Vacant Bradenton Beach commission seat opens opportunity

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Bradenton Beach Ward 3 Commissioner Ralph Cole campaigns Nov. 7 for re-election to his seat. Cole lost the election but has applied for appointment to the seat vacated by Mayor-elect John Chappie. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
Bill Vincent, Ward 4 commission candidate, campaigns for the seat in 2016. Vincent has applied for appointment to the open commission seat. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Results of the recent Bradenton Beach municipal election have set a wave of political posturing in motion.

Ward 4 Commissioner John Chappie resigned his seat effective with the Nov. 7 election, opening his seat to appointment by the commission.

Chappie won his bid to upset Mayor Bill Shearon and will be sworn in Nov. 20.

Now, with the passing of charter amendment 1, which replaces the city’s four-ward representative system with an at-large election, and amendment 2, reducing the pre-election residency for candidates to 12 months, almost anyone who has resided in the city for the past year can apply for the seat.

Ward 3 Commissioner Ralph Cole, who lost his bid to retain his seat in the Nov. 7 election to Randy White, submitted his application for the empty commission seat Nov. 9.

Cole also serves as chair of the community redevelopment agency, which oversees spending of incremental tax revenue for projects to enhance the historic district.

Cole has made CRA proposals for underground utilities for Bridge Street and finger docks along the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

“I’ve been here for 33 years,” Cole said. “I’ve seen where it started and where it is now, and I would like to continue to be a part of this as it keeps getting better. I love Bradenton Beach.”

Former Ward 4 commission candidate Bill Vincent also filed an application with the city clerk.

Vincent, a former Scenic Waves Partnership Committee member and former planning and zoning board member, has been actively involved in the city since becoming a resident in 2007. He is chair of Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach — the group that put the charter amendments on the ballot — and is being sued by the city and ex-Mayor Jack Clarke for alleged Sunshine Law violations.

When asked if he is concerned the civil suit could impact his chances for an appointment, Vincent said, “Innocent until proven guilty.”

Vincent was planning this week to address the CNOBB membership with a request to dissolve the grass-roots group he founded in view of election complaints filed by Clarke.

As of Nov. 9, no other applications were filed with the city clerk’s office.

If the vote for the appointment is split between the mayor and commissioners, the city again will be subject to the luck of the draw for the third time in three years.

Chappie was elected Ward 4 commissioner in November 2016. The election resulted in an open Ward 2 commission seat, ending in a tie among the three commissioners and mayor. The winner was determined by a card draw.

The commission appointment to fill Ward 2 was tied — not the public vote.

It was the second city election in recent history that ended with a card draw, the first being the election between current Mayor Bill Shearon and Jack Clarke, who took the mayor’s seat in May 2015 in a recall election, and lost in a card draw after a tied vote of the electorate in a repeat faceoff between the two in November 2015.

The city is accepting applications for appointment to the open commission seat at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

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