Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thoughts from Herald columnist Vin Mannix on the tragedy in our community

First Brett Wagner.

Then Joshua Rogers.

Two 18-year-olds, best friends, Lakewood Ranch High School seniors ready to take the next great step in their young lives, gone.

Taken after a tragic vehicular accident at Rye Road and State Road 64.

On Christmas night.

My God.

Wagner died at the scene.

Rogers, Tuesday at Blake Medical Center.

Only Terron Sanders, Wagner's cousin and a passenger in the truck, survived.

Only he wore a seat belt.

If only ...

They were headed to Walmart on S.R. 64, the west side of Interstate 75 when their truck was struck by another vehicle, causing it to roll, ejecting both Wagner and Rogers.

At a time of year when people should be sharing in the joyous afterglow of a truly blessed holiday, two Myakka City families will each be preparing to bury a son.


How unbelievably sad.

Pray for them.

Lakewood Ranch Kiwanis takes stock in children

Gordon Wardell and Diana Dill. (provided photo)
The Kiwanis Club of Lakewood Ranch recently contributed $2,500 to the Leadership Prayer Breakfast for Take stock in Children.  

Take Stock in Children has provided at-risk Manatee County students with scholarships, mentors since 1996. 

Gordon Wardell, President of LWR Kiwanis presented the check at a recent meeting to Diana Dill, executive director of Take Stock in Children of Manatee County.

Lakewood Ranch Kiwanis supports many activities benefiting students including the Take Stock in Children Leadership Prayer Breakfast and 10K Run, LWR Kids Fishing Tournament, 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony, Project Heart, and Adopt A Family.  

The club meets noon Tuesdays at the Polo Grill on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch.

Information: Gordon Wardell at  941-232-8534 or

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting a big hand with the laundry

The Bradford family got a visit from Santa Suds. (provided photo)

Two local families celebrate Christmas early this week with the delivery to their homes of a new Whirlpool Cabrio top-load washer and high-efficiency dryer, according to a press release we received.

John and Christine Bradford were nominated for the washer-dryer giveaway by three of Christine’s fellow teachers at Robert Willis Elementary School in Lakewood Ranch. 

The Bradfords, parents of  four children, adopted four more children from foster care last August to keep a family of siblings from being separated. Doing laundry for a family of 10, their old machines were struggling to handle a minimum of four loads a day.

“This is the first time we’ve ever owned a new washer and dryer. We’ve always had used machines, and our current set is on its last legs,” Christine said. “This truly is a Christmas blessing."

The appliances were donated by Home-Tech, an air conditioning and major appliance sales and service provider, headquartered in Fort Myers. Home-Tech is in the process of opening a new Manatee  location on Lena Road in East Manatee.

“We are an employee-owned company, and our whole team gets excited about this day,” said Steve Marino, Home-Tech founder and president. “We are happy to donate these washer-dryer sets to families who need and deserve the assistance.”

Another happy family is that of Keith Evans, the single father of an 11-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. Evans had been struggling since his car broke down, forcing him to take the bus to work and rely on friends and neighbors to do errands, including going to the laundromat. A co-worker at Osprey Biotechnics nominated him for the Santa Suds giveaway.

“This is going to change our lives tremendously,” Keith said. “We really appreciate it, and will treasure this day forever.”

One more local family is scheduled to receive their free washer and dryer in January.

The Evans family with their new washer and dryer. (provided photo)


Monday, December 19, 2011

54,000 loss reported in robbery of Lakewood Ranch home

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A Lakewood Ranch resident reported robbers stole more than $54,000 worth of property between 2 and 10 p.m. Friday, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

The victim was out of town, when an  unknown person or person pried open the sliding glass door just north of the bedroom door that leads into the living room. Once inside the home, located in the 7200 block of Ashland Glen in the Country Club,  the suspects removed watches from the night stand west of the bed. 

The suspects also went into the walk-in closet and stole  more watches, jewelry and a bag that contained a .45 caliber Glock handgun with two magazines that were loaded, the sheriff's report said.

The victim's hospital I.D. was also in the bag. The intruders fled in an unknown direction. 

A  crime scene unit responded and processed the scene and the gun was entered into crime data bases via serial number.

The theft was reported by the sheriff's office in a press release Monday night.

Community development supervisors have discussed steps they could take to improve security at the Ranch, ranging from improving lighting to scheduling more security and traffic patrols.

This past summer, a Bradenton man was arrested in connection with two armed invasions in the Edgewater village:


Friday, December 16, 2011

Meet Dick Moran, newest Lakewood Ranch supervisor

Dick Moran at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall. (Photo by Jim Jones)

It was only Dick Moran's second meeting Thursday as a Community Development District 2 supervisor, serving residents of Lakewood Ranch's Country Club and Edgewater villages.

He replaced Don O'Leary in November. Big shoes. O'Leary, the "unofficial mayor of Lakewood Ranch," was known for everything from feeding the hungry to community safety, and being unafraid to butt heads when necessary.

O'Leary stepped down to fill a spot on the East Manatee Fire District Commission. Makes sense, he is a retired firefighter.

Talked to Moran earlier today, and he says O'Leary deserves the unofficial mayor title for all he does.

Look for good things from Lakewood Ranch's newest supervisor.

A native of Scranton, Pa.,  he has lived in the Lakewood Ranch area since 1999. He knows the area well.

Moran was one of six district residents who applied for the open seat.

He retired here after a 35 year career with the Internal Revenue Service. His final assignment was as director of the Gulf Coast District, covering Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Moran has been co-chairing the district safety committee four years, and seemed reassuringly able when discussing district business Thursday.

There are a lot of big issues coming up. Remember, two homes in Edgewater village were the targets of home invasion this year. One of the ways the safety and security issue will be addressed is through improved lighting.

Another issue is what to do with Washingtonia palms? They can get so tall as to be nearly impossible to keep trimmed up.

Dick Moran wanted to be in the mix with these problems and more, and figured the best place to do that was on the supervisors' side of the dais. We wish him well.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Yet another snag over Lakewood Ranch lawncare contract

 Losing bidder Garden Leaders has filed a protest against three of Lakewood Ranch’s community development districts in the awarding of lawn maintenance contracts totaling $932,796.

Garden Leaders protested the request for bid process, said attorney Andy Cohen, who represents two of the districts.

At the advice of their attorneys, supervisors for District 1 (Summerfield-Riverwalk), District 4 (Greenbrook) and District 5 (Country Club), agreed to request that Hamilton “Chip” Rice, former attorney for Manatee County government, serve as special master or mediator in the dispute.

Rice’s services would be used if informal discussions between Garden Leaders, a company based in Dade County, fail to reach a resolution.

Garden Leaders has the existing contract for lawn maintenance at Lakewood Ranch. The new contract with Down to Earth Lawn Care, based in Mount Dora, is set to start Jan. 3.

The Down to Earth bid represents a savings of $259,418 a year over the old contract.

For more, see Friday's Lakewood Ranch Herald.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Leader for Life

Thuy Nguyen, right, had her family present to celebrate her success on Tuesday. Photo Jim Jones

It sounded so, well, academic:

"Mission: To enable highly motivated Take Stock in Children Scholars who have demonstrated solid leadership skills, strong moral character and academic success to excel in a university environment by providing the resources that will empower them to develop their full potential as Leaders for Life."

See what I mean?

Fortunately for me, I was able to be present to watch as 17-year-old Thuy Nguyen of Braden River High School received the Leaders for Life Fellowship.

I learned just a little of the uplifting story of how this child of Vietnamese immigrants got herself on the fast track to success and overcame huge obstacles.

There's nothing academic about that. In fact, Thuy worked extremely hard on her studies, and in the family business, paying the bills and serving as translator for her parents who speak little English.

The betting is that one day Thuy will be a doctor and will saving lives. I think that's a safe bet. For more, see Wednesday's Bradenton Herald.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lakewood Ranch, East Manatee community emergency response teams keeps on training

East Manatee Fire Rescue Lieutenant Chad Gamble instructs new Lakewood Ranch CERT
 member Lucy Bricker in the proper use of a dry chemical fire extinguisher. (provided photo)

The Manatee County Department of Emergency Management sponsored a training course recently for new members of area community emergency response teams (CERT). Residents from Lakewood Ranch, Heritage Harbour and University Park participated in the training that was held over two evenings and two Saturdays.

Part of a nationwide program started by the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, volunteer CERT teams in the county provide search and rescue and emergency first aid in response to hurricanes and other disasters until trained emergency personnel are able to reach the scene.

The November training was hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Community Emergency Response Team and held at East Manatee Fire Rescue fire stations and meeting space donated by Gold Coast Eagle Distributing. Certified instructors from East Manatee Fire Rescue, Manatee County Emergency Medical services, and Lakewood Ranch CERT conducted skills training in emergency first aid, search and rescue, fire safety and disaster preparedness.

The Lakewood Ranch  CERT has almost 200 members and is one of the largest CERT organizations in the state. Heritage Harbour is one of the newest CERT programs in the county and graduated their first five members during this class.
Lakewood Ranch CERT Paramedic Nina McCabe and Manatee County Paramedic Lt. Dave Byington demonstrate backboard procedures for neck and back injuries on new CERT member Robert McCabe.

'The Journey' is just the start for activities at the Ranch

 'Best Friends Flock Together,' one of the works of art in "The Journey' collection.

The Journey,” a collection of original art by the group “AWE,” Artistic Women’s Expression, is on display at the ComCenter Lakewood Ranch gallery, 9040 Town Center Parkway, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday-Friday through Jan. 27. The public is invited at no charge.

Should you want to meet the artists, there is a reception 5:30-7:30 p.m. today. Thursday, Dec. 8. Wine and refreshments will be served.

Also for your consideration:

1. Holidays Around the Ranch is set for 6-9 p.m. Friday at Lakewood Ranch Main Street. Look for Santa riding in on his sleigh, and the lighting of a Christmas tree.

2.  Taylor Morrison invites the community to enjoy a complimentary ride in a festive horse-drawn carriage at the Esplanade Sales Center in the Summerfield Information Center, 6310 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Saturday. Reservations are encouraged. Drinks, snacks and holiday music will be provided. The event is free for all ages.

Information or to RSVP: 941-799-5496.

3. Come to “Rock Around the Clock Tower” at San Marco Plaza 6-10 p.m. Dec. 16 as The Platters sing “Only You.” Also set to perform are the Tucci Band featuring Dan Toler from the Allman Brothers Band performing with Louie the Lip on hamonica; and The Matthew Facciolla Band.

Tickets are $10 online at or $15 at the door.

Proceeds to benefit the Humane Society of Manatee County and Dan Toller Fund for ALS.

Also planned, a classic car collection, the Budweiser beer truck, and food provided by local restaurants.

Bring your pets dressed in their holiday attire for a photo contest.

Monday, December 5, 2011

University Park Women's Club donate to the "Babies Can't Wait" campaign

Anne Nellis and Kris Higgerson with donated infant care products. (provided photo)

Ann Nellis and Kris Higgerson, community outreach chairs for the University Park Women's Club, recently coordinated the collection of 701 pounds in infant care items, along with handcrafted blankets, baby clothes, and stuffed toys for need families.

The supplies were donated to The Food Bank of Manatee, along with a cash donation of more than $700.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kickoff for Relay for Life is Mondat\y

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life Kickoff to a Cure is set for 6-7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec.5, at the Lakewood Ranch Visitor Information Center, 6220 University Parkway.

The event will highlight details about the upcoming relay and recognize cancer survivors and caregivers. There will also be drawings for prizes, food and more.

Teams can be registered at the event or at www.relayforlife/LakewoodRanchFL.

A commitment fee of $100 should be brought for each team to the kickoff.

RSVP to Lauren Blenker at 941-328-3776.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Donate a food item, see ‘A Christmas Story’ free

Lakewood Ranch Cinemas is a convenient place to help others this holiday season. (Provided photo)

LAKEWOOD RANCH — To benefit local food banks, Lakewood Ranch Cinemas, 10715 Rodeo Drive, Lakewood Ranch, will be hosting a special showing of the 1983 holiday classic, “A Christmas Story” 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17.  Admission to the movie is free with a food donation.

Throughout December, theater goers can also participate in Lakewood Ranch Cinema’s Salvation Army angel tree,  Humane Society of Lakewood Ranch pet donation tree and the “Cans” Film Festival Food Bank Tree.

Needed food donations include  healthy cereals, tuna and other canned meat, pasta, rice, peanut butter, canned soups and stews, canned vegetables and fruits, macaroni and cheese, flour and sugar, nutritious children’s snacks, and 100 percent fruit juice (in cans, bottles or boxes).  The food banks are also in desperate need of baby cereal, formula, baby food and diapers.

Pet donations include: Science Diet dog or cat food, metal dog or cat food bowls, paper towels, bleach, rawhide bones, cat litter, and Pedigree wet dog food.

Also in keeping with the holiday traditions, 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, Lakewood Ranch Cinema’s is also offering pictures with Santa.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lakewood Ranch wouldn't be the first community divided by districts

We reported this week that under the Florida Senate's proposed redistricting plan, Lakewood Ranch would be divided between two senate districts.

The dividing line would be the Manatee-Sarasota county line, a line that the folks of Lakewood Ranch work across and ignore every day. It's one community, but there are some things that are different north and south of the line, including which county collects the taxes, and which supervisor of elections collects the voter registrations.

It's not uncommon for a community to be divided by senate districts. Look no further than Bradenton and Palmetto, for instance.

Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, says the redistricting plan is not set in stone. But it will be in the near future. After all, there are state elections coming up next year and the legislature is required to finalize those lines.

All that said, here are some insightful comments on the subject from my colleague, Herald Metro Editor Marc Masferrer that he recently posted in his political blog:

New Florida constitutional requirements requiring geographically compact districts for seats in the U.S. House and Florida Legislature make it less likely that identifiable areas like Lakewood Ranch, which spans across two counties, will remain in the same district.

At least that's an early conclusion that be gathered from proposed redistricting maps released this week by the Florida Senate.

All of Lakewood Ranch would remain in the 13th Congressional District, now represented by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

But the proposed map for new state Senate districts, which have much smaller populations than Congressional districts, would split Lakewood Ranch among two new districts -- the northern portion in District 21, made up of most of Manatee and parts of Hillsborough and Polk counties; and the southern portion in a District 23 made up of all of Sarasota County and part of Charlotte County.

Theoretically, the maps would make it possible for two people from Lakewood Ranch to be elected to the Florida Senate. But the more likely result is that Lakewood Ranch's influence would be diluted, diminished to the point its reach in Tallahassee would be limited.

Nothing suggests that is the intent of the mapmakers. But as lawmakers work to meet the new constitutional requirements -- new districts must be geographically compact AND protect minority voting rights -- splits like what  might happen to Lakewood Ranch are possible.

Another such split in the proposed Senate map affects several predominantly minority neighborhoods in Palmetto and Bradenton, which as they are now, would remain in a Senate district that extends from Tampa in order to keep it a district likely to elect a minority senator. (The district is now represented by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.)

To see what some in Lakewood Ranch think of the proposed map, read the story in Tuesday's Bradenton Herald.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lakewood Ranch students let the sunshine in . . .

Pure joy is how I would describe "Back to the '80s the Totally Awesome Musical" by Roxane Caravan's theater students at Lakewood Ranch High School.

It harkens back to the days of thrift store chic as embodied by Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, and the whacky, danceable tunes of the B-52s. (Remember Rock Lobster and Love Shack?)

Who knew the kids of today would feel a connection to these golden oldies?

Take a look at our video:

And if you would like more information -- and how could you not? -- here's a link to our story: