Joshua Linney is not the typical mayoral candidate.
He’s been arrested 14 times by agencies across the state, openly admits to substance abuse issues and struggles with post traumatic stress disorder from his time in the U.S. Army.
The 43-year-old is running for mayor of Holmes Beach in the Nov. 6 municipal election against Commissioner Judy Titsworth.
“I’m picking the perfect candidate to run against,” said Linney. “Miracles do happen. I can win this.”
Linney said he was born and raised in Holmes Beach, graduated from Manatee High School in 1993 and, on his 18th birthday, skipped school to enlist in the Army. And that’s where the details get fuzzy.
In the biography he submitted to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections, Linney stated he declined an “appointment” to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, an esteemed Army program with a rigorous application process. Part of that process requires a nomination from a member of Congress, or a “service-connected nomination” — a parent who is a career military officer, a Medal of Honor recipient, an Honor ROTC instructor or a commander if the applicant is currently enlisted, according to the West Point website admission information.
However, in a July 19 interview with The Islander, Linney said he didn’t complete the application process, nor did he have a nomination. He said he was contacted by the academy with an offer and that he had a personal connection with an admiral at the academy.
However, there generally are no admirals at West Point, which includes mostly Army-based leadership. An admiral is a high-ranking officer in the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard.
Also in the biography, Linney stated he finished second in his class “during advanced infantry training.” U.S. Army recruits complete advanced individual training for their military occupational specialty, or MOS, but there is no “advanced infantry training” program in the Army.
According to Linney’s discharge papers, he completed airborne training, but had no infantry training beyond basic combat training.
His occupation specialty was food service.
In his SOE biography, Linney’s military service claims become even less clear as he moves through a chronology of his service. He served 1993-96 and stated his “unit was activated and deployed to Iraq.”
However, according to the Department of State’s Office of the Historian, U.S. military presence withdrew at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Troops invaded again in 2003, from the neighboring country Kuwait to oust Saddam Hussein.
Linney told The Islander his 1994 deployment sent him to Camp Doha in Kuwait — not Iraq as stated — where he was stationed, contradicting his own biography. He said he’s not trying to deceive anyone, but tells people he went to Iraq because the country is more familiar to people than Kuwait. Although, he added, he moved between Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. He has since changed his bio to state he was “deployed to the Middle East.”
Linney’s service papers show he was medically discharged in 1996. He earned a National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with one bronze service star, an Army Service Ribbon and a sharpshooter marksmanship qualification badge with rifle bar.
Linney said he sustained an injury from a fall off a transport truck while unloading its contents. He said he suffered a traumatic brain injury, and he is petitioning the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for compensation. He was redeployed after the fall and later discharged for chronic pain and a kidney disease.
He received disability severance pay at discharge and later qualified for Social Security disability pay for PTSD while earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
He earned a bachelor of science in interdisciplinary studies from UCF in 2007.
Following his military career, Linney fell into trouble with the law. He caught his first charge in 1998 and his most recent in 2016. In those 18 years, he was arrested 14 times, charged with 12 felonies, but was only convicted on three misdemeanors — one for driving on a suspended license in 2004 and two convictions in 2005 for driving under the influence with property damage.
“I wasn’t guilty of a lot of things. I was charged with a lot of things,” Linney said. “What I was guilty of, I was convicted of. What I wasn’t, I wasn’t.”
The majority of the charges were dropped, abandoned or reduced. His first charge in 1998, a weapon offense for throwing missiles at a vehicle in Groveland, was sent to a pretrial diversion program. Three shoplifting charges — one in Holmes Beach, one in Bradenton and one in Palmetto — were dismissed. Possession charges of controlled substances in Orange County also were dismissed.
The sentences for Linney’s two 2005 DUIs with property damage were reduced from jail time in exchange for a 30-day stay in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.
Five west Bradenton residents were named in the report as property damage victims, among them the late Rob Velardi, then a Holmes Beach police officer, who would later arrest Linney for shoplifting at the Holmes Beach Publix in 2009.
Linney paid Velardi $700 in restitution as part of his sentence.
While most of Linney’s charges involved drugs or driving offenses, two of them involved aggressive behavior — an aggravated assault charge in 2015 in Putnam County in which charges were dropped and a battery charge in 2012 in Manatee County involving the father of the woman, Harper Kallins, he would marry a few months later. Charges in that case also were dropped.
“If I had a law degree, I’d be pretty successful. Mistakes and missteps happen. It’s about how you fixed it,” said Linney. “People are staring in the rearview mirror and no one is paying attention to the future.”
Outside of his criminal past, Linney and Kallins were served an eviction notice at their Holmes Beach apartment in December 2015. After a few months of legal back-and-forth, the couple was court-ordered to leave in early 2016. Linney’s landlady claimed he owed more than $500 in rent, but Linney and Kallins both sent letters contesting the claim, citing improvements they completed but were never repaid and a soured relationship with the owner were to blame.
Linney said he is in recovery from drugs and alcohol and has been sober for 12 years, off all opiates since 2007 and he quit prescribed medications about two years ago — a feat he largely credits to medical marijuana.
He holds a medical marijuana card and advocates for federally sanctioned cannabis use for veterans as a technology officer of the advocacy group Veterans for Cannabis.
“I’m an open book. I have nothing to hide. I wish all our leaders were that transparent,” he said.
In late 2017, Linney became civically engaged, named to the Holmes Beach Parks and Beautification Committee in October. He also sits on the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity. Both are volunteer appointments.
In those committee meetings, Linney started to form his mayoral candidacy aspirations. He says he saw how the city worked and that the current administration doesn’t respect the needs of the community. He said the atmosphere of “us versus them” — residents and vacationers — is counterproductive and he would lead the city in a more collaborative direction.
He said of his opponent on the ballot, Commissioner Judy Titsworth, “She cares a lot about this city. I care a lot about the citizens.”