Susan Chapman takes a “briefing folder” with her everywhere.
The folder contains tabulated reports and printouts, with notes scribbled in the margins. One of the reports is a recent IBM study titled “Smarter, Faster, Cheaper.” It features the best and worst managed cities.
“Hialeah is listed as one of the worst example cities,” Chapman says.
Hialeah, where property values have slipped by 44%, has an elected mayor at its helm; Newark, N.J., is another one, Chapman points out.
Chapman, who calls herself “data-oriented,” also reads a quote from the study about how cities run by a city-manager form of governance are nearly 10% more efficient than cities run by an elected strong mayor.
“I’m the only candidate, other than Pete Theisen, who believes in the city manager form of government,” Chapman said.
Proponents of an elected mayor in Sarasota have brought forth several proposals to change the city’s form of governance over the past few years. In 2009, Chapman led the opposition against one such proposal.
Chapman, a planning board member, founding president of the City Coalition of Neighborhood Association (CCNA) and former president of the Hudson Bayou Neighborhood Association, said her main goal is to preserve the quality of life in Sarasota that, in 1989, drew her and her late husband, John Ewing, to Sarasota.
The couple had also been looking at Arizona, Nevada and Fort Myers, but chose Sarasota because it had “lots you could do on a rainy day,” including attending theaters and museums.
The Hudson Bayou resident believes Sarasota has to plan its growth carefully and only allow developments that are compatible with neighborhoods.
“We are a city that is essentially built out,” Chapman said.
Chapman was one of two members on the Sarasota Planning Board who voted against a proposed Ringling Boulevard Walmart Supercenter, which neighbors are currently appealing. Chapman felt the proposed store did not meet the guidelines of the zoning code. She would like to see smaller businesses there to meet the needs of the three nearby residential neighborhoods.
The neighborhood activist gets upset when she hears people say the city shouldn’t be run by a “shadow group” of neighborhood leaders.
Neighborhood leaders are residents who care about their city — not a political bloc that needs to be pushed out, she says.
Chapman has ideas for bringing jobs to Sarasota that don’t necessarily involve construction cranes.
“Economic development is not just land development,” Chapman said.
She would like to see some “economic gardening” efforts, similar to a program in Littleton, Colo., that help creative entrepreneurs open a business.
Family: late husband, John Ewing
Occupation: Family-law lawyer
Hometown: Quincy, Ill.
Hobbies: Practicing yoga; cooking and baking; spending time with her dogs, Abby, Lacy and Lucy
Education: Washington University School of Law, St. Louis, juris doctorate; Washington University, Master of Social Work in Social Policy Planning and Practice; Washington University, St. Louis, bachelor’s degree in political science