Hyde Wants Business Perspective in Board



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

For all the talk of a a business agenda in Sarasota, Martin Hyde feels the City Commission notably lacks a successful, experienced business leader on the board. “We need at least one pragmatic, finance-based business manager who has actually been involved in a multi-million dollar business as opposed to one that does a few thousand a month,” Hyde says. He’d like to be that voice, and raised $43,922 as of the last campaign filing—more than any other campaign so far this year—to do so.

Hyde is one of eight candidates running for two at-large seats on the commission. A former professional soccer player in Great Britain, Hyde runs now on his background as owner of Gulf Business Systems, a company he purchased after moving to Sarasota in 1999. He’d like to see an evaluation of city services and leadership with a long-term vision at City Hall. “I talk about having 100,000 people in town every day and we have only 16 police on duty at any one time,” he says. “We have to at least plug that from regressing further.” He holds high hopes in a possible outcome of the current Bayfront visioning process, but only if the city can think big. He notes the power of the Sydney Opera House in defining an international vision of that city. “It’s not that I want an opera house but this is what’s possible when you have a blank canvas,” he says. “We could have something iconic.”

But more than any problem with the current direction of city government in Sarasota, Hyde feels frustrated about whether commissioners truly call the shots. When asked about whether he wants a strong mayor in town, Hyde says: “Frankly, it seems like we have one already.” Most people in town know who City Manager Tom Barwin is, by Hyde’s estimation, but aren’t so aware of the commission. It isn’t so much an issue of who holds the manager job, Hyde says, but the lack of strong direction has made for a commission that feels weak, and he wants to provide stronger policy direction if elected.

Some of the anxiety-producing issues in town, such as traffic, could likely be solved with some redirection of cars around the city core rather than through it, he says. He’d like the city to focus on some long-term issues like deficits produced by the current pension structure; if it doesn’t get addressed before the numbers grow to rival the city budget, the city could end up with “catastrophic” consequences.

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; incumbent City Commissioner Susan Chapman; Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association president Patrick Gannon; pedestrian safety advocate Mikael Sandstrom; and former stockbroker Matt Sperling. 

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