HOLMES BEACH – With current Mayor Bob Johnson not running for a third term on the Holmes Beach City Commission, voters will choose either Commissioner Judy Titsworth or political newcomer Joshua Linney as their new mayor.
Though he hasn’t held a political office, Joshua Linney said he’s ready to take on the challenges of being Holmes Beach’s mayor. He said he chose to run for mayor rather than commissioner to “make sure the citizens have a choice in November” and because if the mayoral position is eliminated, he said he could later run for commissioner. The way he sees it, it’s the commission’s job to set legislation and the mayor’s job to make sure that legislation is carried out while keeping the best interests of the residents in mind.
If elected, Linney’s priorities would be to create financial incentives for community redevelopment by investors and developers, creating a Community Investment Tax Incentive to give short-term rental owners an incentive to turn properties into annual rentals, and help improve vehicular congestion through park-and-ride services and a ferry to Holmes Beach. He also wants to encourage interaction between city leaders and residents through the addition of town hall type meetings where property owners can get their questions answered in an open forum.
Another goal for Linney is to help residents voice their concerns and make sure those concerns are heard by city staff. He’d also like to encourage all community members, from full-time residents to short-term visitors, to work together to return the feeling of community to the city.
“The city is at a very critical precipice. These are important times for the city,” he said.
Though Linney was born on Anna Maria Island, he left to join the U.S. Army for a three-year stint. Returning from the military found him suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and with a dependency on prescription and other drugs. Those experiences led to several run-ins with the law including two driving under the influence charges, one involving a hit-and-run that resulted in Linney serving more than a year of probation, several charges for petty theft, felony and misdemeanor charges for possession of marijuana, all of which were either dropped or lowered to misdemeanor charges, a felony weapons charge that was lowered to a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge, driving with a suspended license and possession of drug paraphernalia. Those run-ins with the law resulted in fines, probation and community service. Rather than regretting these mistakes, Linney said he’s learned from them and has been “clean and sober” for two years, with the exception of medical marijuana and prescription drugs. He actively supports and lobbies for legalizing marijuana for medical uses and is the chief technology officer for VFC, Veterans For Cannabis, an organization dedicated to helping veterans find alternatives to addictive prescription medications. Linney said he no longer drinks alcohol or uses any illegal or controlled substances. His last run-in with law enforcement was in 2016.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” Linney said. “My life today is more than I could’ve ever imagined. I’ve just got to take it in stride. You can’t go back, you can’t change anything. I’m not proud of everything I’ve done but I’m not ashamed of who I am.”
“In this country, if criminal allegations were enough to keep someone from getting elected we wouldn’t have a lot of officials. I know people are already talking and I know what they’re talking about but acting like I regret it or like I would go back, I don’t. I just hope I make better choices going forward,” he said.
As a disabled veteran and with his own web design firm which he operates from his Holmes Beach residence, Linney said he has the time to devote himself fully to the city and its residents.
“I want to represent people without shutting the residents down,” he said. “Things are not getting done or they’re only getting done half-way. I want to get things done. Failure’s not an option.”
Commissioner Judy Titsworth is no stranger to political office. Titsworth is serving her third term as a city commissioner, which expires in November. She’s served as chair of the commission since 2013.
Titsworth has lived almost her entire life on Anna Maria Island, having been raised in Holmes Beach and then returning after college in Alaska to raise her own children only a few houses down from her family home on Sunrise Lane. In preparation for her bid for the mayoral seat, Titsworth said she’s been training her daughter to take over the majority of her duties at Shoreline Builders so that she has all the time needed to focus on the administration of the city.
“It’s going to be a big commitment but I’ve freed myself up to handle the commitment,” she said. “I want to finish the job. I want people to have someone to go to that can help give them a voice.”
A goal is to bring back more active residential neighborhoods in the city.
If elected, Titsworth hopes to make the city run more effectively in the future.
“I feel we’re lacking a leader right now. Things could be done better, more efficiently. I have to go where I’m needed,” she said. “I’ll get on it and get it done.”
As mayor, some of the challenges Titsworth said she’d face would be to help make the building department more effective with a reduction in processing times and better service for local property owners and contractors. She said rather than putting more staff members on the payroll she’d like to use contractors, such as the city planner, more effectively and then determine if new staff members should be strategically added to departments. Titsworth also would like to add someone to the city’s two-person code enforcement staff and be more proactive with the department’s initiative to greet visitors at problem vacation rental properties. She’d like to add rental properties to the list of “problem” properties that have more than three complaints recorded.
The code enforcement initiative has officers greet incoming visitors to certain properties where multiple noise complaints have been called into the Holmes Beach Police Department to inform renters of the city’s policies and regulations. One addition she’d like to see to the city’s ordinances would be the implementation of technology to monitor noise at vacation rental properties. Her suggestion is to give property owners a break on the price of their vacation rental certificate application to encourage use of the technology which she thinks could help people be more aware of their auditory impact on the surrounding residential neighbors.
Another staff initiative would be to make sure someone in each department is trained to move up to more advanced positions so if something happened, such as the building official leaving, an existing staff member would be prepared to be promoted to give the city continuity.
Titsworth also would like for commission members to use their liaison positions more effectively and work as a team with staff to keep everyone apprised of new information.
“The city is better off if everyone knows what’s going on,” she said.
Another priority would be to update the city’s emergency management plan to provide better coordination for staff, property owners and residents during both a storm and recovery efforts.
“One of my missions is to make sure we’re fully prepared,” Titsworth said.
Other items to tackle include balancing the city’s budget and improving efficiency without putting the city in financial danger or placing burdens on property owners, clearing out Bert Harris claims and upholding the city charter and comprehensive plans.