Sarasota County Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson made her future political plans plain last week during a discussion of the proposed county charter amendment calling for commissioners to be limited to three consecutive terms.
“I have absolutely no intention of running for a fifth term at all,” she said.
After 15 of 17 speakers during the public comments portion of the commission’s Nov. 15 meeting had pleaded with the commissioners to abandon a new term-limits initiative, Patterson acknowledged she was serving her fourth term, making her the current board member with the longest tenure. However, she pointed out, she was re-elected “by a pretty substantial portion” of voters in 2006 and 2010.
Still, she said of her last race, “I’ve got to tell you, it was a rough decision for me to decide to run for a fourth term.”
Her concerns about the county’s economic situation had compelled her to seek another term, she added — the same comment she had made to the Pelican Press’ editorial board during her 2010 campaign. Although county staff had been careful to build up reserves during the boom years, she had said during that interview, she was concerned about those reserves lasting as long as they needed to, to maintain adequate government services until the economy recovered.
In an interview Nov. 22, Patterson reiterated, “Even when I ran for my fourth term (I said) I wasn’t planning to run for a fifth.”
She added that after she finishes the three years left in her current term, “That’ll be 24 years in local government.”
Patterson served on the Sarasota City Commission before she ran for County Commission.
“If I ran again,” she said, “it would be for something entirely different, and I don’t rule that out.”
However, at the moment, she said, she had no intention of seeking future elected office.
Patterson said she puts about 60 hours a week into her work as a county commissioner. “It’s a time-consuming job to do it well,” she said, “(and) it’s a stressful job.” Nonetheless, she said, “It is an opportunity to make a difference.”
After learning of Patterson’s decision, Catherine Luckner, president of the Siesta Key Association, emailed her. “Although you had hinted this would be the case,” Luckner wrote, “it didn’t seem real until now. I can’t imagine all of us without you.”
SKA members have praised Patterson, a Key resident, for her support for many of their efforts.