Vanessa Baugh was elected, in 2012, county commissioner for District 5, Manatee County. Vanessa and her husband moved to Manatee County in 1999 and they opened Vanessa Fine Jewelry which is located on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch. 

I spoke with Vanessa after the Republican primary which saw the election of new members to the county commission. 

When asked about the pressing needs for the county commission she immediately spoke of infrastructure. “We must continue to build new roads and bridges and upgrade the existing roads in order to avoid traffic congestion.” Baugh said the growth is coming whether we like it or not so we must be proactive. This is different from some of the commissioners Manatee County had in the past who refused to invest in infrastructure hoping their lack of investment would keep the growth away. Their inaction led to some of the gridlock we see today. 

Affordable housing is a priority that Baugh believes should be a front and center focus of the new commission. “Our police officers, firefighters, EMTs, teachers and nurses must have decent housing that is affordable.” Vanessa does not believe in giving developers money for affordable housing. She does believe in creating incentives for the development of affordable housing. 

Baugh noted one area in which the county has seen positive results is the public transportation arena. Several years ago the county was short dozens of bus drivers. Proactive policies have helped the county be fully staffed in this department. These drivers run the county buses and the vehicles that transport citizens to medical appointments. 

I asked Baugh to reflect on the recent election results. Baugh stated “the voters were tired of the political games and ready to move forward with limited but competent government.” Baugh and several other conservative commissioners were campaigning for 2 challengers that had decisive victories against sitting commissioners. “It certainly was a decisive victory,”

Baugh said. This publisher believes that the election outcome was a mandate approving of the changes the conservative commissioners have enacted. 

Baugh believes that County Administrator Scott Hopes has helped the county commissioners implement their vision for streamlining government and holding county employees accountable to the taxpayers. Baugh said “Scott Hopes has made sure employees will be hired based on their competence and not because of their friendship with department heads.” 

Baugh said she has enjoyed representing the citizens of Manatee County. She will soon inherit the title of the longest serving commissioner. She is looking forward to working with the newly elected county commissioners. 

When she gets a chance to relax, Vanessa enjoys RVing with her husband and spending time with her children and grandchildren. She also enjoys sporting clay shooting.

Bob Spencer
Manatee Herald

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