Reagan, Trace, Holmes Pursue Manatee Seat



A long-time state lawmaker, an agricultural business owner and a former sheriff’s deputy aiming to shake up establishment control are all gunning to be the next Manatee County Commissioner representing District 1. The decision by incumbent Larry Bustle not to seek re-election drew a slew of candidates expressing interest this year, but only Republicans Ron Reagan, Priscilla Whisenant Trace and Corie Holmes ultimately qualified to run for the seat. 

Reagan spent eight years in the Florida House, including two as speaker pro tempore, before term limits forced him to retire in 2010. Now, he says he looks forward to continuing public service closer to home. A Manatee County resident for 40 years, he says his time in Tallahassee, including on the Appropriations committee, prepares him for work in county government. He wants to carefully explore ways to balance the county budget, and knows it will be a challenge to do so. “I did follow the study where a citizen board was brought on to peel the onion back for the 150 budgets within the Manatee County budget to see where the fat was, and they said there was no fat,” he says. While not a typical proponent of taxes, he says, he does support charging full impact fees and favors passage of a half-cent sales tax that could pass some costs on to tourists and visitors in the region.

Trace, founder of Ellenton Nursey Growers, decided to pursue this office at a time when her son Craig has taken on more responsibilities in the Parrish business. A long-time board member for community organizations like the Manatee County Fair and Manatee County Agriculture Museum, the Ellenton native believes her understanding of the rural district combined with a solid business background should serve the community well. “I would fight for the densities here in District 1,” she says. “It’s an agriculture area and we don’t want neighborhood densities.” She wasn’t happy with board votes to approve projects like Long Bar Pointe but acknowledges county officials must steer clear of legal ramifications that come with denying too many property rights to developers. Also a supporter of the sales tax, she says the county needs fair ways of balancing revenue shortfalls. “I’m very conservative, but I don’t spend money I don’t have,” she says.

Holmes, a former criminal investigator with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, says his background working for the agency will offer a deeper understanding of law enforcement needs than anyone on the board boasts today. A vocal critic of County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, Holmes promises a shake-up from the top down should he be elected. “I am ready to take on the establishment and challenge the status quo,” he says. “You have a board that is totally favorable to special interests.” He says he will rekindle a conversation between county government and regular citizens, and notes failures from animal services problems to the exhaustion of indigent health care revenues made with the sale of a hospital. It’s time, he says, for voters to “upset the apple cart.”

The Republican primary is scheduled for August 30.

Pictured: Ron Reagan, Priscilla Whisenant Trace, Corie Holmes.

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