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Jon Thaxton will vacate his position in the Sarasota County Commission at the end of this term. He'll be working 60 hours a week and pondering his future until then. Courtesy photo.
Siesta Key Thursday, May. 31, 2012 5 years ago

Jon Thaxton at bay for now

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton has a tendency to plan ahead.

He took out a GMAC loan to buy a 360 Chevy Nova Super Sport before he was old enough to drive.

He fought the Florida Department of Transportation’s plan to cut Interstate-75 through virgin lands before he could even vote.

And he bought his first home at 18 before he was married.

And Thaxton’s meticulous forward planning carried over into his County Commission duties — and made the ruling by the Florida Supreme Court toppling his plans for a fourth term a significant hurdle.

Before the court ruling on term limits, Thaxton had mapped the remainder of his career out with a final term in the commission, a few years of real-estate consulting and retirement, which would include a summer home in a cooler climate. Now he’s juggling 60-hour workweeks and swarms of reporters aching to know what’s next.

But in true Thaxton style, the gears in his head are spinning, and he promises to let the public know when he settles on a decision for his next career move.

“The ruling threw my life into disarray,” Thaxton says. “It would be imprudent for me to make a decision, that big, so soon.”

The media aren’t the only ones hounding Thaxton about his next move.

“I would bet I get stopped by at least three people in my Palmer Ranch Publix to ask me about it,” he says.

Good thing he is an avid fisherman and hunter — this evening he will be cooking fresh-caught redfish for his wife.

“I do the cooking,” Thaxton says. “The only time she cooks is for Sunday breakfast.”

Whether he’s yanking 200-pound tarpon out of the Gulf of Mexico in a kayak or bagging a Thanksgiving turkey, Thaxton never separates hunting from nature. The awards he won last year, including recognition of leadership from the Coalition of Business Associations and a Lifetime Achievement award from the Venice Audubon Society, form an interesting juxtaposition on his office walls.

His youth in Osprey was filled with days of hunting and nights of camping — without a tent, of course. But when he took an ecology class at Venice High with teacher Bill Wimbish, he learned why he could find hogs near a particular type of brush or why one species of fish lingers where freshwater and saltwater meet.

“It was like everything fell into place,” he says.

This environmental focus coupled with a pro-business mindset has helped him form intimate bonds with Sarasota County residents since he was elected to the County Commission in 2000. However, he will not challenge the court’s decision, he said.

But Thaxton’s approachability and residents’ close watch on the commission, which turn Publix, Economy Tackle and his church into de facto public forums, exemplify the importance of experience in the commission, he says.

“If you are derelict, you will be voted out of office,” Thaxton says. “I don’t care how long you’ve been in office, and I don’t care how much money you can raise — you’re toast.”

Three candidates have announced campaigns for the District 5 seat that will open in November after Commissioner Jon Thaxton’s term ends. The filling deadline is Friday, June 8.
• Charles Hines, attorney, Republican
• William Brian Slider, businessman, Republican
• Vanessa Carusone, North Port city commissioner 2002-2010, restaurant owner, Republican

Jon Thaxton
Position: Sarasota County Commissioner, District 5
Hometown: Osprey
Age: 54
Siblings: 5
Background: Real estate
Pet peeves: The word “dignitaries”; and when new buildings are branded with plaques bearing commissioners’ names.
Fielding position: First baseman. Although Thaxton loved playing outfield, when he started growing taller, he became an effective first baseman reaching for throws from other fielders.

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