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St. Armands Circle Association leader seeks seat on BID

The merchants' organization at St. Armands Circle could be on the hunt for its third executive director in two years if Rachel Burns is appointed to the Business Improvement District.

St. Armands Circle Association Marketing and Events Director Rachel Burns said she doesn't fault promoters of the Winter Spectacular for trying something different.
St. Armands Circle Association Marketing and Events Director Rachel Burns said she doesn't fault promoters of the Winter Spectacular for trying something different.
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After 22 years of steady leadership, the St. Armands Circle Association may be in the market for its third executive director in two years. 

In a newsletter to the members of the merchants association, Rachel Burns announced her candidacy for the St. Armands Business Improvement District. If she is selected to fill a vacant seat on the City Commission-appointed board, she wrote she would step down from her current role.

Burns replaced longtime Circle Association Executive Director Diana Corrigan, who retired last summer after more than 22 years of leading the organization. Corrigan’s retirement completed an 18-month transition to Burns.

By virtue of being a property owner within the BID, Burns is eligible to serve on its board of directors. In December 2022, Gavin Meshad vacated his seat on the five-member board after multiple terms because he was no longer eligible to serve.

“Since then, no other landowners have stepped forward and applied for the BID board,” Burns wrote. “I am excited to announce that this week, I applied for that open BID director position. If appointed by the City Commissioners, I will be stepping down as executive director and assuming a part-time position as the marketing and events director.”

The St. Armands BID is chaired by Tom Leonard. Burns and Leonard engaged in a heated debate before the City Commission last fall over the first, and for the time being only, St. Armands Winter Spectacular, a six-week festival in Circle Park that supplanted some regularly scheduled Circle Association-sponsored events. The festival was an initiative proposed by Leonard to celebrate the new $286,000 holiday tree, which was funded by the city.

In August 2022, Burns and Leonard worked together to successfully pitch the City Commission for the new tree because the prior 20-year-old tree was no longer viable for use. 

The Winter Spectacular was not a function of the BID.

In addition to Leonard, the BID is comprised of Vice Chair Yvonne Schloss and directors Casey Gonzmart and Yamen Elsaid. 

The St. Armands BID is a municipal board of the city, representing more than 60 property owners in the 13 acres within St. Armands Circle. Board members manage a budget funded by the revenues from special tax district overlay of the property. 

This is a critical year for the BID, which is up for a renewal vote of the property owners in 2023.

If she is appointed to the BID, Burns wrote that she will remain involved with the Circle Association.

“I will still be monitoring the office phone, email, social media and website, as well as working to ensure family-friendly and free events continue to be present in the Circle Park,” Burns wrote. “As the board and executive board work on the reorganization and focus of our association, they will address the open position of executive director.”



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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