while a third commissioner is not ready to announce his decision.
Incumbents Dale Woodland and Gene Aubry have announced their intention to seek another term and have obtained qualifying packets. Commissioner Doug Copeland, who was appointed to fill a vacant seat in June, said he will announce his decision during the qualifying period.
Anna Maria’s qualifying period is noon Monday, Aug. 19, to noon Friday, Aug. 30.
The only other announced candidate is Carol Carter, a member of the city’s planning and zoning board.
Potential candidates can pick up qualifying papers at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, or at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office at 600 U.S. 301 Blvd., Bradenton.
Woodland is seeking a sixth term in office, while Aubry, who was appointed to the commission in 2012, is running for a full term for the first time. He became a commissioner after SueLynn, then a commissioner, stepped up to fill the mayor’s post, creating a commission vacancy.
Aubry previously served as a commissioner from September 2010 to November 2011. He was elected a commissioner in the first-ever Manatee County recall election and defeated then-Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus in a special recall election.
Copeland was voted a seat by commissioners in June after John Quam resigned from the commission.
In the 2012 election, no one ran for mayor, resulting in a series of commission debates before SueLynn was elected commission chair and automatically took the office of mayor.
She previously served as mayor from 2002-06.
Holmes Beach election wide open
Holmes Beach incumbent Commissioners David Zaccagnino, Jean Peelen and Pat Morton are all up for re-election in November.
All three officials have told The Islander they intend to seek retention, but as the qualifying period inches closer, none have taken the steps necessary at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office.
And, thus far, no challengers have come forward.
For more information on qualifying to run for office in the three city elections, go online at www.islander.org.
According to the Manatee County SOE’s website, candidacy may be announced at any time, but the SOE office, 600 301 Blvd. W., Suite 108, Bradenton, said candidate qualifying packets will not be delivered to the island cities until August.
A prospective candidate must first file a form to appoint a campaign treasurer and designate a campaign depository — a bank account — with the SOE before contributions can be accepted or funds are spent.
The candidate then must file a statement of candidate form within 10 days of filing the treasurer and bank designation forms.
Candidates can file early by obtaining a qualifying packet at the SOE office.
Candidate qualifying in the three island cities begins with Anna Maria on Aug. 19. Qualifying for Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach begins Aug. 26. All three cities wrap up at noon Aug. 30. The city elections are non-partisan and all seats are for two-year terms.
In Anna Maria, a candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a registered voter in Manatee County and a resident of the city for two years prior to qualifying. The candidate must file a loyalty oath, oath of candidate, a statement of financial interests and a residency affidavit for both the candidate and his/her treasurer.
The candidate must pay a qualifying fee equal to 1 percent of the annual salary for the office sought — $96 for mayor, $48 for commission seat — and obtain 10 petition signatures of voters residing in the city.
Qualifying packets are expected to be available at each city hall at the time qualifying begins.
In Bradenton Beach, a candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a registered voter in Manatee County in the ward for which he/she qualifies and a resident of the city for nine months prior to qualifying. The candidate must file a loyalty oath, oath of candidate, a statement of financial interests and a residency affidavit, as well as 10 resident affidavits attesting to the candidate’s residency.
The candidate must pay qualifying fee equal to 1 percent of the annual salary for the office sought — $96 for mayor, $48 for commission seat — and obtain 10 petition signatures of voters residing in the city.
In Holmes Beach, a candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a registered voter in Manatee County and a resident of the city for two years prior to qualifying. The candidate must file a loyalty oath, oath of candidate, a statement of financial interests and a residency affidavit.
The candidate must pay a qualifying fee equal to 1 percent of the annual salary for the office sought —$60 for a commission seat and $120 for mayor, although the mayor’s seat does not expire until 2014 — and obtain 15 petition signatures of voters residing in the city.
Candidates in all three cites can opt to file an undue burden oath, which eliminates the election assessment fee if all other requirements are met.
Challengers line up for Bradenton Beach election