Chapman Campaigns on Record of Advocacy

Politics

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY FEB 6, 2017

Editor's Note: This is the fourth in an eight-part weekly series profiling candidates for Sarasota City Commission. 

Since her entry into city politics, Susan Chapman has maintained a reputation as a fighter on neighborhood issues, a role that often has her critiquing decisions at City Hall. As she nears the end of her first term on the Sarasota City Commission, she finds her herself defending her record, which critics say was marred by that pugnaciousness. But she hopes a majority of voters see her tenure as a one of effective advocacy, and that they still want her in office fighting for them over the next four years. “I’m a person who has the courage to stand up to people who don’t have the best interest of the city at heart,” Chapman says.

Chapman is one of eight candidates running for two at-large seats on the commission, and the only incumbent seeking re-election this year. With important decisions on the horizon including the future of the Sarasota Bayfront, she believes her experience in office will be important moving forward. Chapman first rose to prominence in Sarasota after a major sewage spill in the Hudson Bayou when she mobilized the neighborhood around that issue. On the commission, she has often voiced strong opposition to expanding development in portions of town, such as her recent dissenting vote against a master plan for the former site of the Quay. “Allowing for nine 18-stories is overdevelopment in a gridlocked area,” she says. But she balks at suggestions that she opposes any growth, noting she supported creating an overlay district in the Rosemary area that allowed for high-density construction and has been credited with spurring redevelopment in a long-dormant area of town.

Since announcing her re-election bid, she also suffered through a recent scandal after emailing the city manager complaining about ambulances speeding through her neighborhood at night, suggesting the vehicles need to be ticketed. That resulted in a public apology from the commissioner, but she maintains she is a public official on first responders’ side. “There are always people that find one little problem and amplify it,” she says. But she has fought for firefighters on budget issues, she says: “I have always been there. I always listen and try to help them when needed.”

As she faces re-election, Chapman hopes voters see accomplishments such as pushing the city toward a Housing First approach to sheltering the homeless. A strong voice against county plans for a come-as-you-are shelter in the city, she says county officials today are paying closer attention to the city’s system. And she believes a push for partnership with police in the area spawned creativity within the department and resulted in a sharp reduction in crime. “We are now focusing on evidence-based solutions,” she says.

A citywide election is scheduled for March 14, with a runoff likely on May 9. Other candidates include: Tahiti Park neighborhood leader Jennifer Ahern-Koch; former Sarasota Mayor Fredd “Glossie” Atkins; former prosecutor Hagen Brody; Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association president Patrick Gannon; Gulf Business Systems owner Martin Hyde; pedestrian safety advocate Mikael Sandstrom; and former stockbroker Matt Sperling.

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