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USF professor runs for mayor of Bradenton

The thought of running for Bradenton mayor didnt really cross Richard OBriens mind until the USF professor began receiving support from people in the community.

OBrien, a government & international affairs professor, was being urged to run by prospective voters.

About a year ago, people started asking me to run, OBrien said. Coming to (say) yes wasnt an easy process.

But OBrien, who served as Chairman of the Manatee County Democratic Party for two years until he stepped down Tuesday to further embrace the non-partisanship of the election, didnt make up his mind until he received encouraging words from one of the most important people in his life.

With his mothers worsening dementia, OBrien hadnt heard her voice in weeks due to her deteriorating speech abilities. But a few months ago when she was in the hospital for an unrelated reason, OBrien asked her what she thought about him running for mayor.

She spoke, and her straightforward answer stunned him.

Just do it, she said. Youd be good at it.

OBrien said thats when he decided to run.

The Nov. 6 mayoral election pits OBrien against incumbent Wayne Poston, who has served as mayor since January 2000, and city councilwoman Marianne Barneby.

OBrien said he will bring new energy to the table. He said with the number of job creators in the area, such as the Port of Manatee, IMG and Tourism, increasing jobs is a top goal.

We need to go strong toward the job creators and bring more jobs to Manatee County, he said.

OBrien has also been secretary of the Democratic County Chairs Association and sits on the Florida Democratic Party State Central and Executive Committees.

He drives a red double-decker bus around Bradenton to campaign.

It sets us apart, he said. The bus draws people in and helps us to get our message out and raise funds. Its like an icebreaker.

Though the position is officially a part-time position, with past mayors serving 20 to 25 hours per week, OBrien said he will not be treating it as such.

Ill put in 40 to 50 hours a week, he said. I will treat this as a full-time job.

But, OBrien said, he will not give up teaching, despite the added workload, because teaching is one of his passions. At USF Sarasota-Manatee, OBrien teaches courses such as International Human Rights, Conflict in the World and Ideologies of the World.

But OBriens responsibilities go beyond teaching and politics. His wife, Ani OBrien, gave birth to twins Analise and John a few months ago.

But Ani said said his new daughter and son are unlikely to slow him down.

If anything the twins motivate him because he wants to be a good example, she said.

OBrien said that his wifes support has been a necessity in his political pursuit.

I help him any way I can, Ani said. I went door-to-door, helped put up signs, talked to people every day and I was also his treasurer.

The Nov. 6 race is not OBriens first flirtation with elected office. OBrien has had political aspirations in the past too, having run for the Bradenton City Council in 2009. He lost by 140 votes in a close race.

Win or lose, 2012 will be a good year because we had the twins, he said.