On Air Now    09:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Up Next    11:00 PM - 01:00 AM

New candidates file for Manatee County Commission, school board races

Written by on Sunday, April 7, 2024

The Bradenton Times lays out all the races in the county.

By Dawn Kitterman

The Bradenton Times

MANATEE COUNTY — With just over four months remaining until the local primary election and roughly seven months until the general, county races continue to draw new candidates. Most recently, the Manatee Commission District 7 At-Large race and the School Board District 1 race have seen new candidates join the field.

Sari Lindroos-Valimaki (D)

Lindroos-Valimaki

Palmetto resident and Democrat Sari Lindroos-Valimaki has officially entered the Manatee County Commission District 7 race joining a three-deep field of Republican filers. As the lone Democrat candidate, Lindroos-Valimaki is unlikely to face a primary challenger come August but would potentially face one of three Republican candidates for the seat in November. Lindroos-Valimaki joins incumbent County Commissioner George Kruse (R), and additional Republican candidates Keith Green and April Culbreath in the county-wide race.

According to a campaign press release, Lindroos-Valimaki is an immigrant from Finland, a 40-year resident of Florida, and a “seasoned” IT security professional. Her public profile on LinkedIn shows that after a 30-year career in information technology and security, Lindroos-Valimaki took a “career break” in 2020 and is currently on disability.

“Manatee County is at a pivotal moment,” Lindroos-Valimaki said in the press release. “We face challenges from water quality to unsustainable development, but also opportunities to make our community stronger, more inclusive, and sustainable. I am here to ensure that our growth is smart and that every voice is heard.”

Responding to TBT by email, Lindroos-Valimaki shared that she attended high school and college in Palm Beach County. The District 7 hopeful earned her undergraduate in Political Science before relocating to Manatee County in 2018.

Lindroos-Valimaki and her husband, Jarmo, have been married for over 30 years. Jarmo works for the US Navy as a mechanical engineer, and the two are parents to a daughter who currently resides in Nokomis.

With a platform focused on sustainable development and inclusive and transparent government, Lindroos-Valimaki hopes her campaign can transcend political lines and inspire all residents to “contribute to a future defined by collective action, integrity, and respect for our beautiful county.”

“For too long, our voices have been underrepresented in the decisions that affect us the most,” Lindroos-Valimaki said in the official campaign announcement. “It’s time for change. It’s time for all of us to come together and build a future we can all be proud of. I am ready to lead, but more importantly, I am ready to listen.”

Voters can learn more about Lindroos-Valimaki and her campaign by visiting, sari4manatee.com.

 

Alex Garner

Alex Garner

Local high school teacher Alex Garner submitted his filing last week, officially entering the Manatee School Board District 1 race. Garner joins two other school board candidate hopefuls, Mark Stanoch and Heather Felton. Gina Messenger currently holds the District 1 seat; it is not anticipated that Messenger will file for reelection.

Garner is a fourth-generation Manatee County resident who teaches business classes within the career and technical education department at Palmetto High School. According to a campaign press release, he graduated from the University of South Florida in 2011 with a degree in Business Marketing and currently runs Garner Wealth Management, a financial advising firm.

Garner is active in the community, serving as a local Kiwanis Club member and a Palmetto High School faculty adviser to the Key Club and the Future Business Leaders of America.

Garner and his wife, Ashley, reside in Parrish. Ashley teaches kindergarten at a public elementary school in Manatee County.

Garner says that it was during the COVID-19 pandemic that he was called to teach. As a school board member, Garner says he will continue to fight for parental rights in education.

“As a lifelong resident, I am deeply concerned about the future of our community,” Garner said in the press release, “that’s why I became a teacher.”

Garner believes Manatee County can provide a world-class education while “not wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.”

“We can provide teacher raises without asking residents for more,” he added.

Unlike commission seats and races, school board races have been conducted as nonpartisan contests in Florida for more than 20 years. However, state officials approved a proposed constitutional amendment requiring partisan elections for school board member races to be placed on this year’s ballot. If the measure is supported by more than 60 percent of the state’s voters, it would require partisan elections for school board member seats beginning as early as the November 2026 elections. For now, school board candidates remain nonpartisan on 2024 filings and ballots.

Speaking to TBT by text, Garner shared that his campaign website is currently under construction and should be launched soon. While he doesn’t have a campaign page on social media, Garner offered that he can be found on Facebook under his personal profile if you search for him by name.

The 2024 Races

With local races continuing to draw more candidates, and depending on how many ultimately qualify by petition or fee to appear on the ballot, area voters might find they have a few more choices than in previous elections.

Four seats are up for election (or re-election) in the county commission races. Between these four seats, thirteen candidates have so far filed to run. Two of the commission races have NPA (non-party affiliated) candidates who have filed alongside Republican candidates, while the other two races have both Republican and Democrat contenders.

Here are the candidates who have filed to run for county commissioner seats as of April 5, 2024:

 

 

Races for the Manatee School Board will be held for two of the five school districts in 2024. School board Districts 1 and 3 are up for election, but only District 1 has drawn candidates.

District 3 is currently represented by Mary Foreman, who has not filed to run for reelection. With the local primary elections scheduled for August 20 and the general election to be held on November 5, there is still time for a candidate to enter any of the upcoming races.

The three candidates who have filed for the Manatee School Board District 1 seat are Heather Felton, Alex Garner, and Mark Stanoch.

Manatee School District electoral map

While the county school district has had a district area map separate and differing from the Manatee County Commission District map, on January 16, 2024, school board members voted to adopt a new district map that will mirror the Manatee County Commission map. The new district zoning will not go into effect, however, until after the 2024 election on December 1.

In addition to county commission and school board races, several other local offices have seats up for election this cycle, including the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, Property Appraiser, Sheriff, and Tax Collector.

Incumbent Angelina (Angel) Colonneso is seeking reelection as Manatee’s Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller. So far, Colonneso has drawn no challengers in the race.

Incumbent Charles Hackney will seek reelection to the Property Appraiser position; Hackney has also drawn no challengers.

Incumbent Charles (Rick) Wells has filed for reelection to continue to serve as Manatee County Sheriff. Wells is expected to run unopposed.

Incumbent Ken Burton is seeking reelection as Manatee County’s Tax Collector. Burton has also drawn no challengers.

In addition to the above races, the Manatee Supervisor of Election position is in play. Only one candidate has declared their candidacy for this race—Scott Farrington.

At the start of the year, Manatee County’s Supervisor of Elections, Mike Bennett, resigned before the end of his term. In a departing letter, Bennett recommended his second in command, Scott Farrington, be appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to fill the position through the next election.

Manatee County District 1 Commissioner James Satcher—who also has filed for reelection to his commission seat—also applied to fill the vacant SOE position.

Though rumors have swirled that politically connected individuals have advocated for the governor to select Satcher as Bennett’s replacement, DeSantis has taken no action so far. Bennet’s retirement became effective on March 1.

The Office of the State Attorney for the 12th Judicial Circuit is also up for election this cycle. The office/seat—which serves Manatee, Sarasota, and Desoto Counties—is currently held by Ed Brodsky. So far no one has filed for election to this office, though it is anticipated Brodsky will file for reelection in the coming weeks.

Local cities will also have elections in 2024, including the City of Bradenton (Mayor and Wards 1 and 5), the City of Palmetto (Mayor and  Commission At-Large 1 and 2),  and the island cities.  For a complete list of local offices up for election in 2024, click here.

The candidate ballot qualification period begins at noon on June 10 and ends at noon on June 14. An optional pre-qualification period will run from May 28 to June 7. Only qualified candidates will appear on the ballot in August and November.

For more information about local races, candidates, election dates, and deadlines, or to register to vote or to request a vote-by-mail ballot, visit the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections website at www.votemanatee.com.

Dawn Kitterman is a staff reporter and investigative journalist for The Bradenton Times covering local government news. She can be reached at dawn.kitterman@thebradentontimes.com.