Holmes Beach voters will choose on the Nov. 3 ballot from four names to fill two seats on the city commission.
The candidates are incumbent Commissioners Pat Morton and Kim Rash, former commissioner Rick Hurst and Jayne Christenson.
Judy Titsworth, a former commissioner who was first elected mayor in 2018, was uncontested in the election and will serve another two-year term.
Commissioners also serve two-year terms, starting with a $7,690 annual salary, with $130 added each subsequent year. The race is nonpartisan.
In November 2019, 856 people voted in the municipal election. There are presently 2,784 registered city voters.
The final day to register to vote before the election is Oct. 5.
Holmes Beach voters can cast in-person ballots 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, or choose early voting at several mainland locations or vote by mail.
Here’s a look at the candidates:
Jayne Christenson’s parents moved to Holmes Beach in 1989.
“We loved the community and the fact it was a working-class city with an active snowbird component,” she said Sept. 16. “Tourism was a part, but it was not what drove Holmes Beach. It was a small town in paradise with an active, diverse community, supplemented with guests here and there. Despite the rise in tourism, I still see this as a residential community for families, snowbirds and retirees.”
Christenson said she is concerned about the conversion of annual and seasonal rentals to luxury, short-term rentals. “Manatee County’s over-marketing of AMI without county financial support for the infrastructure improvements needed has created a financial burden to our city,” she said.
If elected, Christenson said she would waive the business tax to assist businesses struggling due to the effects of the novel coronavirus.
She also said she does not support the city’s recent decision to charge residents for a parking permit, with decals to park in certain areas.
“The parking problem was not created by residents, the city should not charge for a permit,” she said.
Christenson also pointed to the county’s marketing push as a cause for parking issues on the island.
“We need to more actively engage the county in discussions,” she said. “My experience in corporate America brings effective collaboration to the table.”
When asked about plans to support the city’s ecosystem, Christenson stated she helped city commissioners develop an “adopt-a-reef” concept in partnership with the Center of Anna Maria Island, encouraging waterfront residents to adopt mini reef systems, which clean the water and support marine wildlife.
“The impact to the environment needs to be considered with everything the city does,” Christenson said. “I will continue to advocate for programs that improve local air and water quality. This includes encouraging walking, biking, low-speed electric vehicles and our island trolley.”
“Holmes Beach is living in paradise with a community made up of great residents, visitors and businesses,” Rick Hurst said. “I have not been to another place in the world where it’s so easy to meet so many great people.”
When asked by The Islander what he sees as the main threat to island life in Holmes Beach, Hurst replied, “Aside from a direct hit from a Category 3 or above hurricane, it would be the loss of home rule that preempts our ability to regulate vacation rentals. This preemption would include length of stay in residential zones. If we continue making policy intended to restrict or eliminate visitors to our community, we risk being the city that produces the final straw that compels the state government to preempt our ability to control our community.”
Hurst cited a plan to reduce on-street parking, instituted in June with minimal public notice, as an example.
“The commission should roll back the new parking policy and remove the signs that now litter our city, then wait until it is able to get proper input from residents and stakeholders to determine changes,” Hurst said. “What has been done has put a lot of unneeded stress on the majority of residents, businesses and the community who all oppose the plan.”
When asked about the city’s efforts to combat climate change, Hurst said city officials must consider all options.
“There are numerous projects in the pipeline,” Hurst said. “What is concerning is these projects have been underway for a few years and there appears to me even more flooding. We have a lot of eggs in one basket with a single engineering firm managing all of our infrastructure projects.”
He said it has “become critical to start asking questions” and consider other opinions.
“About a month ago, I inquired with the city regarding the increased flooding and was told the cause is stronger storms and higher tides,” Hurst said. “What this means is we are investing tax revenue in projects to mitigate stormwater because global warming may bring stronger storms and sea level rise. However, the current plan is failing. It’s time to ensure we are investing our tax revenue wisely with solutions that provide systemic improvements we know will work.”
Pat Morton has seen progress in 18 years on the city commission.
“I think Holmes Beach can be both laid-back and fast-paced,” Morton said. “It has gotten more fast-paced than it used to be, lately, and some people have a hard time with that. But I work to try and listen to everyone, work with them and find a common ground.”
He said he is concerned with growth.
“I’ve seen some of the nice old homes get taken down and vacation rentals go up,” he said. “It kind of destroyed some of what we had here. But there is only so much we can do. We do what we must, as a city, to try to preserve balance.”
He credited the city’s face mask mandate, approved by the commission in June, as helping keep coronavirus case numbers lower.
“Some people get it and some people don’t,” Morton said. “But it does work. It’s a serious issue and as a city we have taken it seriously. As a city we must do things to protect our citizens proactively.”
Morton said he is impressed with the stormwater infiltration systems to help with flooding in the city.
“I’ve seen it change drastically,” he said. “When we used to get heavy rains there were times I could kayak (in the streets) through Holmes Beach. That was bad.”
Morton said he worked with the mayor to help implement resident suggestions for the latest round of stormwater improvements, including the addition of sod instead of rock over infiltration areas in yards.
He said he joined the commission in 2003 “with no agenda but to serve the citizens of Holmes Beach.”
“I’ve always strived to do the right thing. That’s never changed and it’s not going to change,” Morton said. “We are here to serve our citizens the best way we can. And that’s what I’ve done.”
“Holmes Beach is a unique coastal community with a quiet, time-honored character,” Rash said Sept. 15. “Many are drawn here because of the laid-back lifestyle with a combination of residential and resort features. We are a community with neighborhoods, a school and social activities while providing for visitors to enjoy a resort lifestyle.”
But Rash is concerned about the “balance” between the community and visitors.
“The greatest threat is maintaining the balance between residential and resort lifestyles,” he said. “If we follow our charter, comprehensive plan and codes, and proactively communicate clear expectations to visitors, I think we can achieve this balance.”
Regarding the city’s actions during the pandemic and moving forward, Rash said enforcement of the city’s mask mandate and social distancing, as well as all city codes, is necessary.
“Enforcement in general will help to achieve a desirable quality of life,” he said.
When asked about ways to protect the city against the effects of climate change, Rash said emissions reduction is key.
“We are already trying to make it safer and more convenient for people to walk and bike more and drive less. We are creating more bike paths, bike routes, sidewalks and special parking spaces for golf carts,” Rash said, adding that expansion of the county bus service to the island could help.
“I feel the city is already addressing this issue,” Rash said. “But we can do more by trying to work with the county and state to express the needs of Holmes Beach.”
For the record…
Do you have a question you’d like The Islander to ask the candidates? Email the newspaper with details at email@example.com before Oct. 7.
Years living in Holmes Beach: 13
City involvement: Planning commissioner, regularly participates in commission meetings, Anna Maria Elementary and the Center of Anna Maria Island volunteer.
Top issue in a nutshell: Manatee County yearly population growth and impact to the island.
Occupation/experience: A working mother and wife with a 24-plus year career in biopharmaceutical management.
Contact: jayneC4HBcommission@gmail.com, jayne4holmesbeach.com, facebook.com/jaynec4hbcommission/
Years living in Holmes Beach: Seven
City involvement: Youth sports coach at Center of Anna Maria Island, Holmes Beach commissioner 2017-19, Holmes Beach restaurant owner.
Top issue in a nutshell: Commissioners must think outside the box to tackle complex issues.
Occupation/experience: Degree in engineering, developed a software system, focused on a start-up automation company in Michigan, works from home as IT director for a food distributor.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, https://www.facebook.com/rickhurstforhb/
Years living in Holmes Beach: 23
City involvement: Holmes Beach commissioner 2003-20.
Top issue in a nutshell: To fully support directives that provide safety and resiliency for residents and businesses.
Occupation/experience: Holmes Beach commission liaison to WastePro and the Manatee County Emergency Operations Center, as well as the city police pension board.
Contact: email@example.com or 941-920-4061.
Years living in Holmes Beach: 19
City involvement: Holmes Beach commissioner 2018-20, organized first July 5 beach cleanup, helped constructed fences at City Field and beach accesses, member of St. Bernard Catholic Church.
Top issue in a nutshell: Balance between meeting the needs of our residents and visitors.
Occupation/experience: Holmes Beach commission liaison to public works, owned and operated a business and professionally consulted for more than 40 years in fencing and construction.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/kimrashforholmesbeachcommission/