At the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club luncheon last week, Sarasota County’s four new city and town managers spoke about how each of the municipalities could collaborate with other cities and with the county in a time of reduced budgets.
It doesn’t hurt that the four managers — including Tom Barwin, Sarasota city manager; Dave Bullock, Longboat Key town manager; Jonathan Lewis, North Port city manager; and Edward Lavallee, Venice city manager — are coming to the community with a clean slate and a new outlook on local priorities and challenges.
The managers talked about teaming together on issues from emergency dispatch services to assembling hiring committees.
“All four of us are new, and we all have to find a way to start to look at collaboration,” said Lewis.
Lavallee said the city of Venice has reduced its workforce by 25%, and there are opportunities for some consolidated services with the county.
“If a city has reduced 25% of its workforce, and it has to take another major hit, there isn’t that much that can be squeezed without a major impact,” said John Wesley White, moderator for the event and former Sarasota County administrator.
The city managers also answered questions about amendments on the ballot and a proposed strong-city-manager initiative in the city of Sarasota. In addition, Barwin fielded a question from former County Commissioner David Mills about the possibility of constructing more multi-use, pedestrian-friendly pathways similar to the county’s Legacy Trail.
Barwin said Sarasota is perfect for multi-use pathways because of the favorable climate and the area’s natural resources. He is also interested in considering ways to increase recreational infrastructure in the city and access to that infrastructure.
“I’d love to get on a bike with you and take a ride (to talk about bike-friendly options),” Barwin, a bicyclist, said to Mills.