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Gallen to Seek Re-election to Manatee BOCC


BRADENTON -- Manatee's District 2 County Commissioner Michael Gallen is hoping to win another term when he runs for his first re-election in November of 2014. Gallen is the first candidate to file for the race and says that there are still many goals to reach and projects to finish, and that he would like to continue to be a part of that process.

The youngest commissioner on the board, Gallen overcame a huge financial disadvantage and an onslaught of developer-funded attack ads to unseat 16-year incumbent Gwen Brown in a 2010 Democratic primary. Because no Republican had entered, the race was open to all registered voters in the district. District 2 covers much of downtown and East Bradenton, Oneco and also crosses the river into most of urban Palmetto, through Memphis and other north county neighborhoods. It contains some of the most blighted and economically challenged areas of Manatee County.


While Commissioner Gallen is the only Democrat on the 7-member board, he's built a broad base of cross-aisle support and was even lauded by Tea Party Manatee for his fight to bring openness and clarity to a recent half-cent sales tax referendum.

Gallen, who supported using a half-cent tax to fund programs for indigent healthcare, was troubled by confusing statements that had been made by both the county and a supportive PAC group that he felt led people to erroneously believe that they were voting for a property tax cut.

Gallen had also fought to hold the referendum in concert with a scheduled election, such as the 2014 primary, in order to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in special election costs, while arguing that the June, off-year date would also disenfranchise many seasonal residents and suggesting the time could be used to look at more cost-efficient ways to spend the revenues.

While on the board, Gallen has built a reputation as a smart-growth, pro-community, pro-small business commissioner. An attorney, who also taught at Lakewood Ranch High before being elected to the board, you can see both former professions come across in his legislative approach, which tends to be at once deliberate, yet measured. He's a student of the issues who puts in the time to collect constituent input and weigh competing interests in a thoughtful and balanced manner. 

In his first term, Gallen spearheaded a measure to open school playgrounds after hours, in order to provide more opportunities for area youth to recreate in safe places. He also successfully argued for the Children’s Service Tax dollars to remain in the children’s services trust fund rather than fund juvenile incarceration and secured an injunction which ultimately closed Groover's Market, a drug and crime haven in his district.

He's also been on the losing side of many votes. However, in doing so, Commissioner Gallen has often managed to give a voice to valid concerns and opposition that might otherwise have gone unheard. It might sound like an odd thing to say, but sometimes he's even managed to improve bad ideas that were going to pass without debate, had he not pulled them out for discussion. Gallen sees a multitude of challenges on the horizon and is excited at the prospect of continuing his service. He says that if re-elected, he hopes to help direct growth into "our true urban core" and work to revitalize Manatee's historic communities. 

"Our urban core has been ignored and blighted in some areas," said the commissioner. "This is a result of growth naturally occurring in undeveloped areas of the county since there’s greater economic gain. We need to bring the developers and other stakeholders to the table and find out what obstacles need to be addressed to get the industry to invest in the urban core - then implement this plan successfully. Many neighborhoods in my district are tired and need urban revitalization in order to provide needed infrastructure as well as jobs.

"We may need to look at expanding or creating new CRA’s or TIF’s to help these struggling areas of the county," continued Gallen. "I’ve also been working on developing the '88 Acres' which is a vacant parcel in the north river area that was used as a borrow pit when the US 41 overpass was created. This has been a desire of the community ever since the overpass unfairly divided the community and left a large hole in the ground where a golf course once sat."

Gallen said that he's treasured the opportunities he's had to work directly with constituents to resolve quality of life issues and that while there have been plenty of surprises in his first term, most of them have been pleasant. 

"I was surprised how knowledgeable and helpful the Manatee County staff was," said Gallen. "They continue to support me in my efforts to assist the citizens of the county and I’m very grateful to them. Another big surprise was how well I get along with all of the other commissioners. For some reason I thought our relationships would be challenging. I guess I watched too many televised public meetings," he said with a laugh. "When the heated debates are over and the meeting adjourns – we remain the only seven representatives and this builds a unique camaraderie."


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