Mayor Proposal Moves Forward in Sarasota

Todays News

Image via Pixabay

The question of whether Sarasota needs an elected mayor will once again come before the Sarasota City Commission. That’s after the Charter Review Committee passed a proposal for a modest mayor. The matter still needs to win support from the Commission to put the matter on the ballot, where voters ultimately will have a final say.

The proposal advanced would take one of two at-large places on the Commission and make it into a four-year mayor. Right now, city commissioners vote annually amongst themselves on who should serve as mayor for the year.

CRC member Dan Clermont, a former City Commission candidate, said he feels confident this proposal will be the one that finally comes to be in a city that has long debated the merits of a directly elected mayor. “It’s more evolutionary than it is revolutionary,” Clermont said. “The mayor the mayor would have any no different than what (current Mayor) Erik Arroyo enjoys today. But the people of the city would be making the choice of that person instead of the members of the City Commission.”

Still, the measure only narrowly passed. Cathy Antunes, another CRC member who voted against a mayor proposal, said she has concerns about giving someone the mayor’s gavel for four years, and said she felt prior Mayor Hagen Brody abused the powers of the position during his one year. “Four years of that could be a big problem, and without any accountability to the position, I prefer a rotating mayor,” she said.

Brody, who still serves on the City Commission, incidentally only said he wanted to see the details of the proposal before he voted on putting the matter to ballot.

Antunes also had concerns about a citywide election for mayor, thereby preventing a mayor representing a single-member district a chance at the job. No minority candidates have ever won a citywide election to the Commission, while several Commissioners like Fredd Atkins, Willie Shaw and Carolyn Mason (who now serves on the CRC and also voted against the proposal) all won election in District 1, then were selected by peers to serve as mayor.

Clermont rejected the argument a Black mayor could not win election cityside. 

“The mayor-elect of St. Petersburg is African-American,” referring to Ken Welch, who will be sworn in as St. Petersburg’s first Black mayor today. “There’s no reason to think that city is more evolved or sophisticated than Sarasota.”

Through the years, many questioned if any mayor proposal would ultimately serve as a step to a strong mayor, often derisively called a boss mayor.  Clermont also dismissed that concern, saying if anything, having a legislative mayor much like that in Venice and Bradenton would be an achievement on its own. It may even quash further discussions of requiring a more administrative mayor.

But at least one person wonders if a “weak” mayor proposal was even worth the trouble of installing. That’s Arroyo, the current mayor. He was just selected to a term more than a year after his 2020 election, and while the job has its perks, there’s plenty of limits on the position He said mayors with power like Jane Castor in Tampa and Lenny Curry in Jacksonville can raise the prominence and power of a community.. Without administrative power to enact a vision for the city, he questions if the proposal would provide anything but a title. 

“The proposal sent to us is a waste of time,” he said. “I get it. People fear one person taking and being able to do all these things. But it’s what we have with a governor at the state level and president at the federal level— an executive that’s in charge.” 

Image via Pixabay

« View The Thursday Jan 6, 2022 SRQ Daily Edition
« Back To SRQ Daily Archive

Read More

Edwards, Babicz, Wood Contrast Visions for Sarasota Schools

Edwards, Babicz, Wood Contrast Visions for Sarasota Schools

Jacob Ogles | Jul 8, 2024

Three Republicans Already Filed For Gregory's Seat

Three Republicans Already Filed For Gregory's Seat

Jacob Ogles | Apr 22, 2024

Record Fundraising Already For Sarasota Hospital Races

Record Fundraising Already For Sarasota Hospital Races

Jacob Ogles | Apr 15, 2024

Gruters Pushes to Fund Selby Scientific Priorities

Gruters Pushes to Fund Selby Scientific Priorities

Jacob Ogles | Feb 26, 2024