Elections alter Bradenton Beach’s political landscape

CNOBB amendments
CNOBB member and former city commissioner Bob Connors waved this sign of support on election day. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

BRADENTON BEACH – The Nov. 7 elections reshaped the Bradenton Beach City Commission and changed how future commission races will be run.

City voters elected Vice Mayor John Chappie to serve as the city’s next mayor, replacing current Mayor Bill Shearon.

First-time candidate Randy White won the Ward 3 race, defeating incumbent Commissioner Ralph Cole in what will go down as the city’s last ward-specific commission race.

“If the voters made their decision because of a parking garage, I’m sorry they were basically misled.” Ralph Cole, commission candidate

The city charter will be amended to incorporate three voter-supported charter changes proposed by the Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach (CNOBB). These include the elimination of commission wards and the reduction of residency requirements for candidates.

Running unopposed, Ward 1 Commissioner Jake Spooner retained his seat and will serve another two-year term.

Chappie, White and Spooner will be sworn in at 1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 20.

Open seat

Cole applies for commission seat
After losing his commission race, Ralph Cole is seeking commission appointment to a soon-to-be-vacated seat. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

The elimination of commission wards means Cole is among those eligible to serve the remaining year of Chappie’s two-year commissioner’s term.

Cole and CNOBB chairman Bill Vincent, a Ward 4 resident, have already submitted applications to the city clerk’s office in hopes of filling the seat that becomes vacant on Nov. 20.

In 2016, Vincent ran for the Ward 4 seat won by Chappie. He is one of six former city board members named as defendants in an unresolved Sunshine Law lawsuit.

Others interested in the commission appointment can apply with the clerk’s office.

City Attorney Ricinda Perry will draft ordinances to formalize each of the voter-supported charter amendments. The commission must then adopt the ordinances during two public hearings before the appointment process can begin on or around Dec. 7.

Post-election reactions

“I think people wanted a change. I think people are tired of all the controversy and negativity,” Chappie said of the mayor’s race.

“We have some challenges we’re going to work through to be a better community than we are today,” he added.

As mayor, Chappie plans to be a stickler for open government and Sunshine Law compliance.

He said he has no issues with the charter amendments or their impact on the pending appointment process.

“Anybody in the city who meets the basic qualifications to run for office can put in an application. That’s what the people wanted,” Chappie said.

“The voters spoke,” Shearon said. “I would’ve liked to have continued the progress I feel my administration’s made over the years. Now it will be up to the new commission.”

Shearon will not apply to fill the vacant commission seat and he does not think someone who just lost an election should either. He also said he did not intend to run for a commission seat in 2018.

“I’m going to be retired. I’m not going to be in government, but I’ve had a couple people ask me to provide consultation to help them get their projects through the maze of bureaucracy,” Shearon said.

“I think myself and John Chappie won because we were out there on the streets knocking on doors,” White said. “I covered the whole town and I know John did too. The ones who wanted the votes the most got elected.”

Regarding the appointment process, White said, “Everybody’s entitled to put their name in the hat. We’ll work with the system and hopefully we choose the right person.”

Cole said a campaign mailer White distributed inaccurately represented his views on the parking garage discussions Shearon and Spooner initiated in 2016; and he feels that contributed to his loss.

“If the voters made their decision because of a parking garage, I’m sorry they were basically misled,” Cole said.

Regarding his possible reappointment, Cole said, “There were 169 people who voted for me. If you’re going to change the rules, then I can do it. I’m not going to back down because I lost an election. I want to have a say with what’s going on.”

Spooner said, “I’m honored to have the opportunity to work for the citizens of Bradenton Beach for a second term. I look forward to help healing the divide and making the city even more beautiful, enjoyable and safe for all, while protecting the taxpayers’ investment in the city.”

He also said he sees nothing wrong with Cole or anyone else in the city applying to fill the vacant commission seat.

By the numbers

In the mayor’s race, Chappie received 232 votes (60 percent) and Shearon received 155 votes (40 percent).

In the Ward 3 race, White received 205 votes (55 percent) and Cole received 169 votes (45 percent).

The Amendment 1 proposal to eliminate commission wards received 207 votes of support (55 percent) and 171 votes in opposition (45 percent). All future commission races will now be at-large races.

The Amendment 2 proposal to reduce commission candidate residency requirements from two years to one year and eliminate the requirement that candidates be registered city voters received 212 votes of support (55 percent) and 174 votes in opposition.

The Amendment 3 proposal to limit the city commission’s ability to interpret the city charter received 243 votes of support (64 percent) and 134 votes in opposition.