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Myakka City resident takes another shot at becoming commissioner

Carol Ann Felts is vying for the District 1 seat on the Manatee County Commission.

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When Manatee County wanted to impose a stormwater fee on its citizens in 2019, Carol Ann Felts was among a group of Myakka City residents opposed to the plan.

The group attended public meetings, asked questions and voiced concerns. 

“(The commissioners) never voted it in,” Felts said. “That’s when I saw that maybe we (as citizens) could make a difference if we kept up the dialogue.”

Five years later, the 66-year-old retiree is in the race to be the next county commissioner to represent District 1. James Satcher vacated the seat in April when Governor Ron DeSantis appointed him to serve as the Supervisor of Elections after Mike Bennett retired.

Satcher lives in the rapidly developing area of Parrish. Felts lives on 10 acres in Myakka City. She said the vast area of District 1 contains different communities, each with their own unique concerns. 

“We’re the wall (in Myakka) from keeping urban sprawl coming out here,” Felts said. “People on Clay Gully Road are more concerned about the phosphate mines coming in, and at the same time, we’ve got Parrish that doesn’t even know that phosphate mines exist (because most residents are new to the area).”

An eighth generation Floridian, there’s a pitcher of sweet tea in Felt’s refrigerator and two aging horses in her backyard, both named J.R. 

Growing up in Miami, Felts took frequent trips to the Keys and developed a lifelong love of horses on the ranches in nearby Homestead. She’d later pick up barrel racing at the age of 38 because the first horse she bought happened to be trained for it.

She left Florida after high school and spent time in North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama before returning in her mid 20s with a husband and two kids in tow.

Felts worked for a growing office equipment company, Danka Industries. She was transferred to Pensacola. When her ex-husband was hired by Tropicana, the family moved to west Bradenton in 1989. 

During those years, there was no time for politics. Felts was traveling every week with Danka’s mergers and acquisitions department, plus preparing outfits and meals for every day she was away from her preschool sons, Nick and Kyle. 

After moving from west Bradenton to Myakka City in 2000, Felts wanted to slow down. If she wanted to, she could just tend to her horses and gardens every day. Instead, she chooses to drive across the county to attend commission and land use meetings. 

Win or lose, that won’t change. Felts will continue to give her input whether it's from the dais as a commissioner or the podium as a citizen. In the case of a loss, she said the winner will become her best friend because she’ll be reaching out to him or her regularly.

This is Felts’ third run at a commission seat, yet she says that she’s not a “politician.” She hates asking for money, yet she’ll stand in line at the grocery store and regularly ask the stranger standing next to her, "Do you know who your county commissioner is?”

Felts ran as a write-in candidate for the District 5 seat in 2020 (the districts have since been redrawn so District 1 has been given much of the Myakka area). She knew she didn’t have a chance against incumbent Vanessa Baugh, so she also campaigned for George Kruse. Kruse was elected to the District 7 at-large seat that year. 

“There was an opportunity there (with Kruse) for me to get somebody to listen to what was happening out here and to learn a little bit about the election process,” Felts said. “I got 300 votes, but I kind of got Myakka to be knowledgeable about our at-large commissioner (Kruse).”

Those 300 votes meant a lot to Felts because people took the time to write out her name exactly as she filed it. If the spelling is off for a write-in candidate, the vote doesn’t count. 

In 2022, she ran for the District 6 at-large seat and received 5,977 votes in the primary against Carol Whitmore and Jason Bearden, who won the seat. 

Of course, Felts would like to win, but getting more citizens involved has been and remains her No 1 goal. She has paid attention on what goes on behind the scenes for years, but she became active when talks about moving the Future Development Area Boundary started happening. 

While she doesn’t want to see Myakka City turn into Lakewood Ranch or Parrish, she said people who say she’s anti-development are wrong.

“We can do it in a better way,” Felts said. “Myakka has an incredible opportunity to be part of growth without sacrificing the things that are important. We’ve got to protect our water and food sources for the rest of the county.”

This article has been updated as Keith Green did not qualify for the primary election.



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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