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East County Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 1 day ago

Protestors demand Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh's resignation

Dozens of angry citizens protest actions of Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh before Tuesday's county meeting.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

Chants of "bye-bye, Baugh" from demonstrators echoed across the front steps of the Manatee County Administration Building as the Manatee County Commission began its meeting inside Tuesday morning.

Dozens of protestors demanded Commissioner Vanessa Baugh's resignation in response to her role in setting up a pop-up vaccination site, orchestrated by Gov. Ron DeSantis, exclusively for two Zip codes that included parts of Lakewood Ranch.

Baugh also requested to add five names, including her own, to the vaccination list, though Baugh said she was only trying to ensure they were registered in the standby pool.

Mary Conway, a 69-year-old Bradenton resident, said Baugh's actions represented a "blatant abuse of power." She emailed every commissioner before coming to the protest, but only heard back from Kevin Van Ostenbridge.

"If there's someone who thinks what she did was OK, they have a problem," Conway said. "And her non-apology was insulting."

Bradenton resident Crystal Gibson is too young to be included in the vaccination pool, but one of her parents is still waiting for one. She came to the demonstration to protest the "injustice and inequity" of Baugh's actions.

Bradenton resident Robyne Richardson agreed with Gibson. She said it was wrong to distribute vaccines to a specific area instead of focusing on the needs of all county citizens.

"She put herself, her developer friends and her neighbors before the common good," Richardson said. "There's no strategy. It's what's best for her."

Alaina Martinez, founder of Sarasota-based social activism nonprofit Leaders Rights Organization, said Baugh's actions reflect larger problems within the system.

"The fact that she's not remorseful of her decision shows her character," Martinez said.

Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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