Mayor’s ‘spouse’ stirs up Bradenton Beach commission race

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By Merab-Michal Favorite

If you ask Tjet Martin why she’s running for office, you’ll get a response “I want to stir things up a bit.”

The 52-year –old Chicago native did just that when she picked up a registration packet from the Bradenton Beach city clerk’s office May 30.

Martin said she plans to run for the Ward 4 commission seat, against incumbent Jan Vosburgh.

However, Martin is no ordinary candidate; she and her longtime partner, Bill Shearon run Linger Longer rentals, 302 Gulf Drive.

Did I mention Shearon also happens be the mayor of Bradenton Beach?

“Everyone has been asking, ‘what about Sunshine?’’ Martin said. “The truth is, we have better things to talk about.”

Because the mayor serves as part of the commission, it is illegal under Florida Statute for him to discuss city topics with other members of the commission in any setting other than a public forum.

Scott Farrington, assistant supervisor of elections for Manatee County, said there is nothing in the election laws that would prevent Martin from running for the commission seat.

“We can only speak for the election laws,” he said. “Obviously there are ethical concerns in this situation but there is nothing we can do to prevent her from registering.”

Martin said residents should not be concerned that the mayor would play favorites if she wins the commission seat.

“Anyone who knows us knows that we are very different people with very different viewpoints,” she said. “We both feel strongly about our own opinions and they differ greatly.”

However, Martin may have another conflict of interest.

She and former planning and zoning board member Jo Ann Meilner are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in 2012, which challenges the city’s approval of an agreement with ELRA Inc., allowing construction of a parking lot on a vacant parcel south of the BeachHouse Restaurant.

The lawsuit originally listed Shearon who was also a P&Z board member at the time, but he withdrew after winning the November municipal election.

Martin said if she wins, she also would withdraw from the lawsuit and recuse herself from any related agenda items.

“If I don’t win, I’m not going to withdraw,” she said. “ELRA is a bully, and I don’t tolerate bullies.”

Martin said she hopes her decision to run will prompt others to register.

“This city needs a healthy election,” she said. “Someone needs to run against the incumbent commissioners, they shouldn’t just win by default.

The Ward 2 commission seat is also up for grabs on November 4. Incumbent Ed Straight has registered to run, but so far has had no challengers.

Both Straight and Vosburgh ran unopposed in 2012.

Martin accused the current commission of trying to micromanage the city. She said given the opportunity, she would trust city employees to do their job.

She would also like to see the city budget back in the black. A recent audit determined the city was spending more than it had taken in.

Martin has called Bradenton Beach home for the last 11 years.

She was one of eight children raised by factory workers in North Chicago.

She said she realized she was good a building things early on.

Her mechanical talents earned her a job manufacturing machinery in a local factory, a career she says she greatly enjoyed. However, it was cut short when she suffered a work-related injury.

Martin was a server at a German restaurant when she met Shearon.

“He was a regular and basically swept me off my feet,” she said.

The couple was “snowbird cruisers,” living on a boat in Illinois over the summer and sailing to Longboat Key during the winters.

Eventually, they took root in Bradenton Beach and have lived there ever since.

Martin currently serves on the Scenic Waves Committee.

Residents have until June 20 to register to run for office.

Candidate packets are available at the city clerk’s office at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N., or at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, 600 301 Blvd. W., Bradenton.

Applicants are required to have established residency within the city for 90 days and be registered to vote in the ward for which they qualify.

The candidate must pay a qualifying fee equal to 1 percent of the annual salary for the office sought — $96 for mayor, $48 for commission seat — and obtain 10 petition signatures of voters residing in the city.

Holmes Beach Woman Dies in Accidental Shooting


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By Merab-Michal Favorite

Islander Reporter

A Holmes Beach woman died after she shot herself in the chest June 6 while cleaning a revolver.

Janice Louise Kartzert, 65, was found dead insider her home in the 300 block of 60th Street around 12:45 p.m., according to the report from the Holmes Beach Police Department.

Kartzert’s neighbor called 911 after he reportedly looked in her window and noticed her body slumped over in a chair and blood on her chest, the report said.

The neighbor said he became curious when Kartzert did not come to the door as she normally does every morning.

According to the neighbor, Kartzert gives his dog a treat if he comes to her back door on their morning walks.

A team of emergency medical responders arrived at Katzert’s home at 12:28, she was pronounced dead at the scene.

An HBPD officer noticed a silver revolver on the table next to a cleaning kit and towel, the report said.

Holms Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said officers initially thought Kartzert died as the result of a suicide, however, after they analyzed the crime scene, they determined Kartzert had been cleaning her gun when it accidentally fired.

Locals knew Kartzert as “Scooter Jan,” because of her distinct yellow motor scooter she used to navigate the island.

On Sunday mornings, Kartzert’s scooter was usually parked outside D’Coy Ducks, 5410 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, where she often played cribbage.

“She was a very caring and giving person,” said Rhonda Gula, a bartender at D’Coy’s. “She had a huge heart and she would go out of her way for anyone.”

Gula said Kartzert loved to splurge on her friends on their birthdays.

“She’d get them pizza or order them a round,” Gula said. “She loved spoiling people on their name day.”

“She was a wonderful person and she will be missed,” Gula added.

Sky Lanterns: Beautiful or Dangerous?

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Originally run in the June 4, 2014 edition

By Merab-Michal Favorite

Aerial luminaries have gained popularity in the United States and are sometimes released during weddings and other events. Islander photo: courtesy National Association of Fire Marshals
Aerial luminaries have gained popularity in the United States and are sometimes released during weddings and other events. Islander photo: courtesy National Association of Fire Marshals

Imagine standing in the sand with small waves breaking at your ankles and looking up to see hundreds of flying luminaries drift slowly through the night sky.

“It really is a beautiful scene,” said Christina Mathews, owner of Weddings by Christina, of Sun City. “Sometimes when people are witnessing it for the first time, it actually takes their breath away.”

Mathews, who often coordinates weddings on Anna Maria Island, said the ceremonial release of aerial luminaries has gained popularity in recent years, especially during weddings and remembrance events.

“It’s a nice touch, kind of like releasing butterflies or doves,” Mathews said. “They also make for amazing pictures.”

Suzi Fox, executive director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, shows Brandenton Beach commissioners remnants of an aerial lantern during their May 22 meeting. Islander photo: Merab-Michal Favorite
Suzi Fox, executive director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, shows Brandenton Beach commissioners remnants of an aerial lantern during their May 22 meeting. Islander photo: Merab-Michal Favorite

Also known as Chinese lanterns, sky candles and fire balloons, aerial luminaries are essentially miniature hot-air balloons, made of lightweight rice paper and bamboo frames that are kept aloft by a burning candle and are made to disintegrate in the air.

Normally released over the water, the destiny of the flying lantern is greatly dependent on the weather.

“It’s fine unless the wind shifts east,” explained Chief Andy Price, of West Manatee Fire Rescue. “When that happens, you end up with a major fire hazard.”

Just ask Suzi Fox, executive director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.

Fox recently collected the charred remains of a half dozen aerial lanterns from her Bradenton Beach neighborhood the morning after they were released at a beach wedding ceremony.

“Some ended up on roofs, others were in peoples backyards,” she said May 22 during public comment at the commission meeting. “They say they are environmentally friendly, but I don’t think they are.”

Fox has started a grassroots movement to get the luminaries banned throughout the county.

“I would like to see the whole island on board with this, but I’m starting out with the city I live in because this one was in my backyard,” Fox said as she held up what was left of an aerial lantern.

WMFR Deputy Fire Marshall Jim Davis said he initially didn’t see the need for a special ban on the luminaries because ordinances already in place specifically prohibit the use of fire on the beach.

“We don’t allow fire or fireworks, so why would we allow uncontrolled fire released into the air?” he said. “It seems like a no brainer.”

The luminaires are addressed on a state level through fire codes, according to the National Association of Fire Marshalls, but Davis feels not having them specifically mentioned in the code has caused issues with enforcement.

Davis has been avidly against allowing the release of the lanterns after at least two brush fires were attributed to lanterns on the beach four years ago.

“One of them burned a 20-square-foot area of sea oats and another got entangled in some Australian pines and started a fire,” he said. “Our guys had to put them both out.”

Davis said the occurrence prompted him to speak with several island businesses associated with events to discuss the lanterns.

“I thought we had an understanding that the lanterns were not allowed, but people continue to release them,” he said.

Davis plans to bring the topic up at the June 10 fire marshal meeting, where officials from all the fire organizations within the county get together.

“I think we are going to need a countywide ban on these things,” said Davis. “Here at the beach, they usually go out over the water, but out east there is land and forest and, if that caught fire, there would be some major damage.”