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Commissioners Decline to Appoint Applicants to Library Advisory Board


BRADENTON — Despite several citizens volunteering to fill the county’s Library Advisory Board openings, commissioners voted 6-1 during a Tuesday BOCC meeting to “table” appointments and re-advertise for additional applicants.

The Library Advisory Board is one of more than a dozen citizen advisory boards or committees that Manatee County residents may volunteer their time and service to the local government and community. Serving on an advisory board offers residents the opportunity to help guide the county government's decision-making process in various topic areas. Volunteer appointees are determined through an application process followed by a nomination and final appointment by a vote of county commissioners.

Citizen advisory boards cover a range of topics including affordable housing, children's services, the environment, historical preservation, and more. The primary function of the county’s Library Advisory Board is to advise county commissioners on matters pertaining to the public library system and policy and to assist the BOCC in providing and improving library services throughout the county. 

In April 2023, commissioners voted to expand the Library Advisory Board from its previous five seats, adding four additional seats, for a total of 9. The approved expansion was a compromise to a prior suggestion brought by District 2 Commissioner Amanda Ballard who proposed the board approve the creation of a second citizen’s library advisory board.

County Ordinance 23-105, which officially expanded the advisory board, was adopted in Oct. 2023. The following month, the newly created seats—plus two existing seats ending their terms—were advertised. Per the county’s instruction, residents were asked to submit qualified applications by Dec. 20, 2023, to be considered for appointment by commissioners.

The selection and appointment of applicants was scheduled for Tuesday’s BOCC meeting, but at the item’s opening, Commissioner Ballard raised a concern about the applicant pool.

“We do have several applicants for a couple of the seats, but I do think it’s unfortunate that for a couple of the seats we only have one applicant,” Ballard said before suggesting commissioners consider “re-opening” the application period to “see if we get more than one applicant for some of the new seats.”

Based on the application matrix attached to the meeting’s agenda, two of the newly created seats had three or more applicants, while two had just one. The resumes submitted by each applicant appear to show that all applicants for any available position met or far exceeded the requirements for the seat.

During a commission meeting earlier this month, Commissioner George Kruse proposed commissioners consider expanding the number of citizen advisory boards to cover more topics and to provide more opportunities for citizen input in the local process. However, Kruse found little support from his colleagues who largely dismissed the idea due to an existing inability to attain qualified and interested applicants.

In response to Kruse’s proposal, Commissioner Mike Rahn said in part, “My concern is we put these things out there, and then some of them don’t even get recognized or filled.”

Echoing Rahn’s concern, Ballard added, “I hesitate to open up new (advisory) boards when we’re having difficulty filling the ones that are available for our citizens currently to serve on.”

Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge also weighed in during the last meeting, agreeing that the county was having trouble “getting full participation” on some of its citizen advisory boards.

Two of the applicants for the Library Advisory Board before commissioners on Tuesday were current board members seeking reappointment. Each of the two applicants maintained a greater than 90 percent meeting attendance and board participation rate during their previous four-year appointment—with one applicant maintaining a 98 percent participation in the board.

But on Tuesday, Commissioner Van Ostenbridge seemed less concerned about participation.

While participating in the BOCC meeting by phone, Van Ostenbridge said, “I just want to say that I am not particularly satisfied with the applicants on the list.”

Van Ostenbridge followed his remarks by supporting Ballard’s suggestion and motioned that the board direct staff to re-advertise the openings and seek additional applicants. Commissioner Jason Bearden readily seconded the motion.

In considering support of Van Ostenbridge’s motion, Commissioner Ray Turner sought the expertise of the county’s Library Services Manager Tammy Parrott. In response to Turner’s request for deeper insight, Parrott offered that in her years of experience overseeing the applicant process for the Library Advisory Board, this year was notable.

“This is the most robust application pool I have seen since I started working at the county,” Parrott answered. “I was very pleased with the response.”

In addition, Parrott offered, “The current board is set to expire at the end of January and the new board was to be seated in February in order to begin its work.” 

In following up, Turner asked Parrott whether she was satisfied with the applicants who applied to the openings. In response, Parrott offered that while she did not know any of the individuals personally, after reviewing their applicants, she was satisfied that they were qualified to fill the roles.

Then, directing his inquiry to Van Ostenbridge, Turner asked his fellow commissioner to elaborate on what specifically he was “unsatisfied” with concerning the applicant pool before the board.

Van Ostenbridge answered, “I don’t see very many individuals on this list who are like-minded with this board.”

The county attorney advised commissioners that by delaying the appointment of citizens to the Library Advisory Board, the unfilled five seats will render the board without a majority—or quorum. An advisory board would be unable to meet or conduct business without a quorum. The Library Advisory Board’s annual meeting is designated to be held in February each year.

But Van Ostenbridge was not swayed by the risk of an inactive or suspended advisory board. “I’d rather the board not meet at all than to have a board that is going to meet and make decisions that are not in line with this county commission,” he suggested.

By their nature, advisory boards do not set policy or “make decisions” as Van Ostenbridge implied. Citizen advisory boards are intended to assist commissioners by bringing forward policy suggestions or lending non-policy support to public services.

Commissioner Kruse—who has grown accustomed to being on the single side of several six-to-one votes in recent months—strongly disagreed with delaying the appointments.

“Let’s be honest,” Kruse began, “this was a better-advertised applicant process than almost every advisory board we have.”

Regardless of his acknowledging that the board was likely to “table” the appointments, Kruse suggested commissioners reconsider delaying appointments to all five of the seats and avoid rendering the advisory board without a quorum. Instead, Kruse suggested commissioners at a minimum approve the two reappointment applications.

But commissioners appeared unpersuaded by Kruse’s arguments. Commissioner Bearden added the final comments before the vote.

“The overall concerns on this board regarding this sensitive subject, ensuring that we have the proper people in place on this board because of the things that have happened these last few years regarding libraries," Bearden began without elaborating on the “things” he was referring to. "I mean, it is what it is.” 

“So, if commissioners are getting a check to take a step back to look at the applicants or to put it back on the street, I think that’s a smart move in regards to ensuring that we are moving our county in the right direction—the way that this board wants to do that, which is the majority of this board,” Bearden concluded his comments.

According to the citizens’ applications, of the 13 applicants, at least 10 had a Bachelor’s Degree. More than one had obtained their Master’s, and at least one carried a PhD. The professional and educational experience of the applicants included a wide range of work experience and degree studies, including (but not limited to) degrees in education, business, economics, library study, and law. Nearly all of the applicants had prior experience serving on citizen advisory boards or volunteering within their communities.

To review the applications and resumes, click here.

In the end, commissioners voted to approve re-advertising the Library Advisory Board positions, with only Kruse dissenting. No information was provided during or following the vote as to when the re-advertisement will begin, what the extended deadline for application submission will be, or when the commissioners might again revisit filling open seats on the Library Advisory Board.

Click the video below to replay this portion of the Jan. 23, 2024 Manatee County BOCC regular meeting. 


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  • lib224

    The only answer here is to replace these sad little commissioners.

    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • kmskepton

    If the only qualification is that applicants be "like-minded with the board." why bother having one?

    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • Carolannfelts

    Advisory Boards do not make decisions, as stated and obviously feared. If they don’t like the applicants, tough. These are your constituents and what you have to work with. Unlike the BOCC, we can do our jobs in 2024, and deliver the same message.

    That we find their application for re-election unsuitable, or not “in line with” our belief system either.

    That’s the American way.

    Silencing the public, truncating our rights to take part in our government, answering only to an elite few, using our tax dollars to promote propaganda, and intentionally withholding the information needed by the public to be educated and informed is exactly how Communism, Nazi-ism, and every other non Americanism takes hold, not by nuclear bombs or the armies of our enemies, but by small, insidious and surreptitious means within the power of a few.

    There’s a small island 90 miles away from Florida called Cuba, where this worked quite well. Perhaps this is a more suitable environment for those of this mindset.

    But American, you are not.

    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • nellmcphillips

    Wow can these Commissioners get any crazier? I looked at the qualifications of each person that applied and see well qualified people. What I did not see was their party affiliation. Is that what KVO in concerned about? Seriously this is some stinking thinking. Or maybe it was the hint of communist environmentalists that concerned him. Whatever it is shows, it shows for certain what Commissioners need to go.

    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • Dianna

    By like minded do they mean bigoted haters? The public stepped up and applied, staff said they were qualified but 6 hating commissioners refused to accept that. Kruse again is the only commissioner standing up for the public.

    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • susieb.copeland

    An advisory committee should not be a rubber stamp of commission but one who is objective and gives opinion to enhance the system.

    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • Smartins

    Time to vote the commissioners out. The purpose of an advisory board isn't to rubber-stamp what the commissioners want; it's to recommend policies that benefit citizens.

    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • lisaroselee

    I would like to thank all those who have applied for this important advisory committee. I encourage every reader to review the applications that have been submitted. It will make you further question the current BOCC’s ability to govern.

    The applicants are well qualified. As a matter of fact, If these applicants were vying for a position on the BOCC, with few exceptions, I would certainly vote for them over the current small-minded and power hungry BOCC members.

    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • WTF

    KVO stated “not happy with the current applications” Are you kidding does he have any idea how many Citizens, taxpayers and voters are not happy with him. Come on man.

    The entire Board with again the exception of George Kruse is a dismal disgrace. White Supremacist comes to mind. Amanda Ballard an attorney no less is truly a disappointment on this issue if nothing more than from a legal matter and standing.

    Perhaps the voters would like to open up their positions because truly the citizens are not happy with this Board.

    The Gadfly had it down pat on his assessment of the situation.

    Vote them OUT, they need to be One & Done

    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • Cat L

    "Like-minded with this board” and "things that have happened these last few years regarding libraries" are code for

    Code for "we made up stuff so we can have a conflict to rile people up about.

    The Potato, Ballard and KVO Bonaparte are here for click-bait.

    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • sandy

    This is an advisory position. They don't make policy. KVO wouldn't even amend his motion to approve the 2 members who have been on board for 3 and 6 years. And after reading applications what are the specifics KVO didn't like? People aren't going to apply to an advstory board because "Mini Me" doesn't like them (probably checking info received when he purchased mailing list information). Politics was not even part of the applications. Remember KVO did the same thing with administrator. That's how Charlie Bishop got the job even though he didn't even originally apply.

    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • sandy

    First month in the new year and the idiots are at it again.

    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • Debann


    Wednesday, January 24 Report this

  • TaxPro

    Bearded and his bro Satcher needed time to recruit their church buddies to apply.

    Thursday, January 25 Report this