Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly

VENICE — Brian Kelly says he’s been an environmental advocate all his life and enjoys “everything you can do on the water.”

And it’s mainly been local waters for the Sarasota native who has lived in Venice for three years.

His advocacy has taken the form of helping to found Hands Along the Water, a nonprofit created during the toxic red tide bloom of 2018 that has conducted educational outreach and staged demonstrations to bring attention to the need to keep the state’s water clean.

“Our environment, our water quality is the economy,” he said.

Continuing concerns about sewage spills and meeting the water demands of growth have led him to take his advocacy to the next level and declare his candidacy for Venice City Council Seat 2.

“I felt like I needed to take a stand,” he said.

He’ll face former Council Member Bill Willson in the Nov. 3 general election.

Vice Mayor Chuck Newsom, who currently occupies the seat, isn’t running for re-election.

He is running on a platform of “common sense environmental protections that should have been put in place decades ago, holding developers accountable and protecting public health and well-being,” according to his official campaign announcement.

He said he wants to promote Florida-Friendly Yard standards, which would improve the soil’s ability to retain water, resulting in less runoff to the Gulf of Mexico.

Though he’s a construction manager working on obtaining a contractor’s license, Kelly said the city needs to take a longer-term view of development.

“Too many people are focused on the ‘right now,’” he said. “We need to step up to the developers and slow them down a bit.”

He said that when he gets his contractor’s license his focus will be on environmentally sustainable construction. He’s already involved in the building of “tiny houses” on Siesta Key.

Besides his activity with Hands Along the Water, Kelly is a member of the Venice Construction Board of Adjustments and Appeals; a Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership citizen advisory committee member; a co-founder of Community Land Trust of Sarasota; a Venice Ready For 100 leader; and a Sierra Club member.

His campaign website is BrianKellyForVenice.com.

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