Governing Board

Port Manatee is a dependent special district created by the Florida Legislature in 1967. The port is governed by the Manatee County Port Authority – a seven-member oversight board which sets policy and oversees major expenditures for the port. Manatee County Port Authority members serve four-year staggered terms with an annual election of officers.

While the Manatee County Port Authority is comprised of the same seven members as the elected Manatee County Commission – each governing body has a separate set of officers and financial accountability. Port Manatee is not a unit of Manatee County Government and does not receive ad-valorem tax support from the citizens of Manatee County.

Chairwoman – Vanessa Baugh

Commissioner Baugh is originally from Virginia and moved to Florida in 1999.

She and her husband, Don started Vanessa Fine Jewelry in 1999, which is located on Lakewood Main Street. They have 4 children and 10 grandchildren.

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First Vice Chairman – Stephen R. Jonsson

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Second Vice Chairwoman Betsy Benac

Betsy Benac was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan and moved to Florida in 1982. She and her husband Bob live in southern Manatee County, they have been married for 29 years and have two adult children, both graduates of Manatee County Public Schools.

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Third Vice Chairwoman– Robin DiSabatino

Mrs. DiSabatino is originally from Wilmington, Delaware and moved to Manatee County part time in 2002 and permanently in 2004. She had been a licensed REALTOR in Delaware and Pennsylvania since 1986 and Maryland in 1992 and has been licensed as a Broker-Associate with Michael Saunders and Company since 2004. Upon her election, DiSabatino placed her license on Referral Status, as she is dedicated to working full-time as Commissioner of District 4.

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Member – Priscilla Whisenant Trace

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Member – Carol Whitmore

Originally from Dearborn Heights, Mich., Ms. Whitmore moved to Manatee County in 1969 and grew up on Anna Maria Island. She is a graduate of Manatee High School, Manatee Technical Institute and has an associate of science degree from Manatee Community College. Ms. Whitmore is a licensed registered nurse and was a certified health risk manager until 2006.

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Member – Charles B. Smith

Charles B. Smith was elected in 2014 and is serving his second term on the Manatee County Port Authority board. Commissioner Smith was born in Batavia, New York. He grew up in the Lincoln area of Palmetto and is a graduate of Palmetto High School. He became the first African American elected to the Palmetto City Council, (now Commission).

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