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Ahearn-Koch, Trice win Sarasota City Commission seats

Incumbent holds her seat while newcomer takes over for Brody's seat.

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Read more: Sarasota and Manatee county election results

In recent months Sarasota City Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch has frequently found herself on the short end of 4-1 votes, particularly on the matter of comprehensive plan amendments and the multiple future land use zoning changes that followed.

Through the campaign season, her two opponents for two seats at the dais have expressed agreement with her positions, and after Tuesday night’s election she will have at least one ally on such matters going forward.

Sarasota voters sent Ahearn-Koch back to the commission with 11,551 votes, or 40.8%, where she will be joined by Debbie Trice, who edged out Dan Lobeck by with 8,789 votes (31.07%) to 7,947 votes (28.09%) for the seat vacated by Hagen Brody.

Brody ran an unsuccessful primary bid for Sarasota County Commission earlier this year. Although one more vote won’t be enough to overcome a bloc majority of Mayor Erik Arroyo, Vice Mayor Kyle Battie and Commissioner Liz Alpert on matters of affordable housing development strategies as they arise, she will no longer be the one voice of opposition.

“This tells me that when you work hard, and you plan and prepare, the public sees that,” Ahearn-Koch said. “Somebody just said to me, 'thank you so much for all your hard work.' You prepare, you research, you follow the projects from the beginning, and it shows that the citizens appreciate it.”

During candidate forums, Trice was generally in agreement with Ahearn-Koch on opposition to affordable and attainable housing density bonuses and expanded administrative approval for projects that include affordable housing, key components of the recently approved comprehensive plan amendments.

Speaking at a candidate forum, Debbie Trice narrowly defeated Dan Lobeck for one of two Sarasota City Commission at-large seats. (Andrew Warfield)
Speaking at a candidate forum, Debbie Trice narrowly defeated Dan Lobeck for one of two Sarasota City Commission at-large seats. (Andrew Warfield)

The amendments required a supermajority vote, which they received, although Ahern-Koch opposed most of the measures citing inadequate public involvement in the process and opposition to administrative approval. Going forward any zoning text amendments and other changes permitted under the amended comprehensive plan will require only a 3-2 majority.

It’s conceivable there could be a number of 3-2 votes among the City Commission over the next two years. Trice said she hopes she can bring all parties together to achieve consensus on the matter of affordable housing development.

“The only reason I got into this was for housing for low- and middle-income working families,” Trice said. “I really believe the only way that we can make that happen in a manner that we're going to ultimately be proud of is If the city government and the developers and the residents of the various neighborhoods work together in a cooperative manner to make it happen. And that's what I want to help make happen.”

City voters also supported four charter revisions, including one that ups City Commission salaries.

Trice will be sworn in on Monday in a special meeting at City Hall, at which time the newly seated Commission will select a mayor for the next year. 




Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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