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Local Government Race Analysis: Manatee County Commission: District 1 Republican Primary


BRADENTON --  In the Manatee County Commission District 1 Republican primary race, incumbent Larry Bustle seeks his first re-election since winning the seat in 2008. He is challenged by newcomer Nathaniel Leonard, a counter-terrorism consultant. The winner will face unopposed Democrat Corie Holmes in November.

             Nathaniel A. Leonard

Nathaniel Leonard says his ambition is to represent the people of Manatee County at the local level and bring them closer to a transparent government. Leonard says, "The concerns of my constituents will always take precedence over the interest of outside influences." He says he wants to represent a community that grows together, "a place for my kids to grow up and live out their dreams." 

"I want to host monthly community meetings so citizens can voice their concerns, so I can be in touch with their interest," said Leonard, adding, "I am not going to compromise. I won't be a rubber stamp."

When I asked him what he meant by rubber stamp, Leonard replied, "When Commissioner Joe McClash tried to negotiate a $5 million compensation with Mosaic mining for the loss of natural resources, Commissioner Bustle said he didn't want to hear of it." Leonard added, "Some of the effects of that will be around for 10,000 years."

Commissioner Bustle's METV reply concerning rubber-stamping: "That is easy to say, but hard to prove. I resent any implication to rubber-stamping. I don't believe, I, nor any of the other commissioners have rubber-stamped anything. We take each and every decision seriously." 

                   Larry Bustle

Bustle says he does promote an environment for jobs. Currently serving as the chairman of the Port Authority board, he says, "Port Manatee is an economic multiplier," and believes that new director Carlos Buqueras has the ideas and talent to make that happen. 

Bustle is currently the chairman of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, sits on the board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and also prides his seven years as mayor of the City of Palmetto, as assets to his qualification.

Leonard reflected on some of Bustle's statements at the recent "Pizza and Politics" in Parrish. "He would like to see a Home Depot in Parrish. We're not a city. We already have an Ace Hardware," Leonard said, and added, "I won't put building ahead of utilities. We're not a 'build it and they'll come' community." He said he was eager to meet with people in their homes or community centers in order to get their opinion "face to face."

Despite vocal opposition from his constituents, Bustle repeatedly voted to approve the Shun-Shion development, though it was eventually voted down by a majority of the board. He also voted to approve locating the County's vehicle maintenance facility on Erie Road, and it was eventually withdrawn from the commission's agenda because of the overwhelming opposition from Parrish residents. 

Bustle has received strong support from the business community, particularly developers like Medallion Homes and its owner Carlos Beruff's various entities. In total, he's raised over $96,000, far more than any other county commission candidate. Leonard, running a grass roots campaign, has raised only $125, while loaning his campaign a little over $800 to pay for sign and fliers.

I asked Leonard: if elected, would he see himself as more of a leader or a facilitator of the people's needs? He answered, "I think I would have to be both."

After over three years of being District One's commissioner, Bustle says, "I feel like I accomplished most of what I set out to do." Bustle added, "I promised to promote an affordable balanced budget, promised to keep taxes low and eliminate micro-management and fix dysfunctional departments." 

Other local issues: 

- Fort Hamer bridge - Bustle says, he is for the bridge, and that it will "offer opportunity to Parrish residents." Leonard says he is in favor of a scaled down version -- "not the large arching design approved by my opponent." 

- To generate capital for county road projects - Leonard seeks controlled development that will bring in businesses, consequently raising property values across the board -- Bustle wants to look at toll roads and pay-per-use vehicle transponders. 

- Complying to the county's Comp-Plan on lot sizes - Leonard says lowering the acceptable residential lot width to 27 feet for special permits is an irresponsible decision -- Bustle says, "What the market says, is what the market needs," emphasizing that the decision should be left up to those developing the property.

I asked Leonard where his campaign literature and posters were made, and he answered, "I had mine done at Bradenton Printing." I asked commissioner Bustle where his campaign literature and posters were made, and he replied, "I appreciate what you are trying to do, but I have nothing to say." 

Leonard sums up his campaign message as: "Community and unity. Vote Leonard." 

Bustle says, "I offer leadership, along with a high dose of integrity and honesty. Vote Larry Bustle."

Nathaniel A. Leonard's (Web Site


Larry Bustle's (Facebook page


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