In Anna Maria, incumbent Commissioners Carol Carter, Doug Copeland and Dale Woodland are running for re-election, while newcomer Laurie Jo Higgins is campaigning for one of three available seats in the Nov. 7 election.
The top three Anna Maria vote-getters from 1,129 registered voters will gain two-year terms.
Anna Maria’s polling place, precinct 301, is at Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave.
She moved to Anna Maria in 2006, has a pre-med degree from McDaniel College in Maryland and a master’s degree in human development from the University of Maryland. Carter has served in leadership roles with several colleges throughout the years.
She said her focus for a new term would be to “continue to work on the health and safety of residents … and the environment on the island.”
Carter said her priorities include representing Anna Maria in Tallahassee. She is the city’s liaison to the Florida League of Cities, which is developing a platform to address short-term vacation rental regulations and home rule.
In addition, she said, she is working on outreach through her work with Home Sweet Home, an organization she co-founded to persuade families to rent long-term or buy property on the island.
Anna Maria is at 32.7 percent homesteaded properties, she said.
Anna Maria Island is around 25 percent homesteaded properties, she said, suggesting the city of Anna Maria might have a greater percentage of residents than Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach.
Carter attributes the rising cost of property and taxes for a 20.5 percent drop in the city’s population.
“I want to get the City Pier Park done,” Copeland said about his goals for a new term. “I’m not sure we can get the pier completed, but at least we can get that construction going and get the Bert Harris cases completed. Then continue to try to work for the best interests of the citizens.”
He believes settling the Bert Harris complaints will resolve much of the conflict in Anna Maria.
“We’ve weathered the storm,” he said.
The Bert Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act of 1995 allows property owners to seek relief if they can prove a government action lowered the value of their property.
Copeland said he hopes the Florida League of Cities can help the city obtain stronger home rule.
Copeland became an Anna Maria resident in 1974.
He served on Anna Maria’s planning and zoning board before becoming a commissioner to fill a vacancy left when John Quam resigned.
In his previous campaign, Copeland said he is against any form of paid parking or registered parking and supports Mayor Dan Murphy’s enforcement policy. Copeland said paid or registered parking won’t work in the city.
Up next, he said, is to convince more people to live full-time on the island.
Laurie Jo Higgins
Higgins, a 22-year resident of Anna Maria Island and a newcomer to politics, said she cares about a number of issues, including rising taxes, restoration of the pier, the plight of small business owners and the $190,000 in parking tickets assessed by law officials in Anna Maria last year.
Higgins said she wants to break up the “good old boy’s club” of power in the city.
“Complacency has set in,” she said.
She said the commission doesn’t cater enough to the needs of the elderly and young people on the island.
“All the hype is for vacation rentals,” she said. “There’s a group of old people who are silent. They complain to me, and they don’t really have a voice.”
Higgins said she is “100 percent in favor of more green spaces,” but would prefer to see bicycles on sidewalks instead of bike paths, which she says are dangerously close to vehicular traffic.
She said the city overstepped its bounds with its vacation rental ordinance.
“When you allow a 10-bedroom home to be built, what do you expect?” she said. “If you’re going to give the building permit, that’s what you should expect.”
She also said she has followed the debate between the Center of Anna Maria Island and the city. “I see both sides.… I understand why there can’t be total transparency,” she said.
However, she added, the center board is “more of the same good old boy’s club we’ve always had out here.”
Woodland, with 14 years in office, called himself a public servant, not a politician, at the Oct. 13 Popcorn and Politics candidate forum at The Islander.
He said restoration of the Anna Maria City Pier is the top issue for his constituency.
Woodland moved to the island in 1953 at the age of 5. He attended Anna Maria Elementary and later studied mathematics at the University of Florida.
He worked as a computer systems developer until he retired in 1996 and started Woodland’s Quality Pool Care to serve the island community. He cleans about 40 pools a week.
He said during his time in office, he’s enjoyed having dialogues and debates to work through disagreements.
In a small community, “people are much more vocal … because they can make a difference, and that’s healthy.”
“As long as you have dialogue, at least we’re working together,” he said. One of the major issues affecting the city, Woodland said, is the debate about the Center of Anna Maria Island on city property on Magnolia Avenue.
Woodland said he has no immediate solution to the center’s financial woes, but “everyone wants the community center to succeed.”