Visiting Lakewood Ranch a week ago, and talking politics, Keith Green offered a somewhat, let's call it, different evaluation of his credentials.
"I work in the hospitality industry," said Green, who is running for the District 7 at-large Manatee County Commission seat against incumbent George Kruse and candidate April Culbreath. "I am as average as they come. I am run-of-the-mill, working-class."
While it wouldn't seem to be the best introduction to give to people who live in Lakewood Ranch, that's the date he brought to this political prom and he is going to stick with it.
His theory is that the voters feel the average citizen has lost his or her say in county politics and would like to have an "everyman" type sitting on the board who they can identify with and rely on to consider how decisions affect them.
Green's assertion is that Kruse doesn't have the ability to understand the average citizen's concerns.
He is direct when it comes to the showdown with Kruse.
"I will bring a different outlook on ideas that my opponent does not possess," Green said. "He is a professional real estate agent. I am a person who works the front desk of a hotel. My mindset shows a stark difference in how I govern. I am people driven and I think about the average person. That's something my opponent never has experienced. How do you expect someone who has been in an Ivy League business school, to understand the issues of the common person who lives paycheck to paycheck."
Kruse's backers might suggest that he is a Cardinal Mooney High of Sarasota graduate (1983), who worked his way to degrees in management and finance at the University of Florida and an MBA in real estate finance at Columbia Business School in 2003. He has been successful in education and his professional career.
However, Green suggests that Kruse's actions have proven he feels he is above his constituents. One example, he said, is Kruse's April 20, 2022 wreck on Greyhawk Boulevard in East County that led to DUI charges by the State Attorney's Office. Those charges were dropped in June 2023, but Green said he put the Commission in a negative light for that year.
"I feel he is unfit to serve, and that his troubles create a distraction," Green said. "I can respect any man who can admit he made a mistake, but it was extremely disappointing that Commissioner Kruse never has apologized.
"I have watched how Commissioner Kruse has behaved himself on the board, and I could see that a lot of his off-the-dais behavior has rolled over to the dais."
While Green targeted Kruse as his opponent in the upcoming election, he said little about Culbreath. He said he doesn't recognize Culbreath as a legitimate candidate.
After January reporting of campaign donations, Culbreath listed $15,461 in donations, Green listed $9,554.89 and Kruse listed $3,485.34. Green said he has additional Political Action Committee funds that aren't publicly reported.
While Green, 41, might attest to being an average guy, he has the background to help with his political aspirations. Growing up in Alexandria, Virginia, he learned lessons, about life and politics, from his mother, Mary Green, who worked in civil service for the United States Department of State for 30 years.
"I learned from my late mother on how diplomacy works," he said. "I learned how to find common ground in areas where it can be established, and to go from there. I know how to, through healthy debate, get from Point A to Point B, and then how to compromise.
"I also learned from her, when you give respect, you earn respect. When you give of yourself, that is a noble calling. Most importantly, she taught me how to be firm. She used to tell me, 'When you get into something, don't let anyone tell you that you don't belong, when you know you do."
Does Green belong in this run for the District 7 seat?
"I am a Republican who believes in traditional conservatism," he said. "I believe in smaller government, personal accountability, and holding our leaders accountable. An individual must stand up when the current incumbent refuses to be responsible."
Green moved to northern unincorporated Palmetto in 2020 to be closer to his wife's family. He is married to Vivian Quintero-Green. He currently holds a position on the city of Bradenton's planning commission and he is a former member of the Manatee County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. He is an alter server at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Bradenton.
"On the planning commission, I try to think issues with a sound mind, and I try to be a critical thinker," he said. "I feel (on the planning commission) I am a respected member and we all work well together."
While he is a "practicing Catholic," and that politics align with the Republican Party, he has to make his decisions for the greater good of the community.
"When it comes to governing, you have to make hard decisions," he said. "I will leave my Catholic mindset at the door before I go to the dais.
He was firm about his stand on growth.
"I believe the level of growth is a wonderful thing," he said. "We are a tourist destination, first and foremost. We have to keep that in mind. Growth is going to be inevitable. With that growth comes a lot of opportunities for more revenue, and new businesses that can put Manatee County on the map. New schools can come from growth, new fire stations, new (Sheriff's Office) substations, more services. We have to stop looking at it as a negative. We need to look at what it can bring all of us."
He supported, as a planning commissioner, when the city of Bradenton loosened height restrictions. He said leads to more workforce housing.
Asked about the Manatee County Commission's decision to reduce wetland restrictions, he said he is still researching the matter and will not comment until he knows more.
On social media, he said he has been attacked by people who question his intelligence and qualifications.
"They question my intelligence, and yet they support my opponent," he said.
While he is not using a political advisor, he said he has a well-organized campaign. His website is GreenForManateeBOCC.com.
Walking down Main Street at Lakewood Ranch, he started up conversations with those strolling past He appears comfortable with trying to convince voters one at a time.
"I will guarantee i will stay fully in scope of what a county commissioner is supposed to do," he said. "I will make sure I focus on issues that will affect all Manatee County citizens, from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep. I believe we need new blood in the District 7 at-large seat, and historically, I would be the first African American in Manatee County history to sit in that seat.
"We need better leadership, and we need someone who can work with everyone. I don't believe my opponent can do that.