Sarasota Remembers Kerry Kirschner

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY MAR 5, 2020

Kerry Kirschner, former Sarasota Mayor and long-time executive director of The Argus Foundation, died Wednesday at 73.

Kelly Kirschner, Kerry’s son and another former Sarasota mayor, remembered his father’s commitment to his family and his community.

“We’re all incredibly grateful he gave us a magical childhood and decided to return to the Sarasota-Manatee area,” Kelly Kirschner said.

The elder Kirschner was born in Bradenton but moved to New York and worked at Revlon for a number of years. He returned to Sarasota in 1976, believing the community the best place to raise a family. He went into business initially running a fruit stand, but became active politically, serving two terms on the Sarasota City Commission including two years as mayor.

Fredd Atkins, elected to the Commission the same year, said Kirschner’s efforts then to establish the Downtown Sarasota Community Development Area created the infrastructure for today’s thriving downtown, and he also helped relocate Ed Smith Stadium to North Sarasota.

“Kerry’s greatest contribution was that he was a Democrat in Republican clothing who had great connections with Bill Clinton,” Atkins said. “Through those, we were able to get the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program to the city. That’s probably one of his greatest achievements.”

Kirschner later became executive director of The Argus Foundation in Sarasota. Successor Christine Robinson, another former elected official, said Kirschner turned the organization into a pro-business policy powerhouse.

His proudest accomplishment was conducting a school finance study of the Sarasota County School District, which would lead to instituting a schools sales tax.

“That incredible study of the school system led it to where it’s at today,” she said. “We lost a legend.”

Yet, in a 2016 interview with SRQ Magazine, Kirschner suggested he simply met an obligation all citizens have to make their own communities stronger.

“We really need to dedicate ourselves, both through our community and our elected officials, to be what we want to be in the future,” he said. “That’s what it all comes down to for me.” 

Kerry Kirschner is survived by his wife LuAnn and four children Sean, Kent, Kelly and Katie Haas.

A service will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Martha Catholic Church in Downtown Sarasota.

Kerry Kirschner poses for SRQ photoshoot in 2016.

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