In the wake of the presidential election, the local field of City Commission candidates is taking shape.
There are now a half dozen candidates vying for the two at-large seats to be filled during the upcoming March election.
Commissioner Terry Turner announced Nov. 15 that he will not seek re-election in March. Mayor Suzanne Atwell, the other incumbent with a seat to be filled in March, said she plans to run again.
Meanwhile, the list of challengers grew to five, with Linda Holland, a real-estate broker and Gillespie neighborhood advocate, filing pre-qualification papers days before the presidential election, and Susan Chapman, an outspoken neighborhood advocate, filing just five days after Turner’s announcement.
Kerry Kirschner, former mayor and executive director of the Argus Foundation, said in an interview last week that he expected that Turner’s announcement would clear the way for additional challengers.
Turner’s announcement came early; typically, incumbents wait until December to announce whether they will run again.
If one more candidate files to run, the upcoming race could mirror a 1990s City Commission election when seven candidates ran for office.
“They were affectionately known as ‘the seven dwarfs,’” Kirschner said.
Whoever is elected to the two open at-large seats will have some tough decisions to make involving difficult budget years ahead, a troubled lift-station project and the city’s pension system, Kirschner said.
Atwell said in an interview last week that she was in the middle of filing paperwork for her re-election bid.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that this is exactly what I want to do,” Atwell said. “I am very much looking forward to running again.”
Atwell said she would like to keep momentum going in a possible second term on redevelopment, including efforts in the Rosemary District and on the North Trail.
“I think it is a new day in Sarasota,” Atwell said, noting that a new city manager, police chief and future finance director create an opportunity for city staff to work in collaboration.
Turner has held an at-large commissioner seat since 2009.
“I do feel a continuing obligation to serve,” Turner said in a press release. “However, family and business obligations require my time and attention. Experience has shown that I cannot give these obligations the attention they deserve while serving the citizens as a city commissioner.”
Turner said the city needs “commissioners with a solid grounding in finance and budgeting” as it faces more tough budgets ahead.
Chapman, the most recent challenger, served on the Planning Board from 2008 to the present.
Holland owns a residential property-management company. Holland filed pre-qualification paperwork to run for the upcoming March race just days before the presidential election.
Holland filed Nov. 3 for the upcoming race. She will be running against four other challengers in the March 2013 election: Chapman, Richard Dorfman, the Rev. Kelvin Lumpkin and Pete Theisen.