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East County Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 1 month ago

Manatee County Commission, At-Large: Jason Bearden

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Meet the candidate.
by: Ian Swaby Staff Writer

Jason Bearden said he decided to begin his campaign when he saw restrictions being implemented during COVID-19. 

Bearden called these measures violations of "all of" the constitution, and said he would stand up for the freedom of the public.

“When I raised my right hand, I didn't do it to get a job, or to get a promotion, like a lot of elected officials have done,” he said. “I did it to protect liberty,” he said.

Bearden said his board decisions would rely on conservative principles. 

However, he said a priority for Lakewood Ranch was the development of more infrastructure, calling the area 15 years behind.

“There's a reason why we're sitting in traffic, and a lot of that has to do with decisions that were made in the past,” said Bearden.

Bearden said other priorities include creating more flexibility in amending the land development code to allow for the installation of developments for workforce housing, and also purchasing greater amounts of land to set aside as pristine.

“Healthy and smart growth is always good, and unplanned growth is bad,” he said.

He said aesthetics are an important concern when it comes to development, and said he would take that into account in his actions.

"It's beautiful out here," he said of the Lakewood Ranch area.

He said when issues of land compatibility for certain developments arise, he would look at whether people in the area, as well as the value of their homes, are affected by a certain project.

“We have to look at all things. What's the primary role of an elected official? To always protect the rights of the people."

Bearden said it is important to keep a diversity of landscapes in the area, and he also said the county’s Comprehensive Plan should be reworked in order to offer more flexibility in how features such as workforce housing could be implemented.

He said his business experience would allow him to negotiate deals in the county's favor.

"It really takes negotiation skills and factors, in order for us to influence the landowners to develop more affordable housing, or more workforce housing,” he said.

Bearden called the county's current reserves "tremendous," stating they were at 18%, near the limit of 20%. He said the county should "be smart" with them, continuing to put them toward infrastructure projects.

He also said that he would avoid making what he called “horrible decisions” such as the county's acquisition of a property at the corner of Lena Road and State Road 64, for which he said the county overspent.

He said Premier Park project is important for Lakewood Ranch, but does think the project should be moving more rapidly.

Bearden said he did not approve of the current environment within the commission meetings. However, he said he believes he can help move the board in the right direction if he is elected. He is a former U.S. Marine, who has dealt with life-or-death situations, so he knows how to work through high stress situations.

"I’m not about all the drama. I think there's just a few individuals who honestly bring a lot of that drama, and I'm not going to put up with it. I don't have time for it. I want to get in there, get the job done, and do what I have to do to serve the people," he said.

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