When the March 8 city elections results are tallied, the makeup of the Sarasota City Commission could change radically. Of three seats to be determined, only one incumbent, Commissioner Dick Clapp, is seeking re-election.
Mayor Kelly Kirschner and Vice Mayor Fredd Atkins will not run again in their districts.
Their departure means two strong neighborhood advocates will be replaced, and in their place some pro-growth and pro-business candidates could be elected.
In addition, Clapp’s opponent, Paul Caragiulo, is a small-business owner who is promising to bring a business owner’s mentality to City Hall, if elected.
In District 3, Kirschner’s district, candidates Diana Hamilton and Shannon Snyder have both been active in their respective neighborhoods, but both have vowed to encourage growth as a way to right the flagging economy.
“I’ll talk to anyone who wants to develop in Sarasota,” Snyder has said.
It’s possible the new commission could lose some of the recent fervor in redeveloping Newtown and North Sarasota.
Clapp, Kirschner and Atkins are all outspoken advocates for those areas.
Although the District 1 successor to Atkins will likely focus heavily on North Sarasota, the rest of the candidates are talking up a primary focus on their own districts.
Hometown: Manhattan, N.Y.
Education: Business and communications degrees from American University
Occupation: Sports agent
Richard Dorfman first visited Sarasota in the 1970s. When he moved here permanently last year, he looked for a way to give back.
“Sarasota taught me how to smile again,” he said.
As the former director of broadcasting for the NBA and founder of NBA entertainment and sports agent for IMG, he felt that helping with the Baltimore Orioles’ new stadium or the Benderson rowing facility might be a perfect fit.
When Vice Mayor Fredd Atkins announced he would not seek re-election, Dorfman thought he might get more involved in the city.
With a background that includes negotiating multimillion-dollar business deals, Dorfman believes he can help the depressed economy in his district by drawing new business.
Another initiative Dorfman would pursue is requiring construction firms building in North Sarasota to hire a certain percentage of their workers from North Sarasota.
“It’s politics 101,” he said.
Hometown: East Riverdale, Md.
Education: Attended Strayer School of Business
Occupation: Real-estate broker and property manager
Shortly after moving to Gillespie Park in 1980, Linda Holland became fed up with the drug dealers, prostitutes and other criminals, who were ruling that neighborhood.
She and a group of neighbors began a crime-watch program.
“People asked us, ‘Aren’t you all scared?’” she recalled. “I would say, ‘No, we’re mad as hell.’ We were angry (drug dealers) thought they could scare us into staying inside our homes.”
She has served on more than a dozen boards and advisory councils, including being a founding member of the Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations, founder and president of the Gillespie Park Neighborhood Association, founder and president of Sarasota Court Watch, member of the Planning Board and member of the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership.
Holland also ran unsuccessfully for City Commission in 1995.
“My mother taught me that you can’t expect other people to do things for you,” she said. “Hard work never hurt anybody.”
Family: Married with nine children and 15 grandchildren
Education: Degree from Dream Bible College
Occupation: Retired postal worker
At 63 years old, Willie Shaw concluded his first and only foray into public service. He hopes to take his second after the city election this spring.
The retired postal worker was an active participant in last year’s Police Advisory Panel, which was tasked with reviewing the Sarasota Police Department’s policies and procedures.
After that experience, Shaw felt a desire to continue public service.
“More than anything, I want to give back what this community has given me,” he said.
As a lifelong resident of North Sarasota, Shaw feels he is better equipped than his opponents to deal with the issues and challenges in District 1 — issues such as revitalization, jobs and growth.
One particular industry Shaw would like to expand into his district is environmental services.
“I’d love to explore green opportunities we have, green technologies,” he said.
Frederick Douglas Williams
Hometown: Manhattan, N.Y.
Family: Widowed with four children and five grandchildren
Education: Law degree from New York Law School
Occupation: Retired attorney
Retired attorney Frederick Douglas Williams wants to shift the balance of power in City Hall.
“We’ve given all the power to the city manager,” he said. “I want to change that.”
Of all nine City Commission candidates, Williams is proposing the most radical changes to city government.
He wants the police chief to answer directly to the City Commission, instead of the city manager.
Williams also wants to set a spending limit for commissioners, only allowing them to appropriate $100,000.
Creating jobs for his district will be one of Williams’ top priorities, and he wants the Community Redevelopment Agency to help.
To avoid any possible ethical conflict, Williams resigned his post as the chairman of the editorial board of Tempo News.
The North Sarasota community newspaper has often been highly critical of retiring Vice Mayor Fredd Atkins, and Williams continued that criticism.
“Fredd Atkins has not done a damn thing for this community,” he said.
Hometown: Kalamazoo, Mich.
Family: Married with three children and three grandchildren
Education: Bachelor’s degree in engineering from Western Michigan University; master’s degree in interdisciplinary science; doctorate in physical chemistry from Institute of Paper Chemistry
Occupation: Retired engineer in the paper industry
Commissioner Dick Clapp is the only incumbent running for re-election. He hopes his experience at the commission table will carry him to victory.
“I have close ties throughout the district with businesses and neighborhoods,” he said. “They know me and know I try to find solutions that are best for everybody.”
Clapp believes his consensus-building makes him the best candidate for the job.
“I’m working very hard on civility, trying to get business owners and neighborhood people to understand they have common ground,” said Clapp. “They shouldn’t be so suspicious.”
In his first four-year term, the commissioner cites North Trail Redevelopment Partnership as one of his proudest accomplishments.
“For years, nothing happened on North Trail,” he said. “I encouraged business owners to form a business group to talk to each other and residents, and now (North Trail) is moving toward real redevelopment,” he said.
Hometown: East Rockaway, N.Y.
Family: Married with two children
Education: Degree from Monmouth College
Occupation: Co-owner of three Sarasota restaurants
Restaurateur Paul Caragiulo wants to bring a small-business owner’s perspective to the City Commission.
“No straw poll (of small-business owners) is needed,” he said. “I can tell you first-hand.”
Caragiulo believes too much emphasis is placed on massive business and development projects in town.
“An enormous number of people do things on a mom-and-pop basis,” he said. “That’s who is really affected by (City Hall’s) policies.”
As a small-business owner himself, who co-owns three Sarasota restaurants, Caragiulo’s Italian restaurant, Owen’s Fish Camp and Nancy’s Bar-B-Q, Caragiulo is banking on small businesses to rejuvenate the local economy.
In his first try at a City Commission seat, the 36-year-old faced eight other candidates. This time around, he faces just one, incumbent Dick Clapp.
He has an important ally in this election. Former City Auditor and Clerk Billy Robinson is serving as Caragiulo’s treasurer.
“Billy is an encyclopedia of what has gone on in Sarasota,” Caragiulo said. “He agrees with me that changes need to be made.”
Hometown: Knoxville, Tenn.
Education: Attended University of Tennessee
Occupation: Garden designer
Diana Hamilton is a regular fixture at City Commission meetings, taking advantage of her opportunity to publicly state her opinion on a variety of topics.
That opinion has included advocating for the creation of an elected-mayor system and the firing of the city manager.
“I want us to be more of a can-do government,” she said. “I want to look for ways to make things work, instead of just saying ‘no.’”
Hamilton unsuccessfully ran for City Commission in 2005.
“The campaign helped me find my voice,” she said.
The garden designer has also served on the board of the Laurel Park Neighborhood Association, Charter Review Committee and Greenspace Policy Committee.
Hamilton plans to continue to push for an elected mayor, and when asked what she would first cut from the budget, she mentions an election-related expense.
The city will spend $129,000 this year to hold its city election in the spring. Some people suggest the city align its election with the county and federal elections in November, so it can save that annual expense.
Count Hamilton as one of those people.
Family: Married with three children
Education: Attended Manatee Community College
Occupation: Retired Sarasota County sheriff’s deputy
Shannon Snyder believes his past is his best asset as he pushes to succeed Mayor Kelly Kirschner in District 3. Being a former president of the Arlington Park Neighborhood Association and a pro-growth former member of the city’s Planning Board, Snyder feels he can bridge the widening gap between developers and neighborhoods.
“There doesn’t have to be two separate camps,” he said. “There just needs to be communication between
For the ability to foster that communication, Snyder plans to fall back on his past as a 25-year veteran of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
“(Being a deputy) taught me to step back and listen and not get caught up in people’s demeanor,” he said.
The Sarasota native’s years of local knowledge would be an asset on the City Commission, Snyder said.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in social work from University of Detroit and doctor of traditional Chinese medicine degree
Occupation: Retired acupuncturist
Pete Theisen is making his second run at a City Commission seat. Two years ago, he finished last in a field of nine candidates going for two at-large openings.
This year, he likes his chances a little better, because of a distinction he makes between his two opponents him and.
While they are pro-growth, Theisen said he’s for slower, “more realistic” growth.
One of the retired acupuncturist’s main platforms is alleviating traffic congestion.
“District 3 doesn’t have the capacity for more growth,” he said.
Without wider roads, Theisen doesn’t believe building taller buildings to attract more businesses is the smart thing to do.
“We need to be able to handle the businesses we have now,” he said.
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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