Ron Keel – A Local With A Different Vision For Bay County

by Janet Pattison
Photo provided by Ron Keel Photo provided by Ron Keel

BAY COUNTY, FL - Bay County, once a hub for lumber and fishing industries, underwent a significant transformation into a tourist hotspot by the 1970s. However, Ron Keel, a native of Bay County, believes that the county's focus on tourism has neglected the development of other vital sectors like manufacturing and technology, essential for higher wages and sustainable growth for residents.

Keel points out Bay County's unique advantages, such as its port, rail system, and two military bases, making it ripe for diversification beyond tourism. He emphasizes that while tourism generates jobs, they often come with lower wages, failing to provide the economic stability that residents need. Manufacturing and tech industries can find what they need here in Bay County. The state of Florida is encouraging the growth of the space industry across the state.

One of Keel's primary concerns is the bad prioritization of funds, particularly in infrastructure maintenance. Many citizens have voiced grievances about the poor condition of county roads, exacerbated by lingering recovery needs from Hurricane Michael. Keel pledges to prioritize infrastructure investments that benefit county residents directly.

A notable aspect of Keel's campaign is his commitment to accessibility and responsiveness. He criticizes the County Commissioners for being unresponsive to citizen concerns, citing personal experiences of failed attempts to reach out to them. Keel promises a proactive approach, pledging to immerse himself in the community to understand and address the issues firsthand. “I have a 24 hours, boots on the ground mentality,” says Keel.

Keel's decision to enter the political arena was spurred by what he perceives as an unjustifiable raise in the millage rate and County Commissioners' salaries. He highlights the significant disparity between commissioners' salaries and the median income of Bay County residents, citing statistics from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and the county's own budget summary. “The amount Commissioners receive in salary is higher than the median wage of the residents.” noted Keel. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the average weekly wages in Bay County in 2023 were just over $51,000 per year. Bay County Commission’s numbers in the 2024 budget summary the median income is $65,999. Keel said that Commissioners in Bay County are paid above the median so he can easily make the position his full-time job and provide for his wife and two children. He made just under $30,000 a year serving in the military.

Keel sees the role of County Commissioner as an opportunity to serve his community full-time. Despite the pay cut from his current job, he is determined to support his family while advocating for the values he holds dear, rooted in conservative principles.

Ron Keel's straightforward demeanor and commitment to conservative values and service to community have garnered attention in Bay County. As he vies for a seat on the County Commission, his focus on diversifying the economy, prioritizing infrastructure, and advocating for fiscal responsibility resonates with many residents looking for a fresh perspective in local governance.

(Bay County. Coastal does not endorse candidates.)