LARRY BUSTLE, Republican
BIRTHPLACE: Samoset, Manatee County
FAMILY: Spouse: Edith; four grown children; two grandchildren; one great grandchild
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s, general engineering, U.S. Naval Academy; master’s in astronautical engineering, Air Force Institute of Technology
PROFESSIONAL CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Served 27 years in the Air Force as a fighter and test pilot, retiring as a colonel in 1984; flew 130 combat missions in Vietnam, 68 of them over North Vietnam; worked 10 years in marketing and sales for defense companies; served seven years as mayor of Palmetto; four years as Manatee County commissioner.
FUN FACT: In my career objectives, I never included politics.
Manatee County has committed $5.1 million through 2018 to subsidize expected new-job creation among Manatee businesses. What is your position on spending tax dollars to subsidize private business?
Our board unanimously adopted that jobs would be our No. 1 priority. It costs money to do that, but we fashion incentives for qualified, targeted industries that have to pay 10% to 15% above the average wage in the county.
Explain how giving some businesses tax breaks and money in exchange for job creation is morally justified when many longtime, taxpaying Manatee County businesses have never received any government funding?
It’s not the purpose of government to fund business. But we’re primarily trying to attract out-of-state companies, not companies from Sarasota or Pinellas counties. If an existing company can create new jobs, then there is an opportunity for them as well.
I think it’s a worthwhile return on investment. At this time, we’re approaching 5,000 new jobs.
What steps would you recommend to improve the economic and business climate in Manatee County?
We’ve gone a long way toward trying to make it easier to do business, to get permits and eliminate the micro-managing in county government.
We’re also concentrating on Port Manatee, for which I am serving my third term as chairman of the Manatee Port Authority.
We’ve done a lot to prepare for the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, adding a new berth and dredging that will create a remarkable opportunity to create jobs in Manatee County. With the completion of the berth, we will have about a $200 million investment in the port from its startup.
What is your philosophy on the role of the Manatee County Commission and Manatee County government?
To provide for the health, welfare and public safety of our citizens.
What is your philosophy on taxation? Are you willing to take the pledge of the Americans for Tax Reform not to increase taxes if you are elected?
I would not take the pledge. It’s a difficult question: How do you pay for government? Public safety is not free. You can’t operate a business, for instance, without a source of revenue. I’m in favor of looking for ways that are more stable (than sales and property taxes), such as fees on some services.
What is your view of population growth and its effects on the county’s economy and quality of life?
Growth is good. It’s in keeping with a fundamental rule of nature — if things don’t grow, they’ll die.
We’re going to have growth. Our challenge is how do you accommodate it? I have long been a fan of smart growth.
Where do you think county government could become more efficient and save tax dollars?
In the past five years, we’ve cut $130 million in spending from the budget and eliminated 280 positions. We have done what you have to do in times of recession.
If we could truly look at the opportunity at Port Manatee, we could have a revenue stream that might allow us to reduce taxes. That can create momentum so there will be more and more jobs created at the port and in turn more revenue for the port.
What is your position on the Tara Bridge?
Bridges are designed to address a problem. With a new bridge, you will decrease response times for emergency services. We need the opportunity to increase mobility in the county without having to go over the interstate.
But I’m not ready to say what I’m going to do on the Tara Bridge. I’m in favor of the Fort Hamer Bridge, but I want to hear more about Tara.
If elected, what do you see as your top three priorities??
We’re still going to have jobs as our primary project. There are opportunities for more collaboration with Sarasota County — in juvenile detention and mental health, to name two areas.
What is your vision for Manatee County?
How we will grow is a big concern. Growth is going to happen. We have to do it in a way that is acceptable to the people.
PHOTO GALLERY: Morning Express Networking Social
The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance held its Morning Express Networking Social today at State College of Florida Lakewood Ranch.
May 22: Daily Headlines Video
Today's Stories: Town manager seeks $300,000 in budget cuts; Half-cent sales tax would cover indigent health care; Surging Tsunami: Jillian Santiago; Teenager composes a promising future
Patron Saints: Dennis and Graci McGillicuddy
If you haven't started watching The Observer's online video series "Patron Saints," now's your chance. It focuses on the people who make Sarasota the arts community that it is — the patrons. Each video spotlights a patron and a different performing-arts venue.
Gullett student wins speech contest
Gullett Elementary School student Hailey Wahlers took home top honors May 11, after placing first in the Tropicana District Speech Contest.
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