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Vacant Longboat commission seat draws 6 applicants

Longboat Key commissioners have several choices to choose from when appointing a new commissioner on Jan. 22.

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On Jan. 22, Longboat Key town commissioners will be tasked with appointing a new District 5 commissioner, choosing from six applicants. 

In November, former District 5 Commissioner Debbie Murphy submitted her resignation due to the new Form 6 financial disclosure, which is more in-depth than previous disclosure requirements. 

The remaining commissioners chose to appoint a commissioner to serve a 14-month term until March 2025. At that time, the next general election will be held and the elected person will fill the remainder of Murphy’s original term until March 2026. 

Current commissioners will have to choose one of the six applicants to take the seat on Jan. 22. Until then, commissioners are encouraged to correspond with the applicants before the vote. 

Here are the six applicants vying for the District 5 seat.

Patti Mae Bosco

Patti Mae Bosco has been a Manatee County resident since 2006, first residing on Longboat Key in 2017. Though she moved away for a brief period due to traffic issues conflicting with raising teenagers, she recently moved back to the island in December 2023. 

On Longboat Key, she has been active with the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce as an Ambassador and Outreach Committee member, and with the Longboat Island Chapel.

She has been an entrepreneur and real estate professional for over 28 years, holding positions over the years as a sales associate, broker/owner, partner and sole proprietor.  

Bosco said Longboat Key stands out to her among all other places she’s been and she has developed a deep love for the area. Now choosing to retire here, she said she wants to make a difference in the community. 

James Haft

James Haft and his wife have been Longboat Key residents since 2012, but he said both have been visiting since the late 1970s. He said his parents were among the original pioneers of Lands End. 

In his professional life, Haft is the managing principal of Haft Holdings Inc., a private real estate investment company. Previously, he worked as managing partner for a development company, and practiced real estate and construction law. 

Within the Longboat community, Haft said he has participated in Longboat Key North meetings and serves on the Lands End Homeowners Association Board of Directors. He also spearheaded a community effort to encourage noise ordinance enforcement against boaters around the Jewfish Key and Beer Can Island area. 

Haft said he was approached a couple years ago about a commission seat but declined then. Now he is looking for the opportunity to serve and give back to the community to make a difference. 

Sarah Karon

Sarah Karon and her husband first bought their Longboat Key house in 2009 and then became residents in 2014. 

Currently, Karon serves as board president for the Library Foundation for Sarasota County. Throughout her professional career, she has served on boards for organizations such as WUSF Public Media and the St. Paul Academy and Summit School. 

Over the years, Karon said she has been watching the Town Commission and was impressed with how everyone works together to keep the island thriving. She said she is the kind of person who enjoys getting involved and working on community projects and hopes to join the commission’s efforts. 

Christopher Laurent 

Christopher Laurent has been a Longboat Key homeowner since 2019 and a permanent resident since 2023. 

He has 25 years of experience in the U.S. Navy, and retired with the rank of captain. During his military experience, he said he was able to work with congressional representatives and senators and held several leadership positions. Since retiring from the Navy, he has been a nurse practitioner at various medical practices. 

Laurent said he stays up to date on issues facing District 5 by speaking with community members and seeks to provide a strong voice for the district.

James Whitman

James Whitman moved to Longboat Key in 2005 and is a year-round resident along with his wife.

His professional background is as a physician and psychiatrist, having provided hospital-based, community, teaching and forensic services. He is semi-retired, and still provides part-time consulting.  

On the island, Whitman engages with the community by regularly attending Town Commission meetings, serving as a liaison between the commission and the Sleepy Lagoon neighborhood. Whitman also graduated from the Longboat Key Citizens Academy. 

He has also served as Vice President of the Sleepy Lagoon Homeowners Association and Secretary of the Longboat Key Kiwanis Club. 

Eric van der Walde

Eric Most recently, van der Walde taught algebra at Manatee High School, coming from a financial background. He held various positions such as managing partner at Da Silva Investments, LLC and executive vice president with American Electric Power. 

He also served as treasurer and board member of One Island One Beach, a community group on the north end of the island. 

In his cover letter sent to the town, he said he feels that the commissioner position would be an interesting and impactful way to give back to the Longboat Key community. 

Editor's note: Van der Walde did not respond to the Observer’s requests for more information.



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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