Salem Offers Diverse Sarasota Background To Commission

Todays News

Terrill Salem’s life in Sarasota has led him to interact with the community’s wealthiest and most impoverished members. As a firefighter, he helped transport billionaires to the hospital, and he helped the financially challenged face crises. That broad exposure, he said, will serve him well if Sarasota voters elect him to the City Commission.

“Whenever the people have the opportunity to elect someone with a track record like mine, someone who will serve you, it’s in your best interest to get to know the candidate and give them your support,” he said.

The Riverview High graduate served in the Sarasota County Fire Department from 2013 to 2021, after earning his Marketing degree at the University of Central Florida and serving eight years in the National Guard. He also chaired the city’s Planning Board and knows the ins and outs at Sarasota City Hall.

He’s one of six candidates running for two at-large seats on the City Commission, and comes into the race with a working understanding of some of the most critical political issues in the city. 

Like many candidates, he has some gripes with a recent comprehensive plan amendment. “As a Planning Board member, I was not happy we were not including specific language as it relates to affordable or attainable housing, whichever term you want to use,” he said. “If you want to make sure you have the right mix of attainable housing, that must be in place in the comprehensive plan.”

He's also not thrilled with a push away from hearings in from of the Planning Board and City Commission as the city shifts to broader use of administrative review. That’s in part because he thinks any developer seeking a zoning change in effect enters a negotiation with the city regarding the needs of the public.

“It is in the citizens of Sarasota’s best interest to negotiate to obtain attainable house, which will result in more mixed use,” he said. “That will mean commercial and residential, but also a mix of income levels, with some lower and some higher end housing. That is more inline with the national standard which HUD (U.S. Housing and Urban Development) has put out. You don’t want low-income neighborhoods and high-income neighborhoods. You want mixed neighborhoods.”

Salem has stressed his background growing up in poverty and now running T. Salem Housing, dealing in part in Section 8 housing much like that where his family grew up and eventually prospered. That, too, sets him apart as a candidate in the running, he said.

“Sarasotans should be honored as many candidates as we have entered into this race,” he said. “We have people working and taking civic obligations vert seriously, and that is commendable in my eyes. But it is not hard to see, as far as the east is from the west, there is no other candidate that brings the city of Sarasota the life experiences I have, as well as the diverse background in various aspects of life.”

Salem faces Jennifer Ahearn-Koch, Dan Lobeck, Sheldon Rich, Carl Shoffstall and Debbie Trice in the Aug. 23 election. The top three vote-getters advance to a November election.

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