Two newcomers and one incumbent are set to claim the three district seats on the Sarasota City Commission.
The Sarasota City Commission is poised to get two new members this week, as Kyle Scott Battie, Liz Alpert and Erik Arroyo winning with all precincts reporting in Tuesday’s election, according to the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections.
In District 1, Battie earned 53.9% of the vote, leading incumbent Commissioner Willie Shaw by 502 votes.
In District 2, Alpert, the incumbent, defeated challenger and former City Commissioner Terry Turner 51.5%-48.5%.
Attorney Erik Arroyo beat property manager Dan Clermont in the District 3 race, earning 51.2% of the vote to Clermont’s 48.7%.
If the unofficial results hold, all three commissioners will attend a swearing-in ceremony at City Hall on Friday.
Battie, whose victory was the widest margin of the night, said the outcome of his race was in part a referendum on Shaw’s leadership since 2011. Battie, a 52-year-old television host, believed the voters felt Shaw failed to adequately represent his constituents. He also thought the district was eager to elect someone younger than Shaw, 72.
Battie has outlined a list of priorities for his first term on the commission, including neighborhood revitalization, better economic opportunities for residents, cost of living improvements and support for arts and cultural institutions.
Although Battie lacked formal city government experience and drew criticism for failing to appear at a neighborhood association candidate forum ahead of the election, he said he made connections within the community that helped carry him to victory.
“I’m of the people,” Battie said. “Before I got this position, I was a constituent just like everyone else. Any decision the commission made affected me as well — I looked at things from that perspective.”
Arroyo, too, credited youth and grassroots engagement as contributing factors to his victory after finishing behind Clermont in the August primary. Like Battie, Arroyo said he believed he won because voters wanted better representation of their interests on the commission.
“District 3 gets forgotten, and it’s that message I carry along,” Arroyo said. “When you see roads right on the water that are perfectly maintained and a dirt road across the street from you, I understand that feeling of overall disappointment in government.“
In addition to addressing problems in District 3 such as traffic and infrastructure issues, Arroyo said he also wants to prioritize homelessness response and fiscal responsibility as a commissioner.
As a 30-year-old of Hispanic descent, Arroyo said he would be bringing a perspective to the commission that was not usually represented in conversations among city decision-makers. He was enthusiastic about the prospect of the new commission making meaningful progress on issues of importance to the broader community.
“We’re going to move forward with what’s best for Sarasota,” Arroyo said. “I respect every single one of the commissioners that’s on there now, and I do hope that we’re going to work very well together.”
Alpert, 71, is the lone incumbent commissioner who will remain on the board after this week. Although she trailed Turner in the primary, she thought she made an effective case to voters about her productivity in her first five years on the commission — and about her ability to build on her work in a second term.
“We tried to remain positive,” Alpert said of her campaign. “We tried to paint a picture of what I saw as what we need to do to move forward in the city. I’d like to see that progress continue and not come to a screeching halt.”
Alpert also credited a varied coalition of supporters for giving her the edge in the general election, citing endorsements from groups including Equality Florida, Ruth’s List, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, the Sarasota Police Officers Association and the Retired City Firefighters Association.
Transportation planning, economic revitalization and the realization of long-term initiatives are atop Alpert’s agenda for the next four years. Although Turner critiqued Alpert as a commissioner who represented developer interests rather than neighborhoods, Alpert said she’s made decisions by considering what’s best for the entire city.
“The projects that I advocated for were, for the most part, community projects such as Selby Gardens, the Sarasota Orchestra, Bobby Jones, The Bay project — things that are a benefit to the entire community,” Alpert said. “Those aren’t developer projects.”
Alpert said she believed the addition of Battie and Arroyo — and departure of Shaw and Shelli Freeland Eddie, who did not run for reelection in District 3 — would meaningfully alter how the commission works over the next four years, although it’s too soon to say exactly how.
“I think it’s going to drastically change,” Alpert said. “I really don’t have a good feel for what that’s going to be, but I’m hoping it means that we again are able to be collegial and that we’re able to continue with the forward progress the city has made.”
The two newcomers, meanwhile, are excited to bring a different energy to the board.
“It’s going to be a different tune moving forward,” Arroyo said.
“I think having fresh blood and new perspectives, a fresh voice, new ideas — I think it’s incumbent upon us all that we constantly have that if we ever plan to move forward,” Battie said.
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