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Opinion
Sarasota Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016 3 years ago

Leadership for others

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While many Americans lament public office seekers and their sycophants who are in it for themselves, here are four volunteer civic leaders contributing for the right reasons.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

Greater Sarasota is blessed with incredibly generous, philanthropic and civic-minded people. We could fill this entire page with names of unsung heroes and givers.

But rare is the occasion when they are given the credit they deserve.

Here are four volunteers who deserve recognition for their civic contributions and leadership:

Dr. Robert “Bob” Windom

Wow, talk about a throwback to the days of the Southern gentleman. Dr. Bob was the epitome. Gracious. Good natured. Giving. Always concerned about the well-being of his community.

Dr. Windom died Oct. 21 at age 86.

While making his living as a physician, including stints as chief of staff at Sarasota Memorial and Doctors hospitals, he was equally dedicated to making the place he lived better. One example: 55 years as an active member of the downtown Sarasota Kiwanis Club, a civic organization dedicated to helping children.

And what does it say about a man from little Sarasota whom Ronald Reagan tapped in 1986 to serve as assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, the highest position in government that is required to be filled by a physician? It says that whoever knew Dr. Bob respected him — for his knowledge, his serious concern for what was right and best for others and the community and his leadership.

In the annals of Sarasota history, when people think of role models for civic leadership, integrity and public conduct, Dr. “Bob” Windom should always be on that list.

Marty Rappaport

As those on St. Armands Circle who have worked with him will tell you, no one has worked harder on behalf of Sarasota’s No. 1 retail and tourist center than Rappaport.

A 30-year property owner on St. Armands, Rappaport announced recently he has sold his interests and is stepping down from the St. Armands Business Improvement District.

Sure, Rappaport had a self-interest to see St. Armands flourish. But instead of being a sideline complainer, Rappaport poured his heart, energy and persistence into making St. Armands Circle a better place for all — property owners, merchants, shoppers, residents and visitors.

The parking lot behind The Met; redesigned medians; new landscaping; the statues; and one day soon, a new parking garage. All of these physical enhancements are the result of Rappaport leading efforts among St. Armands property owners and merchants and Sarasota city officials.

Thanks also to Rappaport, St. Armands Circle became the first retail district in the state to form a taxing district whose funds are earmarked for improvements. This was a huge achievement, given the disparate views of St. Armands property owners. Rappaport served until recently as its unpaid administrator and chair.

Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown praised Rappaport for the way he worked — always with an attitude of how the city and the improvement district could work together, not with demands of what the city could do for the Circle.

For sure, Rappaport can stand alongside the Circle’s founder, John Ringling, for his lasting contributions.

Michael Klauber and Drayton Saunders

Most Sarasotans know these two names. Michael Klauber, proprietor of Michael’s On East restaurant. Drayton Saunders, president of Michael Saunders & Co., the largest Sarasota-based real estate brokerage. 

But for three years, these two business leaders have volunteered countless hours leading what probably is one of the most thankless efforts in civic involvement — steering, guiding, nudging, proselytizing and pleading for Bayfront 20:20. That’s the organization Klauber, Saunders and Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota, created to figure out how to redevelop the city’s 42 acres of bayfront property surrounding the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center.

Believe us, this is no easy task. Klauber and Saunders spearheaded meetings with nearly 50 cultural, civic, business and neighborhood organizations to engage them in creating a shared vision for the property. And if you know Sarasota, you know how difficult it is just to get two groups to go in the same direction.

But to their credit, Klauber and Saunders have persevered. And while they reached a big milestone recently that will shift responsibilities and the creation of a master plan to a nine-member board, you can be sure Klauber and Saunders will continue their commitment to see this historic project come to fruition. They’re believers. They both believe this is a once-in-a-half-century or once-in-a-century moment to create a landmark for which generations will be proud.

We share our admiration and thanks for the shining examples of leadership and civic contributions these four individuals have given to Sarasota.

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