Mast, Pilon file early for County Commission District 1 seat in 2024 election

The two Republicans seeking to replace Michael Moran on board

Former Florida House member Ray Pilon and former Sarasota County Planning Commissioner Teresa Mast already have figuratively thrown their hats in the ring for the District 1 County Commission seat, with both filing last week.

Commissioner Michael Moran, who won the seat again in November 2020, is term-limited. Thus, the seat will be up for grabs in 2024.

District 1 encompasses much of the northeastern part of the county, extending from University Parkway to Clark Road. North Lockwood Ridge Road is one of its primary western boundaries.

Like Moran, Mast and Pilon are registered Republicans.

Mast filed her paperwork on the morning of Jan. 3, according to records maintained by the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office. Pilon submitted his paperwork on Jan. 5.

On Jan. 6, Pilon tweeted the news of his action, writing, “It’s time for a change. We can’t change the past but we can plan for a better futures [sic].” A day later, he tweeted, “Hey Hey Vote for Ray!” adding “Time to reign in our Growth Mania.”

In December, Pilon appeared before both the Planning Commission and the County Commission, urging the members not to approve a proposed 94-townhome development on the Longwood Run Athletic Club property, just south of University Parkway. He joined other homeowners in describing how incompatible that D.R. Horton development would be amid the other communities in Longwood Run, including the Calista neighborhood to the north of the site, where he lives.

Pilon previously served on the County Commission  — from 1996 to 2000. In 2010, he won his first of three terms in the Florida House.

In 2000 and again in 2004, he ran unsuccessfully for Sarasota County sheriff, facing incumbent Bill Balkwill.

In a press release marking her filing, Mast said, ““Our County needs a Commissioner with the business experience and relationships that will allow us to grow smarter and catch up on investing in the things we need instead of wasting people’s hard-earned money on whims and wants.” She added, “By relying on the same core conservative principles Governor [Ron] DeSantis has used to govern, we can deliver the services our neighborhoods rely on, without raising taxes.”

Having served 10 years with various county departments — including Planning and Development Services — Mast in 2016 ran for the District 2 Sarasota County School Board seat, facing long-time incumbent Caroline Zucker. Mast took in a total of $58,735 in campaign contributions — besting Zucker’s $54,052. Nonetheless, Zucker prevailed in the election, taking 52.34% of the votes to Mast’s 47.57%, the Supervisor of Elections Office records show.

Mast, who lives in Venice, won her first appointment to the Planning Commission in 2016. In January 2020, then-Commissioner Alan Maio nominated her for a second term, noting that she had served “with distinction” during her first stint on the board.

Because the Planning Commission conducts hearings on land-use issues, it is considered the most influential advisory board in the county. Mast recently completed a year of service as chair of the Planning Commission.

She did resign her seat on the board last week, in accord with county protocol for running for the County Commission, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester told The Sarasota News Leader in a Jan. 10 email, in response to the publication’s inquiry.

Before leaving his County Commission seat in late November 2022, Maio made a point on several occasions that Commissioner Ron Cutsinger of Englewood, who is County Commission chair this year, also had to resign his Planning Commission seat before launching his run for the District 5 seat during the 2020 election.

In her application for reappointment to the Planning Commission in 2020, Mast — who owns The Davin Group in Sarasota — wrote, “My degree is in Business Management,” adding, “I am majority owner and President of a construction company of 27 years. I worked for Sarasota County for over 10 years in Neighborhood Services, and Economic Development. I know the knowledge I have attained throughout my career in both public and private sectors greatly benefits understanding the [county’s] comprehensive plan, the [Unified Development Code, which combines the county’s zoning and land development regulations] and multiple facets of what it takes to be a Planning Commissioner,” she pointed out.

Mast routinely has voted in support of development applications during her time on that advisory board, including proposals for three high-rise hotels on Siesta Key.

Mast, whose husband — Jon — is the CEO of the Manatee-Sarasota Business Industry Association, also appeared before the County Commission in early February 2022 to stress that organization’s desire to take over the Florida House, which the Association initially sought to move to one of the county’s “Quads” parcels near the Celery Fields in Sarasota. She was acting in her capacity as a member of the board of directors of the MSBIA.

In early September, the School Board voted 3-2 to provide formal notice to the county that it would terminate its lease of the property where the Florida House stands as of September of this year. The lease with the county was set to expire on June 30, 2027.

Along with the District 1 seat, the Districts 3 and 5 seats also will be up for election in 2024. Commissioner Nancy Detert, who first won the District 3 seat in 2016, is term-limited, as well. Commissioner Cutsinger has not indicated yet whether he will seek a second term.

As of the 2020 election, all county commissioners are elected by a single-member district system. That means that only voters who reside in the same district as candidates for that district can vote for one of those candidates.

The County Commission in March 2022 tried to overturn voters’ 2018 approval of the Single-Member Districts amendment to the Sarasota County Charter, but that effort failed. The commissioners voted unanimously to place the measure on the March 2022 ballot after contending that citizens who approved the Single-Member District system did not understand what the amendment entailed.