Plans in Motion for New County Administrator?

Dennis "Mitch" Maley
The Manatee County rumor mill has been a flutter with whisperings over who will be the next county administrator, and several well-placed sources now claim that Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association CEO Jon Mast is the odds-on favorite for the position, possibly coming on as a deputy county administrator in the immediate future.

The BIA came up in reporting in Sunday’s edition of The Bradenton Times, relating to a "white paper" the group submitted to the county, a 30-page document composed of edits to some sections of the county’s land development code that would make it even more friendly to development interests. As noted in the reporting, there are ties between the county commission and the BIA. 

County Commissioner Mike Rahn, who was elected in 2022, is the former president of the organization and is listed on their website as a "Life Director." Don Baugh, a local jewelry store owner and husband of County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, is a current board member. 

Until very recently, Commissioner Amanda Ballard’s husband David was on staff for the BIA as its "Government Affairs & Membership Director," and Ballard was said to be poised to move into the CEO spot upon Mast's pending departure. However, following reporting that Ballard was recently arrested on DUI charges twice in just over a month’s time, his name and photo have been removed from the staff page.

Chartered in 1962, the BIA is a professional trade organization "comprised of local builders and associated businesses working together to build and improve our community." It claims to be "the consolidated voice of the building, construction, development and associated industries for our region."

Given both its purpose and the positions it takes in the white paper, it is not surprising that the developers who control the BOCC would want someone from its ranks at the helm of county government, and a look at Mast’s bona fides further suggests that he would be an ideal candidate, at least from their perspective.

According to his LinkedIn page, "Jon has had a passion for government and political affairs" and "has been involved in the building industry for over 35 years. During that time, he has owned several companies in the construction industry doing business as a contractor, remodeler, land developer, architectural principle, designer, and real estate agent."

A native of Sarasota, Mast previously worked in the Sarasota County Government's Planning and Development Services Department, serving as its General Manager of Business Operations and the Manager of Land Development, directing many quasi-judicial and legislative land regulation actions before the Sarasota BOCC.

This would not be the first time the development industry has pushed a candidate for the county’s top position. When Ed Hunzeker departed as county administrator in early 2019, after finding himself on the outs with politically-powerful developer Carlos Beruff, developers pushed commissioners to hire Dom DiMaio, a banker who had recently been named the president and CEO of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, another pro-development group. 

At the time, the board was still stacked with developer-backed candidates who had reliably given Beruff and other developers almost everything they asked for, but several felt that the county administrator position, which oversees far more than the development-related departments important to the builders, was too critical of a post to be filled by anyone other than the best-suited candidate. A narrow majority successfully pushed forward with an effort to promote Deputy County Administrator Cheri Coryea, a 29-year veteran of Manatee County Government. 

This didn’t seem to sit well with Beruff and other developers who set about radically transforming the board over the 2020 and 2022 elections, successfully installing a cadre of much less qualified candidates with no such qualms when it came to the administrator spot. Led by current chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge, who famously moved to fire Coryea in his very first meeting, the new majority successfully removed the county’s first female administrator in Feb. of 2021. 

DiMaio was once again mentioned as a replacement at that point, however, Van Ostenbridge successfully lobbied to have Hopes hired, despite the latter having no relevant experience for such a position and the board having already promised the public it would conduct a national search for Coryea's replacement. The two-year Hopes administration was an unmitigated disaster, leading to his sudden departure in early February. 

The board has since begun moving forward with engaging a firm to conduct a search, but commissioners have been hinting at an October timeline, suggesting that they do not want to make a hire during the budgeting process. Of course, that does not mean they could not then decide to either promote Mast from a deputy position or select him from the candidate pool in order to tick off the box for having conducted a search.

Dennis "Mitch" Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County government since 2010. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University, where he earned a degree in Government. He later served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Click here for his bio. His novella Sacred Hearts was recently reissued and is available here.

Reader Comments
Bradenton Times Reader
MAR 18, 2023  •  Hey Carol Whitmore, get the message, directly from the BOCC. Your kind ain’t wanted here. Take your fake self, fake hair, fake nails, fake boobs, fake tan, fake smile and fake personality elsewhere. Jason Bearden has spoken. You are the loser. Go away.
MAR 18, 2023  •  Whitmore, you are a known unethical liar that will say anything and do anything for a buck. Biggest gold digger there ever was. Bring your sympathy show elsewhere.
Carol Whitmore
MAR 16, 2023  •  There are fake names posting under comments that probably represent the board. Rumors running that I want back in politics? Are you frigging kidding me? We have the most inexperienced administration and BOCC ever. Runs-in’s with ethics, law enforcement and county being ran by the board not within the sunshine law. I committed many years to public service and NO intentions to run again. I loved the job but not with these people. They are imploding every week. I was approached and have a great job serving the public, our current board doesn't understand how to do that. Stop the FAKE names commenting. My husband died 12 weeks ago and our daughter died of brain cancer a few weeks ago. Leave me out of trying to deflect and change the message in this story.
Cynthia Saunders Disgruntled Housekeeper
MAR 16, 2023  •  Tip from the Housekeeper: Don't hire Cynthia Saunders or Mitchell Magoo Teitelbaum. They are the just bad. Housekeeper sends her love to my Manatee peeps. Peace out. ✌💙
Dr. Reason
MAR 16, 2023  •  There is so much whining and crying here in these comments and past comments. I am going to say this now, probably will have to say it soi many times in the future, and probably in vain. Comments are not going to fix Manatee County Government. Some people need to get together now and develop a plan. -- a plan that can work -- to get these prostitutes to the big developers ALL out of office. I have no political experience or skills, so it can't be me. I do know that any plan of action must be non-partisan, and attract citizens from both major parties. Otherwise the developers will just again hugely fund the campaigns of their sycophant Republicans and count on the fact that the GOP has a voting majority in the county, and thus take advantage of that fact. . If anything is to be done, it must start now, It must have time to be tested, modified, and assessed for effectiveness well before the next CC election. Stop your whining and do something now!
MAR 16, 2023  •  Whitmore? No way, she got thrown out of office in a big defeat. What would make her think the people that just voted her out would want her ? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard. NO WAY !
Please Don’t
MAR 16, 2023  •  We the people do not want Carol Whitmore as our next County Administrator. When will she get the message, we do not need her type of crooked politics here. Go away!
LWR Misanthrope
MAR 16, 2023  •  It doesn't surprise me that the BOCC wants a pro-development Administrator to take the focus away from their own actions. It's a shell game for the voters who normally have short attention spans about (oh look, a squirrel)...whatever moves they're making to appease developers who are contributing to their campaigns. However, the way to thwart that is to work into the Planning Commission so that you can work into zoning and ensure that preservation interests are represented. Unfortunately, the BOCC has that locked up as well since all of those positions are appointed by -- you guessed it -- the BOCC themselves. Meaning that it's all a puppet show provided for our entertainment.
MAR 16, 2023  •  And I thought they had a big rubber stamp that never ran out of ink to approve developers projects. Such a poor choice. What ever happen to a State/National search....oh because they didn't learn their lesson last time around. Shame on them. Fool the Citizens once, shame on us...Twice, shame on the BOCC Here we go again in the wrong direction. Welcome to an even bigger Gridlock than we already have.
Bradenton Times Reader
MAR 16, 2023  •  Carol Whitmore got spanked during the last election. She is trying to save face. I agree that she is pathetic in every single way.
MAR 16, 2023  •  Why do we keep hearing about Carol Whitmore and her money and power grabbing hands trying to get back in county politics. She is not wanted. Wasted tax payer money during her over stayed tenure. Talk about spouses that like to cheat, she was the biggest one of them all. Her husband was ancient and Carol loved younger men. Sickens me to think about her making a return as our county administrator. Jason Bearden, where are you?
MAR 16, 2023  •  The BOCC has changed. Rumor has it that Whitmore is making behind the scene deals to become the County Administrator and that Mast will be her Deputy. It has created a lot of turmoil at the BOCC. Many people have said that they cannot work for Whitmore. She is a narcissist that only cares about herself and AMI. Others say what a gold digger she is. Will do anything to find a rich older man so she does not have to work. Nothing I heard about Whitmore was positive in anyway. Hope the county does not make that mistake. Whitmore would be worse than Hopes. Contact the BOCC and let them know that Whitmore is not qualified and will bring us to lower lows.
MAR 15, 2023  •  Seems to be more qualified than DePol.
Amy Wright
MAR 15, 2023  •  I also heard that Whitmore wanted the job. She is delusional. She sucked as a county commissioner and expects the BOCC to hire her. She needs to crawl back u see a rock on AMI and breath in the sweet smelling red tide.
Manatee Patriot
MAR 15, 2023  •  Let Mast take the job. Who cares if it is Vanessa’s buddy. As long as he is qualified. Better than what we had in Hopes. Washington is doing a great job holding the fort down. Heard Whitmore wanted the job. Bearden should vote that tramp in just to fire her sorry lame ass!
MAR 15, 2023  •  Forget about that mythical national search. That seems to be code word for bread and circus. Then they go back to working outside of Sunshine. Bend backward to developers. This next two years will be very good for Manatee’s ruling class. For the rest of us - hoping we’re learning basic civics here. Meanwhile let’s attend those Commission meetings to voice our concerns. Make phone calls too. If you care. If not corruption rules in Manatee.
MAR 15, 2023  •  Are you effing kidding me????
K Kerekanich
MAR 15, 2023  •  I bought my home in Parrish 14 years ago, because Bradenton was just too busy. I retire ,from the county, in two years, and can't wait to sell my home and leave this place. This county is as ass backwards as anything I have ever seen . Parrish is in big trouble. The only people who are being taken care of, are the rich. Good going BOCC! I don't know what your going to do, when all of the blue collar workers leave town. Who will be here to do all of your dirty work?
Eyes Open
MAR 15, 2023  •  Has anyone ever seen the County Commissioners actually take interest and listen to any of their constituents that take time out of their lives to express their concerns about the out of control track building? I certainly cannot remember a single time. Our infrastructure is at least 10 years behind and the building simply has to stop so it can catch up. Take a ride out into what use to be country in Parrish and look at all the farms turned into sardine can neighborhoods. Not a single old growth tree saved or animal territory considered, no concideration to surounding properties. Carlos Barf is killing Manatee County. He is our Brad Wesley from Roadhouse. Granted there are plenty of other track builders but you can easily connect the dots between Commissioners, Hopeless, Barf and land use changes so he is setting the stage for all the rest. Public records have shown back door conversations with Commissioners, Dr. Hopeless and Barf. Why would Hopeless wipe his devices - one reason, to avoid incrimination. Commissioner Kruse was at Barf's house getting drunk before he ran into a tree. There is nothing good for Manatee County he would have been doing there. There are only two ways to fix this. One, VOTE for anti-development Commissioners. Two, we find a John Dalton (Patrick Swayze) to persuade Barf to change his ways.
Debby Pellom
Richard J Correnti
MAR 15, 2023  •  Well, here we go again,...the network maintains control. KVO and this Board was responsible for Dr Hopes and we all know how that worked out,...and many of us knew that it would work out that way given his lack of experience. And now they're heading down the same pothole filled road! How do we get candidates from either party, who are not beholden to developers, and County voters who will vote with their heads and not with their parties? A major task!! Perhaps not even doable!! That's sad!!
Patricia Catherine Benson
MAR 15, 2023  •  This is the same old Boy's Club that has been going on for years. Does anyone on the County Commission have any ethical backbones?
MAR 15, 2023  •  Should have seen this coming. Of course this BOCC has learned nothing-time to hire Vanessa’s best bud and head of the Builders Association to “run” the county. What have they done for the citizens of the county? Can’t hire good people (if they were-they left under Hopes mismanagement)? Solved the affordable housing issues (nope-only gave the downtown “affordable” developers millions of our tax dollars)? Spread urban sprawl without addressing the needs for more roads, water, sewer and oh yea-just ignore the fact that our landfill is at the end of its useful life. The endless red tide and now huge algae bloom which may cause our tourists to seek a beach elsewhere. Well you are getting what you asked for when you voted for the “perfect” Jason Bearden (not sure what he has done to deserve this title??) the “in control” bus driver KVO, the book burners and the others whose personal problems will take all of their time. It’s so sad to watch Manatee County continue to deteriorate under these “leaders”.
MAR 15, 2023  •  BREAKING NEWS- Sources on the 9th Floor have confirmed that The next County Administrator, Mast, was hand selected by Bill Clague and Vanessa Baugh. Masterminds of the 59th Street taking of our homes. Clague was reached for comment while at the gayest of gay bars in Sarasota, the Rhino and stated that he was only following the direction of Baugh who will receive tremendous pac money for her bid for Re-election . More to follow.
Richard DeFrank. Sr
MAR 15, 2023  •  Have sent emails to this publication about lack of Code Enforcement, R1 property being used for Industrial Equipment Storage, also issues that no one at the County will address, except to lie to me. Have sent issues to The Bradenton Times and not one reporter has contacted me, at least to fact check me, for some reason no one wants to get involved with lack of enforcement.
Cat L
MAR 15, 2023  •  That would be an unimaginable conflict of interest...
native FL upland habitat is rare and irreplaceable
MAR 15, 2023  •  The rumor mill is toxic and might be why the government agency was easily divided and conquered. There are a lot of fear-based leadership tactics at play and you cannot blame residents who are employed for not wanting to lose their livelihoods. County stewardship is the responsibility of everyone who is concerned. If you are concerned, then take accountability for your actions only without placing blame elsewhere. Do something instead of relieve yourself from feeling guilty by chalking it up to being somebody elses’ responsibility.
native FL upland habitat is rare and irreplaceable
MAR 15, 2023  •  The rumor mill is toxic and might be why the government agency was easily divided and conquered. There are a lot of fear-based leadership tactics at play and you cannot blame residents who are employed for not wanting to lose their livelihoods. County stewardship is the responsibility of everyone who is concerned. If you are concerned, then take accountability for your actions only without placing blame elsewhere. Do something instead of relieve yourself from feeling guilty by chalking it up to being somebody elses’ responsibility.
MAR 15, 2023  •  This county has become one big RICO violation. So much for that promised national search. Just another local good ol boy with developer connections.
MAR 15, 2023  •  When is the CRIMINAL CABAL that runs MANATEE COUNTY going to be investigated and jailed. Time to hear from the DOJ. Does the DOJ really exist??
MAR 15, 2023  •  Point noted as information passing on the "rumor mill" and so maybe there is something to this, maybe there isn't but when/if the bcc marches out anyone from ms-bia for a high position I guess then we know how reliable the rumor mills are. One thing for sure, since Mast has private and public sector experience and commissioners have recently been pitching that's what they're looking for, he would be a match. Stay tuned my Manateean compatriots, all shall be revealed.
MAR 15, 2023  •  The corruption is breathtaking. So overt. The LAST thing the county should have is "Developer" interests running it. This screams " Conflict of Interest", but I guess no one is listening. I am from NY and even there, this could not go on. Where are you Florida lawyers? Do they own you too?
Concerned Citizen
MAR 15, 2023  •  You may also look at the Donation that the Manatee Republican Executive Committee got from a hotel chain from Alaska. $25k oh and Desantis got the same money from the same group ~Sep/Oct timeframe. That hotel chain is owned by a cruise line. Also that Cruise line wanted to meet with BOCC & Desantis in private. Can you say port of manatee and free deals? Who knows but it should be covered under sunshine laws.
Reinstate Coryea
MAR 15, 2023  •  Reinstate Sheri Coryea. Never should have been fired.
59th Street Revolt
MAR 15, 2023  •  Are you going to let the crooked attorney Bill Clague, powered by Covid-19 queen Commissioner Vanessa Baugh steal our homes? If they can steal our land for Beruff, your home will be next. Look at all the campaign contributions and PAC money. BOCC has been bought and sold. Clague is sanction all the illegal activity. KVO this is your district. Don’t let the crooked lawyer steal our land and homes.
MAR 15, 2023  •  These commissioners are the worst ever ! They are destroying the county !
MAR 15, 2023  •  This would be another unmitigated disaster if they do not follow through with a national search. Of course, the search could mean nothing depending on this board. They tend to do what the developers want.
MAR 15, 2023  •  So much for a national search to get a person who actually has broad experience in government. The developers will get their way and nothing will change....
Friends of David B
MAR 14, 2023  •  Don’t understand why David Ballard was removed. So what that he gets a couple DUI in a month. It happens. No reason to not let him become a CEO and crash corporate vehicles. I say, give Drinking David Ballard a chance, a drink and a fresh car to wreck.