The Mayor That Could — And Did



A little over a year after I graduated from the University of Florida, a rising star in regional politics and the legal community, Kevin Griffith, recruited me to help lead an underdog campaign for the Sarasota City Commission. Under his wing I studied and put into practice the fundamentals of modern political campaigning: candidate debate prep, fundraising, direct mail, phone banking, mobilizing volunteers and the most effective but labor-intensive coalition-building technique— engaging voters through door-to-door canvassing. This team effort also included my friend and current UF law student, Kate Magill, who brought Presidential-level field outreach expertise to the campaign. 

Central to then-candidate Liz Alpert's platform was the nurturing and success of the nascent effort to reimagine our City's Bayfront Cultural District. At the time, Bayfront 20:20 was engaged in a multi-year effort to gather and synthesize input from thousands of individuals and stakeholder organizations. This process was memorialized in a set of guiding principles around which future development of the district would revolve. 

Today, four years later, a conservancy has been established and authorized by city leaders to facilitate the implementation of the first phase of a Master Plan. A recent 3-2 vote by the City Commission translated vision into reality. The region's foundations have provided seed funding for a full-time, top-flight design and development staff. And now Mayor Liz Alpert, by appointment of her fellow Commissioners, represents the Commission on The Bay Park Conservancy board. Mayor Alpert joins renowned business and community leaders who have volunteered their passion and expertise to this transformational enterprise. 

Against all odds and despite an avalanche of outside political committee dollars benefiting her opponent, Liz, who put herself through law school in her 50s, overcame Old Guard opposition and helped secure Sarasota's future. The entrepreneurial spirit and tradition of big thinking introduced to Sarasota by John, Mable, Charles and Edith Ringling, Owen Burns, Mayor Harry Higel and Marie Selby has been rekindled. Sarasota is on its way to becoming one of the greatest cities in North America. Thank you, Mayor!

Gabriel Hament is a Sarasota native.

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