Residents in all three Island cities will go to the polls on Nov. 3.
In Anna Maria, voters will elect three of five candidates for commisson seats. Incumbents John Quam, Chris Tollette and Dale Woodland are being challenged by David Gryboski and Harry Stoltzfus
In Holmes Beach five candidates also are viying for three commission seats. Incumbents Pat Geyer, Pat Morton and David Zaccagnino are being challenged by Al Robinson and Andy Sheirdan.
In Bradenton Beach, incumbent Mayor Michael Pierce is being challenged by former commissoner Bill Shearon.
Click for Candidate profiles are as follows:
A newcomer to Anna Maria politics, David Gryboski is running because he’s decided to put down roots here. He’s lived in Anna Maria for four-and-a-half years and hopes to settle down and have a family here one day.
“I feel I have an obligation and a duty to get involved and to have as much say as possible in my community,” Gryboski said.
Gryboski graduated from Emory University with a degree in finance and economics.
He’s a partner in Gryboski and Howe with offices in Holmes Beach and Atlanta. The partnership is involved in commercial real estate.
Gryboski said he feels strongly that everyone needs to come together in these tough economic times – both the residential and business communities.
“Rather than them and us, we need to strike a balance and work together for the good of our community,” he said.
John Quam is seeking his fifth term on the commission where he serves as chairman.
He and his wife, Birgit, have lived here full time for 12 years.
Quam has a BA in business administration, which he utilized over the course of his 35-year career as a marketing and logistical executive in the chemical industry.
Quam said he’s running for election so that he can help preserve the character of Anna Maria.
“I want to ensure that the single-family residential character is maintained and protected while supporting the business district,” Quam said.
He said maintaining a bare bones budget while retaining the current staffing level is of utmost importance.
“And I want to work to make sure we retain the current zoning map without creating special use districts outside the ROR and commercial areas of the city,” he said.
Harry Stoltzfus began coming to the Island some 12 years ago. He and his wife, Cathy, and daughter, Molly, have been homesteaded at their property for the past six years.
Stoltzfus attended Penn State for four years. He’s run his own company, Harconcorp.com, which provides safe access solutions for bridgework, for the past 22 years.
Stoltzfus said he wants to preserve Anna Maria as the special place it is rather than watch it turn into a place like other beach and tourist communities.
“We need to hold the line on the business elements in our community to maintain our quality of life,” he said. “I want people to understand that I’m a business man. I’m a free market capitalist. I want to see as little government as possible, but we need to protect the balance of business and residential elements of our city.”
Chris Tollette is seeking a third term as a city commissioner.
She says she feels passionate about the city and wants to see the strong residential character of the community preserved while encouraging a strong business community as well.
Tollette’s been coming to the Island for 12 years now. She and her husband, Tom, moved here permanently eight years ago. She’s worked in the banking and insurance industries and has been active in child advocacy issues for 30 years.
Tollette sees balancing the budget as a tough responsibility for a commissioner.
She said she’s proud to have been a part of the development of the comprehensive plan.
“It’s a road map for the next 10 to 20 years,” she said. “I would never vote to expand business into the residential area by changing the comp plan.”
She said she’s looking forward to working on the land development regulations as they are rewritten to reflect the comp plan.
Dale Woodland is seeking his fourth term as a city commissioner. He’s lived here on and off since 1954.
Woodland has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and he worked in computer systems development for a number of years before returning to the Island where he owns Woodland’s Pools with his son, Scott.
“I want to continue to serve on the commission so I can help preserve and protect the city,” he said. “There will always be pressures, but we have to work to maintain a balance between the residents and the businesses.”
Woodland said he thinks the city faces more tough decisions about its budget in the coming years.
He also wants to try to find ways to preserve the smaller cottage structures on the Island from being overcome with the big box homes that “too often take their place.”
Pat Geyer, 71, and her late husband, Ed, moved to the Island in 1961 and bought Duffy’s Tavern in 1971. She was elected to the commission in 1978 and served until being elected mayor in 1990. She served as mayor for four years and then as a commissioner for all but four of the following 15 years.
Geyer said she is running for office again because she brings a historical perspective to the board and pointed out, “I’ve been on the Island longer than anyone up there. If they need to know what happened on an issue 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, I can tell them.”
“The budget and how to come up with the money,” she said is the most pressing issue. “This year we could give up some things and it worked, but next year the revenues will be less and we’ll have to balance it without using so much of the reserves.”
Pat Morton, 61, and his wife, Alta, came to the Island from Ohio in 1994. He has been with Crosspointe Fellowship for five years and was recently named campus administrator. He has served on the commission for six years.
He said he is running again because he really enjoys the job and interacting with citizens and noted, “I take the citizen’s point of view to heart and try to be there for them instead of special interest groups.”
He said the budget is the most pressing problem and noted, “This year we locked down everything we could. People say they want to keep the services they have and are willing to pay for them.
“If they want us to scale it back, they need to let us know, and it has to be more than a few people coming in and telling us.”
Al Robinson worked for Bethlehem Steel for 13 years in West Virginia before moving to the Island in 1991. He has a bachelor’s degree from Fairmont (West Va.) State and a master’s degree from West Virgina University. He is a business owner, including D Coy Ducks from 2003 to 2007, and said he has bought and sold 15 houses in the city.
He said the budget is both the reason he is runing and the biggest problem.
“Our city is run beautifully, but it is not efficient. It’s like all big government. When the money is unlimited, it doesn’t run efficiently.
“In the last 12 months, 90 percent of our voters lost 25 percent of their personal wealth. I was appalled that our city that didn’t need the money raised our taxes, and the majority of the commissioners acknowledged this.”
Andy Sheridan, 49, came to Holmes Beach in 2003 with is wife, Lisa, and is currently in training to sell Aflak Insurance products. He is vice president of the Key Royale Resident Owners Association and is active in Roser Memorial Community Church and the Island food pantry and is a blood donor.
Sheridan said he has talked with several commissioners in the past about issues and they encouraged him to come to the meetings and get involved.
“Holmes Beach fits our lifestyle. It’s a nice mix of residents, businesses and tourists. I like the family atmosphere.”
He said the biggest problem is “cutting wasteful spending in the budget and maintaining and improving the quality of life for our residents. I can’t believe that there aren’t areas we can cut.”
David Zaccagnino, 39, grew up in Tampa and is a graduate of Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in business. He moved to Holmes Beach nine years ago and has a daughter, Sela, 8, and a son due in a few weeks.
He is a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and has served on the commission for four years. He is active in local civic groups such as the Sierra Club and serves on the boards of several groups such as the Island Rotary Club.
He said people have asked him to run again and noted, “I still have a lot of concerns and I think I’m effective in solving some of the problems that arise.”
“The biggest problem facing the city is the threats to our lifestyle – big houses, big changes, zoning that makes it possible to condominium-ize houses.”
When Michael Pierce ran for the last year of John Chappie’s mayoral term, he promised to continue the city’s path toward improving life for residents, businesses and visitors.
During his term, the city was able to be first in line for federal economic (stimulus) funds for its Gulf Drive improvement project. Pierce was also able to get the Florida Department of Transportation to build a sidewalk along Cortez Road to Gulf Drive where there had been none. The city decided to purchase solar decorative lights for Bridge Street, a move that will save thousands of dollars in electricity, and the city implemented a pioneer policy requiring employees and others who frequent city offices to stay away if they exhibit flu-like symptoms until they are cleared by a doctor.
“We were able to keep the millage (property tax) rate the same for two years straight by taking funds from the city’s reserves,” he said. “Those reserves were purposely set aside several years ago during the periods when property taxes were highest specifically for the bad times.”
Pierce said that Bradenton Beach will continue to be a green, pedestrian-friendly city that will provide access to the beaches and bays for recreational use by all. He is committed to eco-tourism and keeping the city livable for residents as they grow older.
As for future projects, Pierce wants the city to continue to search for grants to help make their money go farther.
“Over the years, we have been able to leverage $35,000 for $1.5 million in projects,” he said. “The recent sidewalk along Cortez Road cost the city nothing.”
Pierce feels he can continue to lead the city toward improving the health, safety and welfare of its residents by using common sense.
“The city should not be run like a business,” he said. “It should be run like a government.”
Former city commissioner Bill Shearon wants to become mayor because he feels he can institute better management practices and reduce the amount of money the city spends on its operation. He wants to find a new direction for the city.
Shearon disagrees on the way the city handled its budget shortfall for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
“In these tight economic times, they took $150,000 out of reserves,” he said. “That’s a real concern to me. We cannot continue doing that.”
Shearon says the budget process has to be redone. He feels that the city commission should get regular updates on what has been spent on each budgeted item, especially when the commission reviews the mayor’s proposed budget for the next year.
Shearon wants the city to spend its money wisely and he feels that the solar-powered, decorative street lights project for the commercial district was mishandled because the project went over budget and there were no competitive bids.
Shearon criticized the fact that the city is considering a collection agency against residents who are late in paying their sanitation and stormwater utility fees because it would get between 25 and 35 percent of what it collects.
Shearon also feels the city spends too much on consultants and attorney fees when it takes on a capital improvement project.
“If the project gets shelved because there is no timeline to building it, then we end up hiring sometimes the same consultant to work on it again when we do get the money,” he said,
Shearon said as mayor, he would review all of the city’s policies and procedures with an eye on economizing. He said modernizing them would make the load lighter on the city’s employees.
Shearon said the city’s Web site could be improved so that residents can get the information they need such as meeting agendas, information packets and minutes without having to waste papers by printing them before knowing how many people need them.
Shearon said he likes the way the city is positioning itself as being ecological, livable and pedestrian friendly. He said that the city has to be a better steward of its economy.
“It’s not critical, but it’s going to be,” he said. “If we don’t plan, it will be a problem.”