With none of the six candidates receiving a majority of votes in the March 12 regular election, Sarasota will now be holding a secondary election on May 14. The candidates with the two highest votes in the upcoming secondary election will fill the two open City Commissioner seats, voted for at-large.
After a voter turnout of 17 percent at the regular election, Susan Chapman, incumbent Suzanne Atwell and Richard Dorfman – with 24, 23, and 20 percent of the vote, respectively –will be advancing to the runoff.
The city of Sarasota is governed by five City Commissioners, two are elected at-large and the remaining three are elected from single member districts. City Commissioners are responsible for implementing policy, recommending policy changes and action and acting as a liaison between the city and the community. Every April, the Commissioners select a Mayor. Suzanne Atwell currently holds this position.
Below is a brief profile of each of the candidates.
Before elected to the City Commission in 2009 and serving the past two years as Mayor, Atwell worked in behavioral healthcare, social work and individual and family therapy. She also served on the Sarasota County Advisory Commission on the Status of Women (1999-2003) and the City of Sarasota Human Relations Board (2003-2006). She has remained a member of many community organizations including the Bird Key Improvement Association, Downtown Sarasota Alliance, Sarasota Women’s Alliance and the Art Center of Sarasota. Atwell is endorsed by Equality Florida, Gulf Coast Builders Exchange and the Sarasota Association of Realtors.
When asked about her priorities as Commissioner, Atwell spoke of addressing crime, creating regional efforts that reinforce sustainability and working toward making Downtown a year-round commercial and residential success – noting the lack of affordable housing for the middle-class in the Downtown area. Atwell has also expressed interest in changing the city’s zoning codes – which date back to the 1970s.
Chapman is currently a practicing attorney at her own firm, where she practices civil, family and criminal law. Prior to moving to Florida, Chapman traveled around Missouri working with the Public Defender System. Since arriving in Sarasota, Chapman has been appointed by the Sarasota County Commission to Special Magistrate as a hearing officer for county code and zoning enforcement cases (1991-2008), as well as the Sarasota County Value Adjustment Board Special Master in 1999.
Chapman is currently a member of the Sarasota Planning Board, which she chaired in 2010. She has also presided over many community organizations in the past, including the Sarasota County Civic League, Florida Association of Women Lawyers and the Sarasota Mental Health Resource Center.
When asked about her priorities as a commissioner Chapman listed the unresolved fiscal crisis, implementing advanced policing strategies to address crime and safety issues, and supporting the city commission form of government.
Richard Dorfman held a variety of positions in the sports and entertainment industry prior to retiring to Sarasota. He was the Director of Broadcasting for the Cosmos Soccer Team and the NBA in New York, as well as Senior Vice President of IMG and Kirch Media.
Dorfman is currently a member of the North Trail Redevelopment Alliance and the Sarasota Country Sports Commission. He also has been endorsed by the current city commissioner Paul Caragiulo and many other individuals and organizations.
When asked about his priorities if elected city commissioner Dorfman said revitalizing the North Trail, creating a more vibrant downtown and giving neighborhoods a voice in development plans. Dorfman also stands with Atwell, in his belief that the zoning codes are in need of an overhaul if Sarasota wants to encourage investment in the city.
Recognizing the importance of the city election to the New College community, third-year Michael “Mike” Long spearheaded a “Get Out the Vote” effort, targeting students on campus, in support of a Dorfman and Atwell ticket.
“Dorfman and Atwell are doing a damn good job to create opportunities for college students here in Sarasota,” Long said in an e-mail.
When the Catalyst spoke with Dorfman on the phone he said he wants, “to see more young blood in the city,” and hopes that with redevelopment on the North Trail he can create more job and housing opportunities for students in the area.
This election could have a important effect on future opportunities available to New College students, and because of such small voter turnouts in city elections, students could make a significant voting bloc in the election. With only 17 percent of registered voters making it to the polls, every vote really does make a difference.
Students registered in Sarasota, who did not vote by mail, should go to the Bayshore Mennonite Church on May 14 to vote. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Information in the article provided by Sarasotagov.com, Sarasotavotes.com, and Politics.heraldtribune.com.