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Mayor’s ‘spouse’ stirs up Bradenton Beach commission race

By Merab-Michal Favorite

Islander Reporter

If you ask Tjet Martin why she’s running for elected office, you get a quick response: “I want to stir things up a bit.”

The 52-year-old Chicago-area native did just that when she picked up a candidate registration packet from the Bradenton Beach city clerk’s office May 30.

Martin, who resides in Ward 4, plans to run for the commission seat held by incumbent Commissioner Jan Vosburgh.

However, Martin is no ordinary candidate. She and her longtime life-partner, sometimes referred to as her “spousal equivalent,” Bill Shearon, own, operate and reside at Linger Longer, 302 Gulf Drive, a vacation rental property on the Gulf of Mexico.

Did we mention Shearon also happens be the mayor of Bradenton Beach?

“Everyone has been asking, ‘What about Sunshine?’” Martin said, referring to Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws, which  prohibit officials from discussing matters that may come before them for a vote. “The truth is, we have better things to talk about.”

Because the mayor serves as part of the commission and votes on matters, if Martin is elected, it would be illegal for them to discuss city topics with each other and other members of the commission in any setting other than a public forum.

Scott Farrington, assistant supervisor of elections for Manatee County, said there is nothing in the election laws that would prevent Martin from running for the commission seat.

“We can only speak for the election laws,” he said. “Obviously there are ethical concerns in this situation, but there is nothing we can do to prevent her from registering.”

Martin said residents should not be concerned that the mayor would play favorites if she wins the commission seat.

“Anyone who knows us knows that we are very different people with very different viewpoints,” she said. “We both feel strongly about our own opinions and they differ greatly.”

Martin may yet have another conflict of interest.

She and former planning and zoning board member Jo Ann Meilner are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the city in 2012. The suit challenges the city’s approval of an agreement with ELRA Inc., allowing construction of a parking lot on a vacant parcel south of the BeacHhouse Restaurant.

The lawsuit originally was filed with Shearon as a complainant, and he also was a P&Z board member when the ELRA agreement was approved. He withdrew from the lawsuit after winning the mayor’s seat in the November 2013 municipal election.

Martin said if she wins, she also would withdraw from the lawsuit and recuse herself from any related agenda items.

“If I don’t win, I’m not going to withdraw,” she said. “ELRA is a bully, and I don’t tolerate bullies.”

Martin said she hopes her decision to run will prompt others to step up for public service.

“This city needs a healthy election,” she said. “Someone needs to run against the incumbent commissioners. They shouldn’t just win by default.

The Ward 2 commission seat term also is up in November. Incumbent Commissioner Ed Straight has indicated he will seek re-election to a third term, but so far has no challenger.

Both Straight and Vosburgh ran unopposed in 2012.

Martin accused the current commission of trying to micromanage the city. She said given the opportunity, she would trust city employees to do their jobs.

She also would like to see the city budget back in the black, after a recent audit determined the city spent more than it had taken in.

Martin has called Bradenton Beach home for the past 11 years.

She was one of eight children raised by factory workers in North Chicago.

She said she realized she was good at building things early on.

Her mechanical talents earned her a job manufacturing machinery in an Illinois factory, a career she says she greatly enjoyed. However, it was cut short by a work-related injury.

Martin was a server at a German restaurant when she met Shearon.

“He was a regular and basically swept me off my feet,” she said.

The couple became “snowbird cruisers,” living on a boat in Illinois during the summer and sailing to Longboat Key for the winter months.

Eventually, they took root in Bradenton Beach and have lived there since.

Martin currently serves on the Bradenton Beach Scenic Waves Committee.

Residents have until June 20 to register to run for office.

Candidate packets are available at the city clerk’s office at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N., or at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, 600 301 Blvd. W., Bradenton.

Applicants are required to have established residency within the city for 90 days and be registered to vote in the ward for which they qualify.

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.

 

Possible candidates pop up in Anna Maria

By Rick Catlin

Islander Reporter

      The November elections in Anna Maria for two commission seats and that of the mayor may not be won by default.

Two residents, Dan Murphy and Tom Berenson, recently picked up election packets at city hall. However, city clerk Diane Percycoe emphasized that anyone can pick up a packet, even for someone else.

As of noon Friday, May 30, only incumbent Commissioner Nancy Yetter had announced she would seek re-election. Yetter has qualified for the Nov. 4 election, according to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections website.

Incumbent Commissioner Chuck Webb continues to say he is a “definite maybe” to seek another term, while Mayor SueLynn said she will announce her decision before June 9.

The city’s qualifying period to be on the ballot is noon June 9 to noon June 20. Election packets are available at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, or at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, 600 301 Blvd., No. 108, Bradenton.

A candidate must be a registered voter and verify two years of residency in the city.

Anna Maria candidates election fees and qualifying papers must be submitted to the SOE office, not city hall, Percycoe said.

The qualifying fee to run for mayor is $96, while to seek a commission seat the fee is $48. Forms to waive the qualifying fee as a financial hardship also are available at the SOE office.

Anna Maria commissioners are paid $4,800 annually, while the mayor receives $9,600 in annual compensation for the job.

 

Zaccagnino to resign commission post-election

By Jennifer Glenfield

Islander Reporter

      Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino put his cards on the table.

He announced he would run for mayor in the middle of his two-year term as commissioner, but held his cards on a replacement. It was his choice whether his replacement would be named by election or appointment by the remaining commissioners.

He formally submitted his resignation letter to the city clerk at Holmes Beach City Hall May 29, stating his resignation would be effective following the organizational meeting after the November election.

Zaccagnino’s post-election resignation means his vacant seat on the commission will be filled by appointment of two newly elected commissioners and two incumbents, commissioners Jean Peelen and Pat Morton.

In addition to the mayoral post, the terms of Commission Chair Judy Titsworth and Commissioner Marvin Grossman are up in November.

Grossman has announced he will run for re-election.

Titsworth said she’s unsure whether she will run for mayor or commissioner, and is waiting to make her announcement to see if someone qualifies to oppose Zaccagnino in the mayoral race. Incumbent Mayor Carmel Monti has said he will not seek re-election.

Keeping another hand of cards in play, Zaccagnino picked up two candidate packets at city hall. One packet, he said, was for himself, and the other for someone interested in running for office but not ready to announce his or her candidacy.

However, he did say the person is someone voters know.

“There are a couple people interested,” said Zaccagnino, adding, “People ask me for advice before they run for office.”

Candidate packets are available at city hall and must be submitted to the city clerk during the qualifying period, which opens at noon June 16 and closes at noon June 20.

Prospective candidates must fill out a statement of candidacy, declaring the position for which they are running, collect signatures from at least 15 registered voters in the city of Holmes Beach and open a campaign account with an assigned treasurer.

Prospective candidates also must complete a candidate’s oath of office and verify two years of residency.

Candidates also must pay a qualifying fee which is equal to 10 percent of the income of the office sought. Running for mayor comes with a $120 qualifying fee, and commissioners $64.

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