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District 7 (at-large) candidates: Edwin Hunzeker; George Kruse
No one can question whether former Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker is qualified to be a county commissioner.
After serving 12 years as the CEO of Manatee County government, he should know everything there is to know about the county and its government operations. What a resource.
In fact, you can probably say Hunzeker, 73, is so steeped in government administration and management that it is part of his DNA. He has been a government administrator for about as long as his opponent has been alive.
On the face of it, it seems as though it would be worthwhile to have that depth of experience and wisdom sitting in one of the county commissioners’ chairs.
Or would it?
So many things come to mind about Hunzeker’s candidacy for the District 7 At-Large County Commission seat. You can think of the pro athletes past their prime who just can’t give it up, only to stay too long.
Or you can think of the CEOs who stay too long. Their frame of reference is how they did things, often leaving them unable or slow to embrace innovation and change. You know the line every Floridian hates: “Up North, this is the way we ...” You can imagine a similar remark coming from Hunzeker if elected: “When I was administrator, we ...”
Indeed, in this race between Hunzeker and first-time candidate, businessman George Kruse, you have a contest that gives voters a clear opportunity to break from the past, to break from the directions Hunzeker steered county government and embrace a fresh perspective, fresh thinking and the start of a younger generation of leaders in Manatee County.
Yes, there is much to be said for a county commissioner who has built up a dozen years of relationships inside and outside the community, who knows how to navigate the government bureaucracy and knows its strengths and weaknesses.
But as Kruse aptly told us: “We already have a county administrator. We don’t need another one on the County Commission.”
Or imagine Hunzeker’s successor, current Administrator Cheri Coryea, who previously served as Hunzeker’s deputy administrator. How will the presence of her former boss influence her?
Hunzeker would be only one vote on the commission, but we all know how it works. Commissioners with an agenda spend a lot of time lobbying behind the scenes. Just saying.
There definitely are pluses and minuses to Hunzeker’s candidacy.
Hunzeker is qualified and served honorably, to be sure. But on the whole, if you’re a Manatee County Republican taxpayer who truly does embrace the idea of low taxes, low regulation and limited government, there is much to like about George Kruse.
He fits the mold that we often embrace: A smart challenger of the status quo.
In Kruse, Manatee Republicans have a candidate with valuable private-sector experience in finance — an attribute always needed — and someone who will view the county’s issues from the perspective of a taxpayer, not from that of a government administrator.
“I have no government experience,” Kruse told us. “I don’t come to this with the thinking government knows best. I come from the opposite view.”
Kruse, 44, is a member of the Kruse family in Manatee County that founded and built Hoveround Corp. into one of the largest power wheelchair manufacturers in the U.S. over the past 30 years. Kruse’s father was chief financial officer and was one of three brothers that built a business that employed 350 locally at its peak.
Kruse himself worked there as an intern in finance three summers. And as he was growing up he saw and heard from his father and uncles what it takes to run a business — and deal with the government.
Kruse graduated from the Columbia University School of Business in New York and spent six years in New York as an associate and investment officer at Capital Source Finance, a firm specializing in commercial real estate. He had first-hand experience with the intricacies of financing complex projects, including affordable housing, which he, like most, recognizes as an ongoing challenge for Manatee.
“It’s crucial to have a middle market for teachers,” he says. “It raises the overall value of the community.” If you spend time with Kruse, he shares a variety of sensible strategies that can bring more workforce housing to Manatee without taxpayers funding it with subsidies.
On roads: “We need to get ahead of that” — a view all candidates share.
Another issue on which he has harped: The county’s rainy-day reserves, which is close to $550 million, depending on how you look at it. Kruse makes the case the amount is excessive; Hunzeker argues otherwise.
Either way, it’s still money taxpayers’ money for the government to spend. Kruse’s view: Don’t raise fees and taxes, put those reserves to work, or give that money back to taxpayers.
Asked his view of Manatee’s level of taxation, Kruse responded: “It’s insanely high.”
Indeed, Manatee County taxpayers can benefit from a new voice and perspective — one not colored with government experience — to hold the government accountable. Kruse has the intellect, the perspective first and foremost of a taxpayer and the family background in Manatee to know what it takes to create the right climate to grow jobs and the economy.
We recommend: George Kruse
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