One elected official drives for Uber when he’s not making decisions about local schools. Another has a boat that’s worth nearly as much as the median home sells for locally. Eight are collecting Social Security. Half are millionaires.
Those are some of the details found in the latest financial disclosure statements submitted by elected leaders in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
The Herald-Tribune analyzed disclosure reports for elected officials – including county commissioners, school board members, state lawmakers and county constitutional officers such as the sheriff and tax collector – who are required to file a “form 6” with the Florida Commission on Ethics.
The reports were due July 1 but can be submitted by the end of the month without penalty.
Of the 38 officials whose reports were reviewed by the Herald-Tribune, 19 are millionaires. The average net worth of the 38 is $1.5 million.
The wealthiest is Bradenton state Rep. Jim Boyd, who is worth $5.8 million thanks to an insurance business valued at $4.8 million. The lowest net worth — $1,165 — belongs to Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner, who is still paying off a large student loan debt.
The Top 10 wealthiest local officials are all worth more than $2 million, and six are worth more than $3 million.
Some other takeaways from the reports:
• Boyd may have the highest net worth but Sarasota state Rep. Alex Miller (who announced Thursday she is resigning) made the most money last year. Miller’s family business, Mercedes Medical, paid her $693,230 in salary and stock distributions.
• Reflecting the demographics of the region, many of Southwest Florida’s elected leaders are senior citizens on Social Security. But the elected official collecting the largest retirement check is Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells, who drew $68,999 from the Florida Retirement System last year in addition to his salary from the Sheriff’s Office of $124,976.44.
• The most unusual side job held by a local elected official may belong to Manatee County School Board Chair Charlie Kennedy, a former high school social studies teacher who earned $8,313 driving for Uber last year in addition to his $37,567 School Board salary.
• One of the most expensive assets — other than homes and other real estate — reported by a local official is the $250,000 boat owned by Sarasota County Property Appraiser Bill Furst. The 2013 Formula 37 PC sleeps six people and comes equipped with a small kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.
• Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett — who lists a net worth of $5 million, mostly from real estate — reported $10,800 in income last year from phosphate mining company Mosaic for “political insights.” In February, the Manatee County Commission voted 5-2 to approve a new Mosaic mine in the Myakka-Duette area.
• Manatee County School Board member Dave Miner, who presents himself as a watchdog on fiscal issues, reported that his law firm lost money last year. Miner submitted tax return records that show a loss of $52,057 last year. The tax return lists $93,138 in income and $145,195 in expenses.
• Many Southwest Florida elected officials are heavily invested in real estate. The majority own more than one property and 11 own, or partially own, three or more properties. The officials with the most extensive property holdings are Bennett, Furst and Sarasota County Commissioner Al Maio, who has a 38.75 percent ownership stake in a company that owns 71 lots in Tennessee.
The wealthy have always enjoyed an advantage in politics and that only will become more pronounced as the cost of campaigning continues to grow.
But while Southwest Florida’s stable of elected leaders includes a lot of millionaires, plenty of less wealthy individuals also are finding success, even if they have to drive for Uber to make ends meet.
Knight won’t run
Tracy Knight, the wife of Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight, won’t be running for the Sarasota County School Board after all.
Knight told the Herald-Tribune recently that she was strongly considering running against board member Jane Goodwin. There was just one problem: Knight doesn’t live in Goodwin’s district.
“While my initial research showed that our new home is in district 5 … I checked on it again and discovered by calling the Supervisor of Elections Office that we are one block outside of that,” Knight wrote in an email.
Knight added that she plans to stay involved in education issues. She continues to serve on the State College of Florida board of trustees.