Parsons becomes third high-profile county employee to take a position with Town of Longboat Key

Planning Services manager joining County Administrator Harmer and former chief county engineer in new roles

Allen Parsons. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

For the third time in recent months, the Town of Longboat Key has lured away a Sarasota County Government employee.

Following in the proverbial footsteps of County Administrator Tom Harmer and former county Chief Engineer Isaac Brownman, Planning Services Division Manager Allen Parsons will be joining the town’s staff, Longboat Town Manager Dave Bullock notified his commissioners this week.

In an Oct. 3 email, Bullock wrote that Parsons would begin work on Nov. 1 as the director of the town’s Planning, Zoning and Building Department. “Allen has many years experience in planning and zoning in the public and private sector in the area,” Bullock added.

Parsons, 50, has a salary of $92,476.80, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester wrote in an Oct. 5 email in response to a The Sarasota News Leader question.

Parsons has been offered $97,782.40 by the Town of Longboat Key, the town’s Human Resources Department director, Lisa Silvertooth, told the News Leader on Oct. 5.

Parsons will be taking the position that has been held by Alaina Ray, whose last day with the town is Oct. 6, Susan Phillips, Bullock’s assistant, noted in a brief telephone interview with the News Leader.

Bullock had a packed schedule on Oct. 5, Phillips added; therefore, the News Leader was unable to get any comments from him about Parsons prior to the publication’s deadline this week.

Parsons has been in charge of a county planning office since 2014, his resume says. Before he was named Planning Division manager that year, he headed up the county’s Long Range Planning Division from 2012 to 2014.

He initially joined the staff in 1997 as a planner in what was then the Planning Department, his resume notes. He left that position in 1999 to join the City of Sarasota’s staff as a senior planner. Then in 2005, he became a senior project manager with WilsonMiller-Stantec in Sarasota. In 2011, he came back to the county staff, once more working as a planner, his resume notes.

As manager of the county’s Planning Division, Parsons was in the spotlight as staff — at the urging of county commissioners — developed a new methodology for conducting fiscal neutrality analyses under the aegis of the county’s Sarasota 2050 Plan for development east of Interstate 75. That initiative proved controversial. Developers argued that it was practically impossible for them to create profitable 2050 Plan communities, while others contended that the change in methodology would relieve developers of much of the financial responsibility they should bear for the neighborhoods they wanted to construct.

Last year, Parsons was the point person for another controversial county undertaking: revision of the Comprehensive Plan. Again, members of the community accused staff and the commissioners of softening policies, though board members countered that the updating of the Comprehensive Plan was long overdue and that they needed more flexibility in addressing a number of issues.

The county won an Award of Excellence and an Award of Merit — both from the Florida Planning and Zoning Association — for the Comprehensive Plan revision.

(From left) Sarasota County planner Elma Felix; Florida Planning and Zoning Association President Arleen Hunter; Sarasota County Planning Services Manager Allen Parsons; and county Planner Brett Harrington show off the 2017 Award of Merit at the FPZA Awards Luncheon on June 9. Contributed photo

More recently, Parsons has worked at the direction of the County Commission on proposals to encourage developers to build affordable housing units.

Parsons is a certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners and a member of the Congress of New Urbanism, his resume notes. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in geography from the University of Oregon, and he earned a Master of Science from Florida State University.

The earlier announcements

County Administrator Tom Harmer. File photo

In mid-July, County Administrator Harmer announced that he had accepted an offer from the Town of Longboat Key to become its new manager after Bullock retires in January. Harmer’s last day with the county will be Dec. 8, he informed the County Commission in his letter of resignation. Town leaders had asked that he come on board no later than Dec. 11.

Harmer told the county commissioners on July 12, “It’s been an extremely difficult decision for me.”

“Obviously, it’s been an honor to serve Sarasota County” and its residents over the past five years, he continued, noting that he is proudest of the customer service county employees provide “and the culture we have worked to create within our organization.”

July 28 marked Brownman’s last day with Sarasota County. The Town of Longboat Key hired him as its new public works director.

In a formal statement he issued before taking his new job, Brownman wrote, “I am very grateful for the time and opportunities I have had with Sarasota County over the past 17 years. Our team of people, past and present, has been exceptional and made all the difference. I want to take this moment to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the county commission, County Administrator Tom Harmer, the leadership team, all our staff and the citizens we serve who made this a great experience.”

Brownman added, “The good news is that I will be local and nearby. There will always be areas of collaboration and support between the county and the Town of Longboat Key, and I am looking forward to being involved at those points.”

Harmer subsequently announced that a national search was underway for Brownman’s replacement.

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