Holmes Beach commission candidates step up, seek votes at ‘popcorn’ forum

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Holmes Beach Commissioner Pat Morton defends the city commission, which came under attack Oct. 3 by other candidates at The Islander’s Popcorn and Politics event. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

More than 70 people showed up Oct. 3 to The Islander’s Popcorn and Politics mixer to try out the popcorn and sangria and hear candidates voice their positions and ask for votes.

The three candidates competing for two Holmes Beach city commission seats took their turns at the mic, making their pleas to voters in the crowd.

Commissioner Pat Morton took the mic following the charter review candidates — including some who criticized the effectiveness of city government — to defend his work on the commission, as well as past commissions.

“You’ll hear rhetoric about how we haven’t been doing anything for the citizens of Holmes Beach,” Morton said. “In the last five years, we’ve put out 151 ordinances and 66 resolutions. If we aren’t working for our citizens, I don’t know what we’re doing.”

Morton, who has served on the commission for 15 years, said the current commission is the best.

“I’ve served on a commission where we had people that did not listen to the citizens at the time,” Morton said. “Now we got commissioners on here that will listen to us, listen to people and get things done right.

“That’s just one thing I really dislike about the way some people around the community have been talking about us, that ‘we’re not listening to these citizens,’” Morton continued. “We have been, and if you don’t believe it, come on up to the city commission sometime and see how we listen to people.”

Next, candidate Don Purvis took the microphone and emphasized a need for communication to unify city efforts.

“I spent most of my professional career as an educator,” he said. “I got my master’s degree in education with leadership. I also was a high school history teacher, administrator and football coach.

“So most of my time was trying to get people with a bunch of different ideas, different skill sets, different problems and get them all working toward a common goal together,” Purvis continued.

He mentioned improving stormwater drainage and safety for pedestrians and bicyclists and encouraged people to speak with him about issues so he could hear their perspectives and share his own views.

“We have shared in many of your problems,” Purvis said. “I don’t mean to say I know all your problems, I don’t mean that. But we have shared in so many of those, and we will continue to do that now.”

Candidate Kim Rash followed Purvis with details about his involvement in his neighborhood. He said he has attended city commission meetings for 3-5 years to voice his opinions.

“I go to a lot of the meetings and I tell the people what’s on everybody’s minds,” Rash said. “We’ve been doing that for four or five years now, and a lot of people have told me, ‘Kim, you need to get on the commission.’”

Rash said he has a plan to alleviate traffic on Key Royale and Marina drives, and wants to eliminate “wasteful” spending to prevent city tax increases.

“I’ve been a business owner for 40 years. I know how to make money and I know how to spend money, and we don’t spend it wastefully if we want to survive in this world,” Rash said.

Rash owns and manages rental properties in Kentucky and on Anna Maria Island and he emphasized his local rentals are yearly, not vacation rentals.

Rash is under fire for a potential violation in state election laws by accepting cash contributions exceeding legal limits.

People can contribute $1,000 to any one candidate, but cash contributions cannot exceed $50 per donor.

Rash’s campaign treasurer Marjorie Motzer made two cash donations June 22 of $50, while her husband, Richard, made two cash contributions of $50 the same day. Both were listed on Rash’s reports to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Sharon Stief, chief deputy at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office, said in an interview Oct. 5 that since both of the Motzers made two maximum cash contributions on the same day, the contributions could be deemed in violation of the law.

Charter review commission candidate David Zaccagnino, a former city commissioner, emailed Stief with a complaint about the donations. He said Oct. 5 he plans to file an official complaint with the Florida Elections Commission.

All contributions exceeding the legal limits must be returned to the contributor via campaign check. Stief said she was not sure whether Rash would be fined or assessed penalties.

The two candidates who garner the most votes in the commission election will serve two-year terms and are paid $500 per month.

As of Sept. 19, there were 2,782 registered voters in Holmes Beach. The registration deadline for the election was Oct. 9.

Holmes Beach voters will cast ballots Tuesday, Nov. 6, at precinct 303, the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, and precinct 305, St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive.

Early voting will begin Oct. 24 at select locations in the county, although an island location is not planned.