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SRQ DAILY Sep 8, 2018

"In a tight labor market—like the one we’re experiencing now in our local area—employers need to think outside the box to attract and retain talent."

- Jeff Jackson, PGT Innovations

[Under The Hood]  Sarasota No Leader in Voter Participation
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

The effort to reschedule Sarasota’s city elections officially moved from its petition drive stage into a full-fledged campaign for change, this week launching anew as Change the Date Sarasota. And while a campaign announcement touts the bipartisan organization and the chance to strengthen turnout and improve the diversity of the active electorate, it’s important as well to remember his modest and unremarkable the proposed change could be for the city.

That’s not an insult so much as an observation that Sarasota, historically viewed as the most important and progressive community in Southwest Florida, lags behind its neighbors in the simple mission to vote at a time that makes sense for voters.

City of Bradenton voters, for example, long voted in November but used to do so in odd-numbered years. But electors opted nearly a decade ago to abandon that practice and move contests to even-numbered years, just like the state does it. The move saved an estimated $110,000 a year, but more importantly, it saw a massive surge in turnout, from 14 percent voter participation in its last off-year election (November 2009) to about 66 percent participation in its most recent municipal contests (November of 2016).

And in cities like Venice, you can easily compare elections held in odd-numbered years and even-numbered ones. For example, voter turnout in city contests there in 2017 was about 33 percent. But in the citywide mayoral contest in Venice in 2016, almost 71 percent of voters turned out.

Heck, in the city of North Port, more than 65 percent of voters weighed in on a charter amendment in November 2016.

Compare all this to turnout in the City of Sarasota. In May of 2017, the last time the City of Sarasota held an election, just under 23 percent of voters came out to elect new Commissioners Jennifer Ahearn-Koch and Hagen Brody. That’s pathetic in comparison to any ballot measure or commission election held at a regularly scheduled time (referenda and board vacancies will inevitably bring oddly scheduled and poorly attended special elections from time to time).

Now that’s not to undermine the success of these individuals, who in fact won election to office by a record-setting number of supporters. But isn’t that sad? These individuals rode into office on mandates unlike anyone in a Sarasota city election ever enjoyed, yet their level of community support seems dwarfed when compared to officials on the Sarasota County charter review and hospital boards—where every election in November 2016 drew greater than a 66-percent turnout—by virtue of those entities getting elected alongside governors and presidents.

The thing is, Sarasota likes to think of itself as the region’s leader in political deliberation and consideration. Elections here become rowdy affairs. A special city meeting on a master planning document drew a standing-room-only crowd to commission chambers just two days ago.

But when you look at the level of involvement in city democracy, Sarasota can’t boast of its leadership. The community in fact lags behind neighbor to the north often dismissed as denizens of backward Bradentucky.

Sarasota, of course, continues to be the county seat, the cultural capital and the home to nearly every major news outlet serving the region. But on the issue of community involvement, it needs to do some catch-up on the fundamental process of holding a citywide vote. Fortunately, voters soon get the chance to remedy the problem.

And they will do so in a November election.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group. 

[Higher Education]  In Loco Parentis
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

I had the privilege last week of speaking to parents of New College’s incoming first year and transfer students. The students come from all over Florida, 28 states, and five foreign countries. As in the past, I experienced the pride, hope, trepidation and anxiety that the parents radiated, and I wondered about the potency of that emotional cocktail.

Our society commemorates births, graduations, marriages and deaths. But, the experience of escorting children to begin college goes curiously unremarked. I have four children, now grown, and my eight most vivid memories are bringing each to kindergarten for the first time and dropping each at college. The clarity and freight of those eight memories exceed those of my own and my children’s graduations and weddings.


The reason, I think, is that the first day at a school or university marks a real shift in the routines of one’s family. No parent knows how it will end up, but the parents sense that the future of those whom they have protected and sheltered has passed largely out of their control. They are handing off responsibility and relationships with those children and, hence, among family members will change.

I tell the parents to relax. Their student will be fine—just not all of the time.

And I make two requests.

First, when their student calls them for help, I request that they ask their student whom on campus they think might help, and encourage their student to contact that person. New College, like many other residential institutions, has tremendous resources available to its students. There is no better place than college for students to practice the lifelong skill of learning how to think about what help they might need and how to secure it.

My second request is that they encourage their student to explore and expand, academically and socially. Our students are very focused, many have strong likes, dislikes and fixed beliefs about what they are good at and what they are bad at. I ask parents to encourage their students to step outside of their comfort zone: to take a writing class if they dislike writing or a math class if they believe that they are not good at math. It’s okay, I tell them, not to like something, but it is not okay to fear it.

Likewise, they should reach out socially: learn another language, learn to talk across difference, befriend someone unlike themselves. Most students will live more than 80 years after graduation, and can expect to have eight or more careers. Fear will stop them from being all they can be, and they will never get another four years to explore and air out those dark corners in their minds.

But above all, I feel the parents’ uncertainty and hope, and the trust that they are investing in the college. I realize what a gift, and what an extraordinary responsibility, the loan of their students is, and I vow that we will do well by them.

Dr. Donal O'Shea is president of New College of Florida. 

[On Business]  More Than Just a Title
Jeff Jackson

While unpacking old boxes from storage recently, I gained a rare glimpse back in time. I found a note that I wrote to my “future self,” penned originally while I was in high school. I wrote about a variety of things gave me a good laugh, but one thing in particular stuck out. I wrote that one day I aspired to be president of a large company.

It was a lofty goal at the time, being from a very small “two-stoplight” kind of town in rural Georgia. Neither of my parents had graduated high school, and if accepted, I would be the first person in my family to attend college. But I was determined, so like many others, I paid my own way. It was tough, but there were moments along the way that I’ll never forget. One of those moments was the first scholarship I earned. It was like winning the lottery. The scholarship came from an accounting firm that saw something in me, and they sent me a check for $1,000. Recently on my drive in to work at PGT Innovations, I remembered what that check meant to me and my future. It was a step that helped me move in the right direction of fulfilling my “presidential” dream.

Initiatives like that scholarship are just one way that a company can set itself apart in the eyes of a potential employee. In a tight labor market—like the one we’re experiencing now in our local area—employers need to think outside the box to attract and retain talent. Companies have to create something special that people want to be a part of.

At PGT Innovations, we already had a top-notch health benefit package, which is the number one concern among most individuals. Earlier this year, our executive team fulfilled a long-term goal of alleviating the second biggest challenge for working families—child care—by opening a PGT Innovations-owned child care center. But the program our team put in place last year is the one that hit closest to home for me—the PGT Innovations Inspire the Future scholarship program that entitles every team member to $1,000 per child per year to send their kids to college or a trade school. To date, 57 team members have taken advantage of that program, and it’s an incredible accomplishment. It’s just one more way that in a time when companies are fighting to find the best people, PGT Innovations sought to create an environment of people helping people.

Whether it’s giving every team member 10 shares of PGT Innovations stock so our entire company is made up of shareholders or establishing a group that encourages female leadership in our organization, we continue to look for the “next concern” of our team members so we can find a way to help.

As I look back on that high school paper, which earned a ‘B-‘ by the way, I know now that being president of a company means so much more than just the title. It means being accountable for creating a culture that encourages inclusion, diversity and ownership with shared values of growing together. To that end, we hope you will join us at our upcoming career fair at PGT Innovations on Sept. 15 from 8 a.m. to noon at our location in North Venice to learn more about opportunities to become part of our innovative team. This event isn’t just about landing a job; it’s about securing a career.

Jeff Jackson is CEO and president of PGT Innovations. 

[SCOOP]  Mable Ringling's Rose Garden

It is one of the loveliest, most fragrant spots on the Ringling estate and one of its very first works of art. Completed in 1913, the 27,225 square foot Rose Garden is Italian inspired, its circular design patterned after a wagon wheel, its pathways lined with garden sculptures of courting couples in pastoral scenes.While none of the original roses planted by Mable survive, many of the 1200 rose plants are of the same varieties she planted. Today, the garden consists of roses introduced between 1793 and 2002, among them Tree Roses, Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Grandifloras, miniature roses, shrubs and Old Garden Roses. Fittingly, a rose dedicated to Mable is also featured in the garden. 

The Ringling Bayfront Gardens

[SCOOP]  Talking Watches and Beeping Coffee Cups

Whether you’re an individual with low vision needs, a caregiver or family member of someone with low vision, or a professional working with a low vision population, Peepers Low Vision Store at the Lighthouse of Manasota has an incredible array of great tools and tips to empower you and your loved ones.  Peepers cheerful store features items to help low-vision individuals maintain their independence — a coffee cup that beeps when it’s nearly full, magnifiers to read pill bottles and menus, large-print keyboards, talking clocks and watches, cooking aids and tactile marker bumps for phone and home appliances. What makes Peepers truly unique is the availability of expert staff on-site to assist customers with hands-on testing of equipment to ensure the right product for their individual needs.  Stop by Peepers today at 7318 N. Tamiami Trail, just north of Sarasota-Bradenton Airport. lighthouseofmanasota.org 

Lighthouse of Manasota

[SCOOP]  Sarasota Opera's 60th Anniversary Season on Sale

To commemorate Sarastoa Opera's 60th Anniversary season, the 2018-19 season will revive some of the company's most successful producitons, while continuing the tradition of introducing a new work to Sarasota!

Indiviudal tickets for the 60th Anniversary Season are now on sale at the Sarasota Opera Box Office, and four and five opera subscriptions can be purchased online at sarasotaopera.org, by phone at (941) 328-1300 or by visting the Sarasota Opera box Office at 61 N. Pineapple Ave, Sarasota. 

Sarasota Opera

[SCOOP]  Taking Flight to Philly

Frontier Airlines announced today they will add nonstop service from Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) to the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ).  Service to PHL will begin on December 10, 2018 with twice-weekly flights offered on Mondays and Fridays using Airbus A320 aircraft.  

“We are very pleased that Frontier Airlines has added nonstop service to Philadelphia (PHL) which has been a high priority for us.  With their announcement to provide nonstop service to Cleveland (CLE) two weeks ago, it is encouraging to see an additional destination added so quickly.  We look forward to further expansions of their route network at SRQ and the ultra-low fares they bring to our community,” said Rick Piccolo, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport president, chief executive officer. 

SRQ Airport

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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