Florida County Names New Park After Ron DeSantis

BRADENTON -- Manatee County Commissioners have decided to name a new park after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, but not without controversy.

They voted 6-1 Tuesday to place DeSantis' name on a new park across from Kinnan Elementary School near Sarasota-Bradenton airport.

Commissioner James Satcher said it was a tribute to the governor's firm stance against COVID lockdowns and mask rules.

But the debate got mired in a political controversy when Commissioner Misty Servia, who represents the neighborhood in which the park is located, accused a fellow commissioner facing an ethics investigation of pushing the name change forward to curry favor with the governor. Commissioner Vanessa Baugh could be removed by the governor, depending on the results of an ethics probe over whether she channeled COVID vaccines that became available in early 2021 to benefit herself and her district. Servia also asserted that a Republican political consultant who is associated with a primary rival of hers launched a flyer campaign to submit votes for DeSantis, partly in order to paint her as a RINO (Republican in Name Only).

Servia asked for name submissions in February for the new park. She expected the names to go to a neighborhood committee which would pick the winner, a process that was pre-empted by the vote. Baugh accused Servia of dragging her feet on naming the park for DeSantis. "There is a name that definitely had more votes than any other name, and that is Ron DeSantis... the people spoke, and they want to see it named for our governor."

Commissioner George Kruse says any campaign for DeSantis didn't matter because the governor was already competitive before the late surge. "He's literally the second highest vote total, eking out a lead over Parky McParkface," Kruse said to scattered laughter. "South Park of Manatee" was another of the names submitted.

Satcher says commissioners should ignore the controversy over the voting process and name the park for DeSantis because "it's a great idea." He added, "never look a gift horse in the mouth."

Commissioner Reggie Bellamy, the lone Democrat, was the only no vote.

The park is set to open in 2023.

Photo: Getty Images/Canva

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