Merry Christmas Eve

Guest Correspondence


I hope this Christmas Eve finds you warm and looking forward to the holiday weekend.

The festive Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year Holiday season is the time of year, which features community spirit far more than any other time of the year. 

The high holiday season is the time of year when our human need and desire to bond appears in full force. For many, the season is rich in memories and experiences with new ones added each year. It seems most people, including yours truly, are happiest when trying to bring joy, happiness and love to others, which is generally what the holidays are about.

Examples of this community spirit were abundant this month. This year’s Holiday Parade organizing baton was passed from the beloved Paul Thorpe (a.k.a. Mr. Downtown) to former City Commissioner Danny Bilyeu. The parade, which honored Paul for his past contributions, while welcoming Santa, appeared to draw record crowds and participants. Community spirit was alive and well. A special holiday thanks is warranted to Danny and all involved.

At Five Points Park, on St. Armand’s Circle and in Newtown, beautiful community Christmas tree lightings were heavily attended this year. Seeing kids being thrilled by the excitement of the holidays appeared equally thrilling to the many cool kids at heart around town who organized these heartfelt evenings.

And we can't overlook the annual holiday boat parade charity event organized to raise funds for the Suncoast Charities for Children. Once again this unique and colorful event was enjoyed by thousands. Another special holiday thank you goes out to Lucy Nicandri for her tireless efforts organizing the event, the team at The Marina Jack for all of their support of the event and the festive boaters who entered the competition.

Between major community events, amidst all the construction going on around town, our community has been chock full of holiday functions celebrating bonds between friends, colleagues and neighbors. And no doubt this weekend our churches, synagogues and temples will be well attended reminding us of the spiritual foundation of our holiday season.

As we begin this peak week of our high holiday season I would also like to give one more special holiday thanks to all the good, unheralded folks who are working during the holidays to keep our community safe and functioning while the rest of us are celebrating. To the folks in our police departments, fire departments and EMS, hospitals, utilities and public works, sanitation, media, airlines, transportation systems, hotels, and increasing numbers of stores and restaurants, thanks for doing what you do to help make our holidays possible.

As we look to the challenges and opportunities in 2017, whether it's better addressing chronic homelessness, figuring out how to best manage growth and traffic, how to protect our shorelines, navigation channels, beaches, parks and trees, or how to zone medical marijuana, redevelop the Bayfront, or city – county – and public private collaborations, I harbor the holidays-inspired hope that we collectively strive more than ever to keep the great community spirit and goodwill we enjoy and value during the high holidays going all year long.

Our country and the world are in need of community models that rely upon collaboration and problem solving, whenever possible, while minimizing conflict and automatic adversarial responses to almost every situation. We can only imagine how much better off the world could be.

The lessons of the holiday season suggest that the give and take of working together and in support of each other is much more rewarding and productive than some of practices which have become standard operating procedure in venues and spheres of government and business that appear to have lost the spirit of community, and perhaps forgotten the reality of our inter-dependence upon each other. 

On this holiday, on behalf of all of us at city hall, congratulations and thanks for a great 2016, and best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

Tom Barwin is Sarasota City Manager. Forward any thoughts you may have on this or related subjects to:

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