A version of this story will appear in Tuesday's print editions of the Bradenton Herald
By MARC R. MASFERRER and VIN MANNIX
Herald Staff Writers
MANATEE - County Commissioner Ron Getman is not running for re-election next year, but he is not sailing into retirement.
First elected in 2002, Getman, 65, announced Monday he would not seek a third term on the commission representing southern Manatee so that he could devote more time to his at-home travel agency, which specializes in cruise vacations.
“It truly has been an honor and a privilege to have served,” Getman told reporters gathered in his 9th floor corner office in the county administration building. “My interest is in serving this community, and I did that.”
Already, two candidates — Robin DiSabatino, a Republican, and Roger Galle, a Democrat — have filed for the District 4 seat.
Getman, a Republican, said the prospect of being challenged for the job in a year when incumbents might be held accountable for the down economy and other problems, did not influence his decision.
Last year, two former commissioners, Jane von Hahmann and Amy Stein, lost their seats when they were defeated in the GOP primary by two candidates, John Chappie and Larry Bustle, respectively, who were backed by several business interests. The philosophical shift, especially on development matters, was perceived to have left Getman in the minority.
“It’s more pro-business, and his philosophy was government does it best,” said Commissioner Donna Hayes, a member of the majority bloc. “The commission has changed.”
Getman said he was proud of the work the commission has done to set standards for future growth in the county. As an example, he said past commissions had not acquired the right-of-way needed for widening of major roads like Manatee Avenue and 53rd Avenue, but now such factors are taken into consideration when the commission approves development.
Under Getman’s tenure as commission chairman, the county and local municipalities in 2002 signed the “Accord,” which set a framework for how local officials approach growth issues with some uniformity.
“Ron was his own person, interested in doing the right things for the county,” said Commissioner Joe McClash, who was first elected to the commission in 1992. “He was a good steward, not a rubber stamp for developers, and I respected that.”
Getman said he also was proud of his efforts to win approval of ordinances banning panhandling, setting safety standards for ice cream vending trucks and restricting when and where fireworks could be sold.
Most recently, the preservation of the Bayshore Gardens area captured Getman’s attention as residents there began to express concerns that properties in the neighborhood were not being kept up. Bayshore Gardens Homeowners Association President Suzanna Young said Getman’s interest in the neighborhood has put some teeth behind efforts to begin stricter code enforcement in the area.
“He just conducted a great meeting for us. He really added impetus to what we are trying to do here,” she said.
Another neighborhood activist, Whitfield Estates resident Norman Luppino, was particularly sensitive about Getman’s decision. Getman also resides in Whitfield Estates.
“I hope whoever represents our district isn’t paid for by the developers,” said Luppino, a former county planner. “The commission needs better balance than it has right now.”
Another Whitfield Estates activist, Mike Holderness Sr., said Getman was “such an asset in the position.”
“The amount of time he puts in is over and above what anybody can imagine,” said Holderness, a longtime Realtor. “He was involved in so many things. It’s a great loss, but it was just time.”
Getman said depending on who runs, he may make an endorsement in the campaign to succeed him.
“It is easy for a candidate to make promises which they may or may not be capable of fulfilling,” Getman said. “We need to look to the history of the person who makes those types of remarks to discover their true abilities.”
DiSabatino, who launched her campaign last week, said she had heard various rumors about Getman’s plans, but that did not play a factor in her decision to run.
“Ron is a patriot,” DiSabatino said. “We appreciate his service.”
Getman’s final 16 months on the commission will put a cap on a 48-year public service career. Before being elected, Getman had spent 33 years with the Florida Highway Patrol, two years as a Sanford, Fla., police officer and four years in the military.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who next year is running for re-election to an at-large seat on the commission, said the board will miss Getman’s rapport with law enforcement.
“It was a real benefit to the county,” Whitmore said. “We need to keep that communication open.”
Getman said he will remain active in the community, including as president of the Gold Star Club of Manatee County, which provides rewards for information about serious crimes in the county. He also will work to grow his 4-year-old travel agency, Getman Cruise & Travel.
Getman’s colleagues on the commission did not begrudge his decision to leave the board.
“As you get older, do you want to come in and do this every day?” Whitmore said. “After eight years, this is hard. He deserves a life.”
Commissioner Hayes agreed.
“He has other things to do with his life,” she said. “I’m sure his wife and family are delighted.”
McClash saluted Getman as a devoted public servant.
“From the highway patrol to county commissioner, I applaud his time,” he said. “You don’t find people like him every day who serve on county commission. He was a friend of Manatee County.”
Herald Staff Writer Robert Napper contributed to this story.