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Neighborhood leader enters City Commission race

Jennifer Ahearn-Koch, a former member of the city’s Planning Board and president of the Tahiti Park Neighborhood Association, is running for an at-large commission seat.

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  • | 5:20 p.m. November 28, 2016
Jennifer Ahearn-Koch has been an active member of her North Trail neighborhood association for 15 years.
Jennifer Ahearn-Koch has been an active member of her North Trail neighborhood association for 15 years.
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Tahiti Park Neighborhood Association President Jennifer Ahearn-Koch filed paperwork today to run in next year’s City Commission election, becoming the second candidate to officially enter the race for two at-large seats on the board.

Ahearn-Koch has been an outspoken neighborhood leader, also serving on the executive board of the Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations and the steering committee of the resident activist group STOP. Her experience includes six years on the city’s Planning Board, as well.

As she prepares to campaign for a spot on the City Commission, Ahearn-Koch wanted voters to see her as more than just a neighborhood advocate. Having worked as a public relations professional in the city for the past 20 years, she said she was attuned to the needs of businesses as well as residents.

“I think it’s very unfortunate that a lot of the issues are seen as ‘us against them’ — the neighborhoods against the developers, or however you can slice and dice it,” she said. “I would love to get away from that thinking.”

She also grew up in Sarasota, earning a master’s degree from Columbia University and living in Paris before returning to the area.

“I know Sarasota as a high schooler, as a college student, as a mother with kids and as a working professional,” she said. “I think that rounded experience with the city would be very valuable to bring to the commission table.”

Ahearn-Koch rattled off a list of major issues she would like to focus on as a commissioner, but big-picture planning served as a unifying throughline for many of those subjects. She said she wants city officials to consider a long-term view of how Sarasota is affected by decisions being made today.

“It’s about the city transitioning,” Ahearn-Koch said. “It’s not what it was, and it never will be what it was. But I have children, and I would love to see them come back here. I want it to be a city they want to come back to.”

Small business owner Martin Hyde is the only other candidate to have filed for the March election. Commissioners Suzanne Atwell and Susan Chapman currently hold the two at-large seats.

The deadline to file for the citywide race is January 13. The election is scheduled for March 14, and a run-off — if two candidates do not win a majority — will be held May 9.


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