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Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009 8 years ago

Servian focuses on city issues

by: Robin Roy City Editor

After two-and-a-half years of lying low, former Mayor Mary Anne Servian has re-emerged and has once again become a major player in downtown Sarasota.

“Enough time has passed,” she said. “It’s okay now to get involved again and bring my passion for Sarasota back to life.”

Servian spent seven years on the City Commission, but lost her seat to current Mayor Dick Clapp in 2007.

Although she’s been out of the public eye since leaving City Hall, she has not exactly been relaxing.
Servian runs her own political and municipal government consulting business, Bridgeview Consulting.

“When I left office, I wanted to stay in the political arena,” said Servian.

Her other activities include assisting in the Democratic Party of Sarasota County’s communications department; volunteering for the county’s budget task force, which counsels the county on streamlining its budget; serving as executive director of the Sarasota Streetcar Initiative, which is lobbying for a downtown streetcar system; and sitting on the board of the new Downtown Sarasota Alliance.

“I have a lot of energy,” she said. “I’m your classic type-A personality.”

All that activity has spawned talk that Servian is angling for public office again. Separate rumors have her trying to take City Commissioner Fredd Atkins’ seat and County Commissioner Joe Barbetta’s seat.

“Now that I’m emerging again, people are questioning my motives,” said Servian. “I’m not interested in running for office. I think I’m more effective working on issues I’m passionate about from the outside.”

Servian wants to remain a neighborhood advocate. She said being bound by Sunshine Laws, which don’t allow elected officials to discuss issues outside of public meetings, and having to get a consensus of other commissioners before issues can be resolved make it difficult for office holders to accomplish much.

During Downtown Sarasota Alliance (DSA) meetings, Servian’s knowledge of local politics guides the fledgling group while it seeks influence in City Hall.

The DSA is the result of the Downtown Merchants Association and Palm Avenue Merchants Association joining forces. But it is also serves downtown businesses, residents, churches and performing-arts organizations.

Servian helped the group come up with its tagline: “One voice uniting businesses and residents.” She has advised her fellow board members to show strength in numbers.

Through her experience in City Hall, she has seen the effect groups have on commissioners when large numbers of their members fill the City Commission Chambers to support an issue.

Servian pushed the group to create stickers with the DSA’s tagline on them and urged all its members to show up in City Hall wearing them.

“She has knowledge of government process and brings great history of what’s happened in the city,” said DSA President Wendy Getchell. “She really rounds out our board.”

Servian said she would continue being involved in civic affairs.

“I can’t imagine the word ‘retired’ with a comma after my name ever,” she said.

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