Candidate Profile: Charles Smith

Staff Report
Charles Smith is seeking the Democratic nomination for Manatee County Commission District 2 in this August's primary.

Smith served as Manatee County Commissioner for District 2 from 2014 to 2018 when he was defeated by incumbent Commissioner Reggie Bellamy in the party primary. Bellamy went on to easily win the general election but faces a rematch with Smith for the Democratic nomination this cycle. 

Smith was born in Batavia, New York and grew up in the Palmetto area, where he still resides. His family began as migrant farmers before going on to own Manatee Harvesting Company, Inc.

At the age of 26, Smith was the first African American ever elected to the Palmetto City Commission, where he established the city's first housing authority in order to help remove slums and blight in city housing and to create small business partnerships.

During his first stint as a city commissioner, Smith was relieved from office for pleading no contest to a felony charge involving embezzlement and bounced checks related to his bail bonds business. Smith said he was young and admittedly inexperienced in business and accounting at the time when he found himself in a sticky situation because of an improper banking issue. 

Smith went on to become a popular activist in the Palmetto community and was appointed to the city's CRA advisory board. He was later re-appointed to the city commission when Mary Lancaster retired in September of 2011. He won reelection a year later and went on to defeat incumbent District 2 Commissioner Michael Gallen by a razor-close four votes in 2014.

While serving on the BOCC, Smith was a tireless advocate for infrastructure investment in the district, particularly streetlights and sidewalks, which remain noticeably absent in many areas. Smith also lobbied for a public pool north of the river, where the county had long-promised to build one but never came through on the funds. Smith was finally successful in seeing that funding for the pool was included in the budget during his last year in office, a major victory for a constituency that had long been ignored.

Smith is running a grassroots campaign, having raised just over $9,000, as of the last reporting period, much of which has been loaned to his campaign from personal funds.