Tech CEO Jumps Into City Election

Todays News

A technology CEO living in Sarasota filed for City Commission and will self-fund. Don Patterson, a candidate in District 2, said he’s ready to spend $100,000 on the district level race. “I’m putting skin in the game and not expecting anything in return,” he said.

Patterson, the co-founder and CEO of Ascend Wireless Networks, said he’s been frustrated by the city’s failure to live up to its potential. Most recently, he’s questioned decisions made during the coronavirus crisis. “It seems the city is working against businesses and not for businesses,” he said. “There are some opportunities for new ideas.”

Specifically, he felt frustrated when city officials kept Lido Beach closed for weeks longer that nearby beaches in the county and in neighboring Manatee. Sarasota County officials opened Siesta Key and other shores in unincorporated areas on April 27 while the city did not reopen Lido until May 19.

That’s just the most recent frustration Patterson has felt since relocating to Sarasota in 2015. While he finds Sarasota to be a “fantastic city” with cultural assets, he’s been surprised at the number of obstacles facing business owners here. He put much of that on the shoulders of incumbent city officials.

“I don’t think they’re doing a very good job,” he said. “I hope people step back and look at the incumbents and realize there are a lot of super capable, talented people in this city and we should enroll them to participate in elections because they have the time, talent and resources to do a great job.”

Patterson plans to set an example. He’s challenging City Commissioner Liz Alpert in the District 2 seat in an increasingly crowded field. Former City Commissioner Terry Turner, retired commodities trader Jerry Wells and Gulf Business Systems President Martin Hyde have also filed for the seat. Candidates have until noon on Friday to qualify. This year marks the first time in decades Sarasota will hold its elections on the general cycle, with a first election in August and the top two advancing to a November runoff. 

Patterson, who has worked on a number of efforts helping homeless youth, expects all of the significant candidates will raise and spend similar resources on the election this year. He comes in less well known than some competitors but plans to break through the noise. “I will see through all of it,” he said, “and I am going to win.”

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