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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

City manager, government change to be on August ballot in Bradenton Beach

Voters will decide Aug. 31 whether or not to change the form of government in Bradenton Beach to include a city manager.

City commissioners last week unanimously agreed to ask City Attorney Ralf Brookes to draft language that will change the city's charter to become a commission-manager government.

"The system just doesn't work the way it is," said Mayor John Chappie.

Bradenton Beach currently has a "weak-mayor" form of government, where the mayor serves as the de facto administrator in the city but has an equal vote as a commissioner in policy matters.

The city manager form of government, as Longboat Key Town Manager Bruce St. Denis explained to Bradenton Beach commissioners, allows for professional management of the city.

The city manager proposal was floated in Bradenton Beach several years ago but was dropped due to high projected costs. At the time, it was estimated that a professional manager would cost about $100,000 a year.

"You will have to convince your voters that you're not paying for a manager, you're paying for management," St. Denis told commissioners.

Bradenton Beach may not be the only city on the Island to broach the manager-commission form of government this year.

Holmes Beach City Commissioner Don Maloney has been a strong advocate of that form of government for years. He hopes to have the question placed on the ballot in that city in August as well.

He also spoke to the Bradenton Beach commissioners, saying, "a manager provides objective solutions to problems.

"You can't afford not to hire a professional city manager," Maloney added. "I've spoken with 11 cities that have managers and their costs have been reduced in all of them, plus having increased efficiency and productivity."

Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore told the Bradenton Beach commissioners, "I feel it's time for your city to do something about your micro-management.

"If you go with a city manager, that's good, but you have to do something," she said.

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said, "The weak mayor form of government served us well 10 or 20 years ago, but things have changed in the last five years and that form of government won't work for our government today.

"We have much more sophisticated people living here today. They're not the laid-back people of before," she said. "It's time to change."