Candidates span from former city mayors to two candidates under 35 years old.
After the Florida presidential primaries wrapped Tuesday, many residents turned their attention to the local primary elections.
Several positions will be up for election, such as Sarasota County sheriff, Sarasota County School Board members and supervisor of elections. However, there is one race that is proving to be more contentious: Sarasota County Commission.
In December 2019, the sitting Sarasota County Commission voted to redistrict commission lines, causing several candidates to be moved to new districts and some voters to be ineligible to vote in the 2020 elections.
Since the county voted to move to single member districts in 2018, three district seats will be up for reelection: District 1, currently held by Chair Mike Moran; District 3, currently held by Nancy Detert; and District 5, currently held by Charles Hines, who has reached his term limit.
There are 10 candidates for County Commission:
Occupation: Former Sarasota mayor
Atkins served three terms as Sarasota’s mayor and on the Sarasota City Commission for 18 years. His eligibility depends on a trial ruling over the county’s redistricting. The redistricting moved the Newtown neighborhood, and Atkins, into District 2, which would not be voted on until 2022. If approved, Atkins would be running for county commission for the fourth time.
If elected, Atkins would be the first Democrat to serve on the board in 50 years and the first African American man to do so.
“I plan to move our county forward on these issues by being the first one to break the shackles of the one-party Republican monopoly and its special interests,” Atkins said in a statement. “Our quality of life is at stake here. Our current county commissioner has voted the party line and has not represented the interests of our district or even the county at large.”
Atkins highlighted over-development, environmental issues and facilitating access to affordable housing as key issues.
Occupation: Retired software systems engineer
If someone had asked Hutchinson a year ago if he’d be running for political office, he would have said they were crazy.
However, after seeing several changes in the area, such as high density in previously green areas of the county, Hutchinson said he had to step up.
“You moan and groan about everything you don’t like that leaders are doing, and sometimes you just have to step up and do it,” he said.
Hutchinson had a career with the Department of Defense, and over the past 10 years, Hutchinson has been involved in organizations such as Keep the Country ... Country and the Republican Executive Committee. Should he be elected, Hutchinson said they can expect he'll be a commissioner with integrity.
“I’m going to learn what’s going on, and I won’t stamp vote for anything,” Hutchinson said. “I will try to represent the voters and the people that live in Sarasota County, not special interest groups.”
Moran is the incumbent for District 1 and the current Sarasota County Commission Chair. He has been a champion of economic diversity in the county.
Moran has supported changes to the Economic Development Corporation and has begun the process of creating a mental health special district in Sarasota County.
"I want my county to thrive," Moran said on his campaign website. "Key to Sarasota County's continuing prosperity is an adequate supply of good-paying careers, economic diversity and the aggressive protection of our way of life here."
Moran has served on various boards throughout the county including the Planning Commission, Metropolitan Planning Organization and Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.
Occupation: Career adviser at Laurel Nokomis School
Hutchinson is the youngest candidate in the field at 23. In 2016, he ran for North Port City Commission.
Hutchinson serves as chair of the North Port Charter Review Advisory Board and president of Holly’s Hope.
Hutchinson hopes to provide resources for the mental health community and improve access to affordable housing.
Detert is the incumbent for the District 3 seat and has held various political offices throughout Florida.
She served in the Florida House of Representatives, in the Florida Senate and on the Sarasota County School Board before being elected without opposition to County Commission in 2016.
While on the county commission, Detert has been a proponent for affordable housing and economic development.
Party: No affiliation
Holic is the former mayor of Venice, and after serving the allowed nine years, he decided to run for county commission.
As mayor, Holic worked to recover the city’s economy from recession and to consolidate the city’s EMS and fire services.
Holic decided to run without party affiliation and would likely face both Republican and Democratic candidates during the general election.
Holic filed to run for District 5, but after the redistricting lines were drawn, the Supervisor of Elections Office website lists him as a candidate in District 3.
Occupation: Life insurance and financial services
At 30 years old, Zeffert has never held a political office. He’s currently treasurer of the South Sarasota County Republican Club.
Zeffert hopes to maintain a balanced budget and keep property taxes low. He also would like to ensure Florida’s main tourism draw — its ecosystem — is preserved.
“I want to have an active role in protecting the Sarasota County that I have come to love,” Zeffert said. “I understand the economy needs to grow, and the county needs to be productive, but I want to balance that with preservation of the county’s natural resources.”
Occupation: Retired teacher
White is known to many as “the tree lady,” a nickname she welcomes. If elected, she hopes to be an environmental steward.
“Most of us came to Florida because it’s a beautiful paradise,” White said. “To see it not being respected just broke my heart. Some decisions have been made by commissioners in the past about land use changes and development that’s really destroying the reason most of us have come to live here.”
Although she hasn't served in political office, White started the nonprofit People for Trees. If elected, White would be the first Democrat to serve on the board in 50 years.
If elected, White said she would focus on environmental concerns, overdevelopment, and traffic and mobility issues.
Occupation: Financial adviser
Although he’s never been elected to a political office, Cutsinger has held various positions with the county. Cutsinger has served on the Sarasota County Library Advisory Board, the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee and as chair of the Sarasota County Planning Commission.
Should he be elected, Cutsinger would like to focus on infrastructure, preserving the county’s nature and keeping taxes low while fostering economic development.
“I will come prepared. I will have always done my homework. I will own the material and never come to the dais without understanding the real issues,” Cutsinger said.
Cutsinger has lived in Sarasota County since 1973, and founded Suncoast Christian School.
Hanks, North Port's former mayor, filed to run for county commission rather than seek a second term on the North Port City Commission.
According to his website, he wants to fight for conservative values on every level. He has served on the Teen Court board and serves as the city representative on the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County and the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council.
Hanks filed to run for District 3, but after the redistricting lines were drawn, the Supervisor of Elections Office website lists him as a candidate in District 5.