The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 15 No. 11 - January 7, 2015


Gail and Ed Straight Sun Persons of the Year
Carol Whitmore

joe hendricks | sun

Gail and Ed Straight, along with their grandson, Devon Straight,
and Pawnee, the rescued bobcat, inside the holding pens at
Wildlife Inc.

BRADENTON BEACH – For their continued commitment to caring for injured and ailing members of the animal kingdom, through their Wildlife Inc. Education and Rehabilitation organization, Gail and Ed Straight have been named The Sun’s 2014 Persons of the Year.

The wildlife sanctuary that began as a hobby in 1987 now serves as the primary rescue and rehab facility in Manatee County, and beyond.

Operating from their home on Avenue B, the non-profit organization received nearly 3,000 calls for assistance in 2014, resulting in approximately 2,000 animal intakes. About 80 percent of those taken in are later released. Due to the extensive injuries, illnesses or conditions, some became permanent residents, while others, according to federal regulations, are subject to mandatory euthanization.

“It’s been a really busy year,” Gail said, half-heartedly questioning the wisdom of this labor intensive approach to retirement.

In addition to serving as Wildlife Inc. president, Ed is serving his third and final term as a Bradenton Beach City Commissioner.

Before retiring in 2001, he spent 29 years working for Manatee County Public Safety, starting out as an EMT and rising through the ranks to serve as Emergency Medical Services chief, Emergency Management chief, and chief of the county’s 911 center. He also spent 27 years as a reserve sheriff’s deputy. Before that, Ed worked as a private detective, ambulance driver and scuba diving treasure hunter.

While serving as Wildlife Inc. curator, Gail has also spent the past 25 years as a Florida Wildlife Rehab Association board member, including time served as association president.

Wildlife Inc. works closely with Save Our Seabirds, in Sarasota, and Gail said the recent closing of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in St. Petersburg has led to more bird rescues, including hawks, owls, songbirds and a high number of pelicans, some of whom struggle to find food when cold weather forces the fish they feed on into deeper water, while others get entangled in fishing line.

“As much as we try to educate people to reel them in and unhook them, they still cut the lines and we end up with problems,” Gail said.

Wildlife Inc. also has an educational component located at Mixon Fruit Farms in Bradenton that provides sanctuary for alligators, crocodiles, and more birds. These educational efforts also include appearances at public events and festivals, where Garfield the screech owl serves as a star attraction. These appearances, and the resulting T-shirt sales, help raise awareness of the organization efforts, and along with grants, assist with the fundraising efforts that help offset $60,000 in annual expenses.

“We’ve survived for 28 years because we do it here at home and cover the overhead, although, we still have to raise money for food and supplies,” Ed said.

Wildlife Inc. receives donated food from local restaurants, the Red Barn Flea Market, Wal-Mart, and occasionally from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers, who recently dropped off some confiscated mullet.

Gail and Ed typically spend at least eight hours a day, often more, tending to Wildlife Inc. business and are assisted by volunteers, including their 15-year-old grandson, Devon Straight, who often accompanies his grandfather on rescue calls.

Wildlife Inc. is not open for public tours, but donors, volunteers and invited guests are allowed inside the compound.

“If you’re looking for a non-profit that’s tax deductible, you can always come here and see where the money’s going,” Ed said.

A recent visit resulted in encounters with large African tortoises, rabbits, an injured Great Egret, a bobcat, a red-tailed hawk, a crested cara cara, three species of owls, a soon to be released white pelican, and various other creatures receiving care or permanent sanctuary.

Some were struck by cars, resulting in broken legs and broken wings; some were poisoned; some were orphaned due to the loss of their parents; and some, Ed suspects, may have been abandoned by human owners.

The animal infirmary located inside the home they bought in 1973 was occupied by a ring billed gull, baby raccoons and a baby squirrel being kept warm in a donated incubator. Greetings were provided by Taccaroo, the toothless African street dog that formerly belonged to the late Clay Wilson, the local vet who graciously donated his time to Wildlife Inc.

Dr. Bill Bystrom and Dr. Ashley Gardner at the Island Animal Clinic now help provide those services.

The Straights are allowed to operate a sanctuary in a residential neighborhood because the state regulates wildlife care, and a state issued license supersedes city and county zoning regulations.

When asked why they do it, Ed said, “I’ve always been active and I never enjoyed just sitting on the beach. I’ve known quite a few people that spent their whole life working a job they didn’t like to get money for retirement, only to move down here and drop dead. I decided a long time ago that I’d do things that I find interesting.

"Earlier today, it was like a three-ring circus here. There’s no dull moments, and that keeps us active. It can be stressful when we get 10 or more calls in a day, in addition to people who just arrive at our door, but that’s fine.”

Gail said her reward comes from watching an injured animal, sometimes on the verge of death, make a full recovery and get released back into the wild.

As for what the community can do to help, in addition to providing financial support, Gail said, “We need people who are qualified to do rescues. They have to use their own cars, and I wouldn’t send someone who doesn’t know how to handle a bird after a blue heron, but they can pick up a blue jay or a screech owl in a box. We can always use paper towels and we need a small boat motor for the Zodiac.”

Additional wish list items can be found at, and Wildlife Inc. can be contacted at 941-778-6324.

2014 Year in Review
Carol Whitmore

file photo

Neal Preserve, Manatee County's newest preserve
and the one closest to the Island, opened in April.

THE ISLAND – Once again Island news was dominated by issues related to the influx of tourism created by aggressive marketing combined with the irresistible attraction of our beautiful Island.

Officials struggled to find solutions ranging from a gondola to banning parking on residential streets to a moratorium to attempts to repeal a state law prohibiting municipalities from creating legislation that would regulate rentals.

To aid in finding solutions, the three Island cities have contracted with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to perform an Island-wide study this year. The ULI provides guidance to communities in addressing problems associated with land use, development and growth.

But that’s for tomorrow; today we look back at 2014.

Preserving paradise

The $16 million beach renourishment project was completed in March.

Neal Preserve opened in April.

On the menu

Holmes Beach shut down the mobile kitchen at the Tiki Bar in January and gave the owner a laundry list of requirements to meet. The owner wore a path between the business and city hall attempting to meet the requirements and attend city commission meetings to seek approval. In February the city OK’d the kitchen and in June it OK’d the site plan.

The Cast-n-Cage restaurant opened on the Bradenton Beach Pier in February. However, in September the owners sought rent abatement and refunds of $30,000 due to pier reconstruction impacting the business. The city approved a rent reduction, but the owners fell behind on rent payments in October, November and December.

Relish, the quirky boutique and restaurant in Anna Maria closed without warning in April when the owner disappeared into the night.

It’s been good to know you

Anna Maria City Clerk Alice Baird resigned for health reasons in January.

Roser’s Rev. Gary Batey retired in January.

Long time Harvey Church organist Betty Simches retired in April.

Island Library employee Mary Ellen Sabo retired after 15 years.

Counting clerks

Bradenton Beach hired a new city clerk in January, but dismissed her in June due to bad evaluations. Shortly thereafter, the acting clerk resigned. A new city clerk was hired in August, but questions arose over her qualifications and previous employment history. She became emotional at a city commission meeting and asked for vote of confidence, then took two weeks off. She returned but was dismissed in October due to unsatisfactory performance. She has now charged the city with discrimination. Who’s checking those resumes?

Changing positions

Building Official and Superintendent of Public Works Tom O’Brien resigned due to health reasons.

Jackie Featherson became principal at Anna Maria Elementary.

Dr. Robert O’Keef became pastor at Roser Church.

Not in my back yard

In January, Bradenton Beach cell tower neighbors opposed its location, but the city commission said the contract was legally binding. Ground was broken in June and the tower is nearly complete in December.

In January, Anna Maria city commissioners approved a cell tower lease. However, in October residents opposed its location. In December the city commission affirmed its location, giving residents hope that they can talk on the phone in the comfort of their homes instead of the ends of their driveways.

A special master approved a setback variance for a two-room Bradenton Beach hotel, but a neighbor filed an appeal. The appeal was dismissed, and the neighbor filed another appeal, which also was dismissed. In other action, the planning and zoning board recommended denial of a special exception use to create the hotel in the C-1 zoning district.

In January, Holmes Beach residents opposed an application to rezone a property on 54th Street from R-2 to C-3 and extend the mixed-use overlay in order to build two offices with two residences above. The owners changed the request from C-3 to C-1 in July, but withdrew the application after more protests by neighbors who oppose commercial zoning in a residential area.

Anna Maria City commissioners imposed a moratorium on new construction or remodeling of homes with four or more bedrooms or rooms that could be bedrooms. They hired an outside attorney to write an opinion on whether the city could ban short-term vacation rentals and he opined that they already were illegal under the city’s code.

The city commission then recuses its city attorney on the rental issue because his family owns a rental house in the city. The city commission plans to hire another attorney to opine on the outside attorney’s opinion, giving rise to the question, “How many attorneys does it take to impose a moratorium?”

Take the money and run

In January, Manatee County pledged $1 million to rebuild the Bradenton Beach City Pier, if the city kicked in the other $1 million. The job is nearly complete by December.

One never-ending story ends

After two years that included two hearings before a special master and a multitude of changes suggested by city commissioners, Mainsail Development’s site plan for its hotel/lodge/marina was approved in September. The project was originally initiated under another owner in 2000.

They say it’s your birthday

Wagner Realty: 75 years;

West Coast Surf Shop: 50 years;

Artists’ Guild: 25 years;

Bridge Tender Inn: 25 years;

Tingley Memorial Library: 20 years;

So you want to be a star

Bob Pitt: Florida Folk Heritage Award;

Andrea Spring: Best in Show plus 1st and 2nd place ribbons at Manatee County Fair;

Suzi Fox: DAR National Conservation Award;

West Manatee Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Brett: Florida Fire Chiefs’ Executive Fire Officer of the Year;

Betty Yanger: AMI Historical Society Volunteer of the Year;

Mike Walker: Holmes Beach Police Officer of Year;

Duncan Real Estate: Manatee Chamber Small Business of Year;

Historic Green Village: Manatee Chamber Green Business of Year;

Holmes Beach City Attorney Patricia Petruff: William C. Grimes Award for Lifetime Achievement in Community Service;

Holmes Beach City Clerk Stacey Johnston: Master Municipal Clerk;

Izzi Gomez: Women’s Standup Paddle Surfing World Champion;

Fran and George Barford: Anna Maria citizens of year;

AMI Chamber: Businessperson of Year, Mary Ann Brockman; Small Business of the Year, Irenes’s Resort Wear; Medium Business of the Year, The Feast restaurant; and Large Business of the Year, AMI Resorts.

Up from the ashes

The Rod and Reel Pier reopened in February after being rebuilt following a fire in the fall of 2013.

Sue me/sue you

Holmes Beach’s tree house owners win a stay from a code enforcement board’s September 2013 order imposing a fine of $100 per day. However, a judge upholds the code board decision’s to order the structure’s removal. The tree house owners appeal the judge’s ruling. We say, “It’s still up in the air.”

Bidders protest the city’s selection of a contractor for the Bradenton Beach City Pier project in May. The city decides to redo the bidding process and awards the bid to its original contractor selection. Sour grapes anyone?

Anna Maria city commissioners offered a settlement to derail a lawsuit over remodeling, but six more property owners jumped on the bandwagon asking to be excluded from LAR restrictions.

Hype it and they will come

Anna Maria was named the #3 island in the U.S. by Trip Advisor.

The Island’s winter season was the best ever.

The Island’s summer season set a record.

Anna Maria was named the 26th best island in the world by Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Awards.

Passing the torch

In September, West Manatee Fire Rescue commissioners selected Capt. Tom Sousa to replace retiring Fire Chief Andy Price.

Anna Maria and Holmes Beach elected new mayors, both first-time office holders.

Bad boys, bad boys

Police pursue a motorcyclist traveling up to 120 mph through two counties before he wiped out and was arrested in Anna Maria after being chased through a back yard. When caught, he asked why they were chasing him, giving credence to the term “dumb criminals.”

A couple was arrested for having sex on the beach.

A credit card skimmer was found on a gas pump in Bradenton Beach.

A teenager stole a truck and went joy riding in Bradenton and on the Island, leaving 23 damaged vehicles in his wake before being caught by stop sticks on the Cortez Bridge, giving new meaning to the term “demolition derby.”

A man ran away from mental health treatment facility and streaked Bridge Street. Didn’t that go out in the 60s?

A Holmes Beach woman found an extension cord with five electrical outlets plugged into her home coming from a neighboring construction site. And can I get a cup of sugar, too?

Still missing

Sheriff’s deputies search for the remains of Sabine Musil-Buehler, who disappeared in 2008, near Galati Maine in Anna Maria.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti Mayor proposed a gondola over Anna Maria Sound to transport people from a parking area on the Causeway to the public beach parking lot and three story parking garage at the public beach.

Holmes Beach police installed pedestrian signs in the roads creating consternation in some drivers who stopped at every sign and a speed cushion on Key Royale drive that generated a horn honking protest by residents.

The Florida Highway Patrol initiated a seat belt and window tint check on the Causeway on Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest holidays of the year, backing up traffic into Bradenton for hours. What were they thinking?

Anna Maria city commissioners named the six lots they bought in 2011 the City Pier Park. However, some call it the No Trespassing Park because no one is allowed to use it.

A Holmes Beach committee proposes eliminating street and right of way parking in all residential districts except for residents with Florida vehicle registrations who obtain permits. What about snowbirds?

Fishy business

The U.S. Supreme Court in November heard the case of John Yates convicted in federal court for disposing of three undersized fish that were to be seized as evidence. He served 30 days, but could have gotten 20 years.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore spearheaded a movement to ban multiple hooks on fishing lines. Holmes Beach approved a resolution in October.

Thousands of dead mullet, a byproduct of the Christmas mullet roe catch, litter beaches and canals. If it were summer, we’d have baked mullet.

Complaint department

A ban on sandwich signs in Anna Maria causes protest by businesses. City commissioners decide to allow businesses to apply for special exceptions if they can prove they need the sign.

Complaints began surfacing about Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon and the tension mounted until the city commission began proceedings to remove him from office. Commissioners adopted a forfeiture resolution, and in return, Shearon sued the city. A citizen formed a recall committee and is gathering signatures to initiate a recall of Shearon from office.

A coastal consultant hired by the city presented a plan for restoring Anna Maria’s Gulf Front Park, however, residents protested the proposal to remove Australian pines, which are considered invasive exotics by the state.

Say it ain’t so

The prestigious Food and Wine on Pine event was canceled due to bad weather.

Holmes Beach city commissioners limited the use of the city field to two events per month with no music on Sundays, creating a problem for the AMI Art League’s Winterfest.

Island Auto Repair tries to make comeback at a building on Ave C, but Holmes Beach city commissioners reject the plan due to lack of parking.

The Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra announced that it will move its February and March concerts off the Island in 2015 due to traffic and congestion during high season.

The AMI Privateers raised funds for a new sleigh lost in a legal dispute with a former member, and then their parade boat float, the Skullywag, was T-boned by a pickup truck days before their Christmas parade.

On the brink

In June, Island Community Center Director Dawn Stiles stunned the community when she announced that the organization did not have enough money to stay open another month. At a community meeting, people offered solutions. The Center’s board of directors implemented cost saving/revenue generating measures, and that along with donations brought it out of the crisis. However, the Center lost both its 21-year assistant director, Scott Dell, shortly after the crisis was announced and Stiles in October. Former board member Cindy Thompson was named interim director in November and director a few weeks later.

Medical mysteries

A new mosquito virus, Chikungunya or ChikV, came to Florida from the Caribbean. Symptoms include fever, headache, severe muscle pain and a rash that can last for months.

Four local residents were sickened in the Bahamas by the rare ciguatera fish poisoning. Two teens were hit hardest, but recovered. The community raised $21,000 to help with medical expenses.

Mullet dumping continues
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


Mullet roundups are a common sight this time of
year in the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay, as fishermen
from all over the state come to reap the ocean’s harvest.

Mullet fishermen were out in force again last week, netting high-dollar red roe carried by females and discarding unwanted male mullet overboard.

Dead mullet washing up onto Anna Maria Island beaches poses an annual problem to the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, which struggles to keep up by raking the beaches clean, according to director Charlie Hunsicker.

“We’re hoping that the FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) would recognize that the number of dead fish is a public problem,” he said, suggesting that they could post a law enforcement officer on the water like a Florida Highway Patrol officer stationed on the interstate to slow drivers down. “The fishermen understanding the law maybe wouldn’t break it then.”

FWC officers are on patrol and are looking for this behavior, FWC spokesman Gary Morse said, adding that anyone who sees fishermen dumping dead fish overboard can help them by calling the FWC hotline at 888-404-3922.

The county will continue to monitor and clean the beaches, Hunsicker said, adding, “It’s thankless that we have to follow behind them and clean up the males on the beach. It’s a travesty.”

The fish are not victims of red tide, as no red tide was reported by FWC in the Gulf of Mexico last week.

Water quality was listed as good at all five bacteria testing stations on the Island on Monday, Dec. 29, the last test date, according to the Florida Department of Health’s Healthy Beaches Program.

Food bank officials say they can’t afford to transport, ice and process raw fish, even if fishermen agreed to bring them to the dock and donate them.

A look ahead to 2015


Cell phone reception should improve
with the activation of the new tower
in early 2015.

BRADENTON BEACH –2015 promises to be another interesting year in Bradenton Beach.

Recall, forfeiture or status quo?

The city enters 2015 with Mayor Bill Shearon’s status still undecided. The commission-driven forfeiture of office proceedings remain on hold while the recall committee tries to secure enough petition signatures to force a special recall election. If either of the two signature drives fall short, the recall effort dies, and Vice Mayor Jack Clarke will have to decide if he wants to reinitiate the forfeiture process.

Pier open; cell tower operational

The reconstructed city pier is scheduled to reopen this month, making it available again for residents, visitors, boaters and folks who enjoy fishing. The reopening should benefit the Cast-n-Cage restaurant tenants, who are also expected to reopen their bait shop.

The new cell tower will be activated in early 2015, when Verizon and AT&T install the proprietary equipment required to render the tower operational. In addition to improved reception, the activated tower will generate additional money for the city, which gets a share of the quarterly revenues.

Charter Review

The Charter Review Committee comprised of Rick Bisio, John Burns, Dan DeBaun, Barbara Hug and Barbara Rodocker will soon begin their review of the city charter. Any proposed amendments will be presented to city commissioners, who will decide which, if any, are placed on a future ballot.

LDC revisions

The Planning and Zoning Board, City Planner Alan Garrett and Building Official Steve Gilbert spent much of 2014 reviewing the revised land development code. The board is still reviewing later chapters of the code, but the first three chapters, deemed by Garrett to be the most important, will soon be presented to commissioners.

Proposed changes include increased height allowances for manufactured and mobile homes in order to provide greater flood protection and lower insurance rates, decreased setbacks along certain areas of Gulf Drive that would make it easier and cheaper to replace ground level structures with elevated structures and potential changes to open-air dining parking requirements.

Litigation pending

On Thursday, Jan. 8, commissioners, City Attorney Ricinda Perry, and attorney Charles Johnson will conduct a non-public shade meeting to discuss potential means of resolving two lawsuits involving Ed Chiles, the BeachHouse restaurant ownership group, the city and the mayor.

In an effort to address these lawsuits, the commission recently voted 3-2 in favor of city staff continuing their efforts to draft a comprehensive plan amendment that would resolve the Preservation land use designation dispute that is at the heart of the of the 2012 suit filed against the city by Shearon, Tjet Martin and Jo Ann Meilner, with the BeachHouse ownership group later joining the city as co-defendants. The suit pertains to the previous commission’s approval of development agreement that allows parking on the southern portion of the BeachHouse property.

A comp plan fix would impact other properties along Gulf Drive and would require the super majority support of at least four commissioners. Shearon and Commissioner Janie Robertson have expressed opposition to the comp plan amendment, while the city planner and Commissioners Clarke, Ed Straight and Jan Vosburgh support it.

Shearon’s forfeiture of office lawsuit against the city also remains unresolved, as does Tjet Martin’s public records suit. Strategies to defend Martin’s suit will be discussed at Thursday’s commission meeting.

Future development

One commissioner has expressed concerns about the possibility of large rental homes becoming a bigger issue this year in the city that has been relatively free of the debate that has raged in Holmes Beach and Anna Maria in recent years.

2015 could also see Michael Hynds moving forward with plans for a proposed development on Bridge Street that would feature 10 small retail spaces and a second story, open-air restaurant. According to the Planned Use Development agreement approved by the commission in 2013, Hynds is not required to provide parking for restaurant and retail patrons.

BeachHouse owner Ed Chiles is expected to present plans later this year for a third phase of renovations that would result in second story, open-air dining atop his beachfront restaurant.

Fred Bartizal’s Bridge Tender Inn will soon offer outdoor dining and drinking along Bridge Street, when the existing sidewalk is reconfigured at his expense to accommodate city requirements.

Fall elections

If Shearon remains in office, his seat will be among three up for grabs in November, along with those held by Clarke and Robertson. Shearon and Clarke have indicated a desire to run for reelection, and depending on the outcome of the recall and forfeiture efforts, Clarke could be running for a commission seat or the mayor’s seat he would hold if Shearon is ousted.

Mayor seeks speedier cell tower completion


From left to right: Kevin Barile, of Florida Tower Partners,
Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and Building Official
Bob Welch met at city hall to find ways to
shorten the wait for a new cell phone tower.

ANNA MARIA – Mayor Dan Murphy was unhappy with the estimate of time it would take to get the city’s cell phone tower up and running, so he met with the company representative in charge of the project last Friday to see what could be done.

Murphy and Building Official Bob Welch met with Kevin Barile, of Florida Tower Partners, at city hall.

The result was a plan that would start portions of the project before they get approval from governing bodies that would eventually approve it. For instance, the tower needs approval of its exact location from the Federal Aviation Administration, and the company moved the tower’s location slightly last year, requiring new approval. Because the move is so slight, it was considered a shoe-in for approval.

“I knew when I was campaigning for office that the cell tower was the biggest issue on residents’ minds,” Murphy said. “What can we do to bring this to conclusion?”

The timeline from Florida Tower Partners showed the tower would be ready April 17 for the two carriers – AT&T and Verizon – to install their equipment.

Barile said one problem is the platform around the tower where the carriers would have equipment. Barile said this is a unique design, and the company had to engineer the platform to withstand the weight of each carrier’s equipment.

“I have to coordinate the design to withstand the load of the equipment by the carriers,” he said. “When they drop their equipment down onto the deck, it has to be located within a sixteenth of an inch (of a designated location).”

Barile also said the company was going to use a billboard to camouflage the equipment, but Murphy said that was not necessary for getting the tower operational.

“Don’t let that hold you up,” he told Barile. “We don’t want that to delay it.”

Barile looked at his timeline and said he had designated a week for the city to issue a building permit.

“If I get the right information, I could get it done by then,” Welch said.

They discussed the permit and asked if the city could permit just the tower’s construction so they could start on the immense hole they have to dig and fill with concrete to make sure the tower’s base is stable.

Barile said that would shorten the timeline by 14 days.

Murphy asked about having work crews work on Saturdays, but the city’s noise abatement law prohibits Saturday construction. Welch said they could get an exemption from the law.

In all, they estimated chopping off a few weeks and the tower could be ready for the carriers’ equipment by early February – weather permitting.

Runners ready for Dolphin Dash


Chuck and Esther Duzee, favorites of the Bradenton
Runner’s Club, won their respective age brackets during last year’s race.


HOLMES BEACH – Anna Maria Elementary School will be a hive of activity on Saturday, Jan. 10, for the Tenth Annual Dolphin Dash.

The action begins 7 a.m. with registration, followed by the 5-K run at 8 a.m. and the one-mile race at 9 a.m. After that, the runners will gather on the front lawn for presentation of the awards. There will also be door prizes and refreshments.

The Bradenton Runners Club is sanctioning the races, and runners will get T-shirts for participating.

There is a whole list of trophies by age and gender. Every participant in the one-mile run will get a ribbon.

Students at the school have been training for the one-mile run in the school’s running club, which meets twice a week behind the school and before classes to train. Organizer Jesse Brisson said he had about 80 kids who would run in the race.

Proceeds from the race go toward the PTO.

To register, log onto and find a link under “Events” or log onto The cost if registered by Jan. 5 is $25 for adults, $15 for kids under 18 and $22 for Bradenton Runner’s Club members. For race day registration, adults will pay $30 and children under 18 will pay $15. For more information, call 941-713-4755.

Rare birds spotted in Audubon bird count


A marbled godwit is an unusual sight on Anna Maria Island.

Two unusual birds, a marbled godwit and a white-winged dove, were spotted on Anna Maria Island during the 115th Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count on Sunday.

Dick Comeau, Stu Wilson, John Ginaven and John van Zandt surveyed the area north of Anna Maria Elementary School for the National Audubon Society’s Fort De Soto Circle, which includes the southern part of Pinellas County and the northern part of Manatee County.

The birders counted 49 species, including a marbled godwit on the beach near Bean Point and a white-winged dove off the beach.

One bald eagle also was spotted. Local brown pelicans outnumbered visiting white pelicans 35 to 27.

European starlings were the most prevalent bird, with 425 counted, and laughing gulls were not far behind with 414 counted.

Nearly 400 red knots, newly-designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a threatened species, also were counted on the Island, where they rest during their migration of thousands of miles from the Canadian Arctic to the southern tip of South America.

The count is the longest-running citizen science survey in the world, providing critical data on bird population trends.

To get involved in next year’s event, visit

Deputy praised for caring actions


From left, Sgt. Paul Davis with Deputy Steve Stewart
at an earlier event where Stewart was honored for his 10 years of duty.

ANNA MARIA – A 23-year resident and member of the animal rescue network wrote kind words about Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Stewart for his actions in returning a deceased dog to its owner.

In an e-mail to Sgt. Paul Davis, head of the sheriff’s patrol in Anna Maria, Kathleen Long wrote about the incident that occurred around mid-December.

She said she got a message around 5 p.m. one evening reporting that the body of a dog that washed up near the Anna Maria City Pier earlier matched the description of a 17-year-old Jack Russell terrier that was reported missing in Palmetto. The owner was desperate to know if it was his.

Long drove up to city hall and talked with Deputy Eddie Hernandez, who got in touch with Stewart, who had already left his shift for the day and was on his way home. Stewart drove back to the Island and spoke with Long. He told her he would like to speak to the owner, which he did, and the owner came out to the Island to see if the dog was his.

According to Long’s letter, “With great care and gentleness, Deputy Stewart prepared the little dog’s body for viewing. I had already confirmed the dog’s identity using photographs posted on social media and waited with Deputy Stewart for the man’s arrival. When he arrived, Deputy Stewart and I stood by while the man viewed the body of his beloved pet. He was distraught and in obvious emotional distress. Deputy Stewart stood by quietly, offering comforting words and a gentle shoulder to the grieving man. He stayed until the man regained his composure and left us alone to talk until he felt ready to take his pet’s body home.”

Long praised Stewart’s actions.

“I was highly impressed by the compassion and gentleness shown to this grieving man. I want to commend Deputy Stewart for his exemplary handling of this distressing situation, and I want you to recognize what a special man you have on your force. I see him patrolling my street at night and am comforted to know he is out there, performing a sometimes thankless and dangerous job. I am very grateful for the kindness that he showed me and the stranger who was desperate for answers and closure. He went above and beyond the call of duty and spent his own time helping a citizen in need. Please convey my appreciation to him and his supervisors.”

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