Former city commissioner points to Single-Member District system going into effect for 2020 campaign
Former three-term Sarasota Mayor Fredd Atkins has filed as a candidate for the Sarasota County Commission District 1 seat.
Atkins issued a news release on Sept. 4, saying that his wife, Shelia, accompanied him that morning to the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office.
“If elected in November 2020, he would be the first Democrat to serve on the board in 50 years and the first African American male,” the release points out.
Former County Commissioner Carolyn Mason — a Newtown resident like Atkins — served on the board from November 2008 until November 2016, having to step down because of term limits.
Atkins will kick off his campaign with a fundraiser on Wednesday Sept. 25, at the Columbus Banquet Hall, which is located at 4880 Fruitville Road in Sarasota 34232, the release notes.
“This is an historic election for the county, and certainly for me,” said Atkins in the release. “For too long this commission has turned its back on the citizens of the county by allowing over-development, ignoring key environmental issues and not facilitating access to affordable housing for everyone,” he added in the release.
“I plan to move our county forward on these issues by being the first one to break the shackles of the one-party Republican monopoly and its special interests. Our quality of life is at stake here,” he continued. “Our current county commissioner has voted the party line, and has not represented the interests of our district or even the county at large,” Atkins said.
Commissioner Michael Moran, who was elected to the District 1 seat in 2016, has not announced yet whether he will seek a second term on the board.
The County Commission has been pursuing the redrawing of district boundaries, asserting that the population growth in the county since the 2010 Census was taken has resulted in the districts being out of balance. Last week, the commissioners voted 4-1 to proceed with creating new maps before the end of this year, as allowed by state law and the Sarasota County Charter. (See the related story in this issue.)
Atkins also was a candidate for the District 1 seat in 2016. Moran defeated him by taking 58.46% of the vote, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office records show.
A Sarasota News Leader review of the precincts Atkins won found that the majority of them were in District 1.
In 2020, for the first time since the early 1990s, voters will elect candidates via the Single-Member District method. That means a person will be able to vote only for a candidate who lives in the same district as the voter.
Atkins pointed out in his press release that he won District 1 in 2016. The district “has a Democratic voter registration edge,” the release notes.
“District 1 covers much of northern and eastern Sarasota County,” the release points out. It includes educational institutions — New College of Florida and the Ringling College of Art + Design — plus such diverse cultural and commercial entities as the Ringling Museum, the Historic Asolo Theater, Myakka River State Park, the Celery Fields and the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
“If the commission does not gerrymander this district,” Atkins said in the release, “we definitely will be favored to win. If they do change the district, we will just work harder.”
In 2016, Atkins raised a total of $44,915 for his commission campaign, his final finance report said, and he spent all of those funds.
In contrast, Moran raised $102,387.99, as shown in his last campaign finance report for the race. He also spent all of his funds.
A broad resume
“Fredd is an icon in [District 1],” said Sarasota City Commissioner and former Mayor Willie C. Shaw in the Atkins news release. “As a social worker, teacher, entrepreneur, city commissioner and mayor, he has the experience to lead Sarasota County into the future,” Shaw added. “He will be an honest and independent county commissioner, really serving the people of District 1 for the first time, and serving all citizens in the county.”
Atkins is a life-long resident of Sarasota, the release points out. He says in his resume that he was born in a “shotgun shack” in the former segregated community of Overtown. He moved to Newtown in 1958, the news release adds.
A Sarasota High School graduate, Atkins earned an associate’s degree from Manatee Junior College and then a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary social sciences from the University of South Florida, his resume says. He has been a social worker, a substance abuse counselor, a teacher and a small business owner, the resume notes.
Additionally, he “worked closely with parents and students” in the public schools, it says.
He lists the following among his accomplishments while serving as a Sarasota city commissioner and mayor: adding Sarasota Bay to the National Estuary Program; building an advanced wastewater treatment facility in the city; and the construction of the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex.
For more information about the Atkins campaign, go to www.FreddAtkins.com.