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Date of Issue: November 03, 2006

Office-seekers court Holmes Beach voters at forum

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Candidates for Holmes Beach City Commission gather at city hall on Oct. 23 for The Islander election forum. Islander publisher Bonner Joy, left, questions the candidates - Pat Geyer, Sandy Haas-Martens, Sheila Hurst, Don Maloney and John Monetti - about city services and civic goals. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff

Five candidates for Holmes Beach City Commission echoed a common theme at The Islander election forum Oct. 23 - growth is inevitable, so it must be tempered to fit the Island's character.

Candidates Pat Geyer, Sandy Haas-Martens, Sheila Hurst, Don Maloney and John Monetti are running for two commission seats in the Nov. 7 election. The election also includes contests at the county, state and federal level, as well as several ballot questions.

During the forum at city hall, the commission candidates mostly agreed that a new board must preserve the city's character and charm as Holmes Beach grows.

"I know things have to change, but there's a history of why they were," Geyer, a former mayor and commissioner, said as she introduced herself to voters. "I think this is a paradise. I want to keep it that way."

Haas-Martens, the lone incumbent, emphasized her longstanding community involvement and said she looked forward to a term of cooperation with other governments.

Hurst, a community activist, said she's eager to listen to the people and her most critical concern is protecting the environment on the Island.

Maloney, a former commissioner and member of the code enforcement board, touted his service in business, the Army and the government as "one of my major talents" and said he hoped as commissioner to encourage more people to get involved and serve the city.

Monetti, a restaurant manager and planning commissioner, said he wanted to dedicate himself to his community and promised a common-sense approach as a commissioner.

The candidates fielded a variety of questions from The Islander publisher Bonner Joy about regulating resort housing in residential districts, supporting recreational amenities, creating mixed-use commercial/residential opportunities, promoting conservation, enhancing code enforcement and studying consolidation.

On the subject of consolidation, the candidates delivered some of their most impassioned remarks.

Maloney said last November Holmes Beach voters decided they wanted to study consolidation and their will must be respected.

"Almost a year ago, 63 percent of the voters asked that our present commission provide the where-with-all necessary to study the advantages, if any, in our Island's three-city consolidation question," Maloney said. "Eleven months have gone by and nothing has happened."

"It needs to be studied," Hurst said firmly.

Monetti too said a study must be conducted.

"I think we should listen to our constituents who wanted it studied," he said. "I think there should be every effort made to get back on track and have it looked at."

But there were other thoughts.

"I really think it's too late to consolidate the three Island cities," Geyer said. "It's been tried.... I think we should push for consolidation of some services and leave it at that."

Haas-Martens expressed reservations about going forward without support from all three Island cities.

"Anytime that we have tried to do something it's like Holmes Beach is taking over," she said. "I just think it's a dead point, a moot point, at this point."

About 45 people attended the forum, which followed a similar event in Anna Maria and preceeded a question-and-answer session with the two candidates seeking an at-large county commission seat, Democrat Sarah Meaker and Republican Carol Whitmore.

Holmes Beach will also get a new mayor this month, but voters won't decide who gets the job now held by Whitmore. Rich Bohnenberger, currently chairman of the commission, is unopposed.

Polls on Nov. 7 are open from 7a.m. to 7 p.m.

Florida statute requires that voters present photo and signature identification cards.

The victors in Holmes Beach will be sworn in at city hall at 9 a.m. Nov. 20. Afterward, the newly organized city commission will have the task of appointing someone to fill a commission vacancy created by Bohnenberger's move to mayor.