Poll: Manatee County voters prefer administrator, employees with private sector background
Manatee County Administrator Cheri Coryea.

Manatee County Administrator Cheri Coryea's job is under attack.

A poll of Manatee County voters found a majority prefer county government hire more employees from the private sector. That includes the position of County Administrator, which could open up soon as the county navigates a recent scandal.

A polling memo released by McLaughlin & Associates found 54% of Manatee County voters favor hiring more county employees who worked in the private sector, while 33% prefer those with primarily government experience.

Those results came after pollsters briefed participants on the job of county administrator. Those polled were given four choices. A plurality of 39% said the county should hire a private sector businessperson who operates a business in Manatee County, with another 13% favoring a hire with experience in a Fortune 500 company.

On the government side, 27% of those polled favor an internal hire of someone already working within Manatee County Government, and 12% would like an applicant with government experience but who comes from outside the organization. Pollsters combined the private sector and public sector choices for the top lines.

Republicans in particular favor a private sector hire, 64% compared to just 20% who want government experience. Independents also lean that way 60% to 28%. About 56% of Democrats prefer a county hire compared to 33% who like private sector experience.

It’s unclear who commissioned the poll. The memo was released to “Interested Parties.” McLaughlin & Associates is based in Alexandria, Virginia and has an office in Miami.

The poll, conducted on Feb. 3 and 4, was taken as Manatee County debates the future for County Administrator Cheri Coryea. Shortly after new county commissioners were sworn in following the November elections, County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge made a motion to dismiss the county’s top staff executive. But Coryea in December appeared to survive that ouster attempt.

But Coryea’s future came into doubt again last month when another new Commissioner, George Kruse, moved to fire her. He did so after admitting to an extramarital affair, and Commissioner Carol Whitmore, in an informal meeting organized by Coryea’s office, informed him she knew of the affair. Kruse said in a county commission meeting he believed that was part of an attempt to blackmail him for his vote on issues in the future.

The Commission will vote Feb. 17 whether to terminate Coryea.

Notably, the McLaughlin poll found about 35% of Manatee County voters were already aware the county was considering firing the county administrator.  That includes 41% of Democrats, 36% of independents and 30% of Republicans.

The poll also evaluated favorability for the commission. About 48% of voters approve of the job done by the board, while 29% disapprove and 23% declined to answer or said they were unsure. Ratings were largely consistent across party lines.

Curiously, the poll also evaluated opinions on a single issue. Pollsters found voters disapprove of a recent decision to spend $10 million on a new pet center “when other critical infrastructure needs have yet to be met.” About 60% disapprove of that, while 29% approve. The decision was particularly unpopular among Republicans, with 70% disapproving.

The poll included responses from 400 voters who were registered to vote in the November election. Pollsters report a 4.7% margin of error.


Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.


  • Vicki Jarratt

    February 9, 2021 at 8:38 pm

    I worked with Cheri and never have I met a more honest and above board leader than Cheri. My personal opinion is Cheri is too good for Manatee County. After all the years she gave to Manatee County and then to treat her in such a disgusting manner just proves that the current Commissioners are all in for themselves and what’s best for them than what’s best for the County. Manatee County residents watch out, you haven’t seen anything yet.

  • Sammy Mann

    February 12, 2021 at 12:13 pm

    This group of commissioners never have the community in mind when permitting big developers to do as they please. Some are paid big bucks and are sellouts to the developers. Greed is their agenda, never the City/County. Voters/residents are clueless about their unethical behavior over the years. Does anyone really think they will be truthful in regard to any issue?! HELLO, doe anyone trust any level of govt these days.
    The answer to all OUR issues is NO! Time for a huge change and oust who should be ousted!

  • Mollie Powell Ewing

    February 12, 2021 at 1:07 pm

    Cheri Coryea needs to be fired and Commissioner Carol Whitmore needs to resign. Calling for a private meeting with a new commissioner to confront him with blackmail material is outrageous and both should be charged with crimes by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. I cannot believe they haven’t been charged yet.

  • Richard Correnti

    February 12, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    This public “lynching” of Cheri Coryea without even working with her is abominable. It was orchestrated before the election, outside the Sunshine, and has been handled more like a high school student government teenage spat than by experienced and reasonable, adult commissioners. Government business is very much UNLIKE the private sector. That does not preclude private sector principles nor practices, but for such a high level position, government experience is essential, whether coming from inside the present organization, or outside. Unfortunately, it’s a done deal, but these commissioners better deliver on a competent and capable replacement or they will have mud all over them.

Comments are closed.


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