Arroyo becomes youngest Sarasota mayor in history

Battie elected vice mayor by his colleagues

Outgoing Mayor Hagen Brody (standing, right) passes the gavel to new Mayor Erik Arroyo on Nov. 5 as other members of the commission and senior city staff members applaud. News Leader image

Taking what he noted was a “point of privilege” during a special City Commission meeting on Nov. 5, Sarasota Mayor Hagen Brody announced that he was nominating his “friend and colleague, the vice mayor, Mr. [Erik] Arroyo,” to succeed him as mayor.

After applause died down in the Commission Chambers within City Hall, Brody asked whether any other commissioner wanted to offer a nomination. With no other names put forth, Brody asked City Auditor and Clerk Shayla Griggs whether consensus was sufficient. “Let’s do a vote,” Griggs responded.

The vote was unanimous in support of Arroyo’s nomination.

Arroyo was just elected to the District 3 commission seat a year ago,

After Brody stood and passed the gavel to him, Arroyo announced that he, too, would take a point of privilege and nominate Commissioner Kyle Battie as vice mayor.

Battie also just completed his first year on the board, having been elected to the District 1 seat during the November 2020 General Election. He succeeded long-time Commissioner Willie Charles Shaw.

The board vote was unanimous in support of Battie, as well.

Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch was the only board member unable to be present in the Chambers; she participated by phone.

After giving his colleagues an opportunity to share their thoughts about the city issues and actions over the past year, Arroyo first addressed the audience in Spanish. Then, continuing in English, he said, “Me standing before you today as the youngest elected official in the history of Sarasota is a testament to how inclusive and forward-thinking the city is.”

He is 31.

“Being here surrounded by all of you and friends and family, that’s truly a gift,” Arroyo added. “A gift given to me by my mother who worked tirelessly to come to America and, as a single parent, to make that happen. She knew that her son would flourish in a life of luxuries, such as a working power grid, floors that weren’t made of dirt, indoor plumbing, hot water, air conditioning and unparalleled education,” he pointed out.

“It’s a gift to live the American dream,” Arroyo said.

When he asked audience members who are immigrants, or the children or grandchildren of immigrants to raise their hands, many did.

People in the Commission Chambers raise their hands in response to Mayor Erik Arroyo’s request. News Leader image

“This country was founded on the principles that it doesn’t matter where you are from,” Arroyo continued. “Here in America, you can be anything. I came from the Dominican Republic, became the first in my family to graduate high school. And after college and law school, I could have worked anywhere, but I decided to come back here because this community gave me the resources that I needed. So I came back to give back.”

Arroyo is an attorney with the Sarasota firm Band Gates & Dramis. His practice concentrates on business and corporate issues, as well as estate planning, with a focus on family foundations, the website says.

As mayor, Arroyo pledged to “recognize the principles of tradition and also embrace future change. We’ll preserve, maintain, grow our city resources so that we can take care of our infrastructure and our parks, and, most importantly, our people in a fiscally responsible way.”

Further, Arroyo told the audience “We’re going to create a culture of civility, how we interact with each other, how citizens interact with staff. We will exercise equanimity, as we recognize that everyone who we speak to can teach us something new. And if we listen, then maybe, just maybe, they may evolve our opinion.”

Vice Mayor Kyle Battie addresses the audience. News Leader image

During his remarks, Battie said, “It’s been a journey and, you know, it’s been an honor and it’s been a privilege, you know, to sit here before all of you today, and I thank each and every one of you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to participate in these proceedings and, you know, just be here amongst us.”

“Make no mistake,” he continued: “I don’t take the decisions and the votes that we make here on this panel lightly, for I know at the end of each and every one of them are people, and it affects their lives.”

Battie also told an anecdote about Ahearn-Koch, who ended her year-long tenure as mayor shortly after the 2020 election.

“I remember sitting over there one day,” Battie began, referring to his seat at the dais, “and we got up, and, you know, I’m not sure, you know, the job I’m doing or what’s happening. And she leaned over to me and said, ‘You know, Kyle, you’re doing a great job.’ And I said, ‘OK.’”

After audience members’ laughter subsided, Battie added that Ahearn-Koch also told him, “‘We didn’t really know what to expect.’” Battie told the audience that he replied, “Well, neither did I.”

Then, addressing Ahearn-Koch, he said, “But I thank you for that encouragement, and it served as guidance for me.”

The Nov. 5 special meeting was required by city law, as the board members each year elect from among themselves a mayor and vice mayor. The outgoing mayor also presents a “State of the City” address.