Battie the new mayor of Sarasota

Alpert elected vice mayor by her colleagues

Shortly before 1 p.m. on Nov. 14, Sarasota Vice Mayor Kyle Scott Battie, who was elected in November 2020, formally took off the name tag identifying him as that city official.

Earlier, during a statutory meeting of the City Commission, his colleague and then-Mayor Erik Arroyo nominated Battie to be the new mayor.

After a unanimous vote of support for him, Battie then nominated Commissioner Liz Alpert, who has served on the board since 2015, as vice mayor.

“Do you accept?” City Auditor and Clerk Shayla Griggs asked Alpert, who was seated next to her.
“Absolutely,” Alpert replied.

“She says quietly,” Griggs commented on Alpert’s response.

The event also featured the formal swearing in of Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch, who won another four-year term on the board, and Debbie Trice, former president of the Rosemary District Association, as the other at-large city commissioner. Trice replaces Commissioner Hagen Brody, who — like Ahearn-Koch — won his seat in a May 2017 runoff.

Because of a switch from a March-May timeline for city elections to primary and general election votes in August and November, Ahearn-Koch and Brody ended up serving longer on the board than four years.

Brody had chosen to run for the District 2 Sarasota County Commission seat this year, but he lost in the August Democratic Primary to former Sarasota Mayor and City Commissioner Fredd “Glossie” Atkins of Newtown.

Both Arroyo, in his State of the City address — which lasted a little more than 7 minutes — and Brody in his final remarks as a commissioner noted a number of accomplishments the board members had achieved over the past year.

Later, Alpert emphasized the fact that Brody deserved credit for proposing several of those actions — the creation of a new City of Sarasota seal (see the related article in this issue); a free trolley that circulates between downtown and Lido Key Beach “that would actually look like a trolley and not be a bus,” as Alpert noted; a bike- and scooter-sharing program; and the redesign of Ringling Boulevard between Pineapple and Lime avenues in downtown Sarasota to incorporate protected bicycle lanes, as a means of enhancing connectivity to The Legacy Trail, which ends near Payne Park.

“Sometimes, you know, the rest of us might get a little annoyed,” Alpert said, as Brody pushed to make his visions reality, but “Give him credit [for those efforts].”

Arroyo also took the opportunity during his remarks to remind the audience that he was in favor of a proposal to amend the City Charter to enable citizens to elect a “strong mayor” for at least a two-year term. “As soon as you get to the point where you’re comfortable with it,” he said of serving as mayor, the term is over.

Moreover, Arroyo pointed out, most organizations for mayors require the members to have completed a term of one year before they become eligible to participate in those groups.

In the future, he added, he hoped that a strong mayor would become part of city government.

(During a special meeting in late March, then-Vice Mayor Battie sided with Ahearn-Koch and Alpert in supporting retention of the current system, in which the city commissioners elect a new mayor from among themselves each year. That March session focused on recommendations of the commission-appointed, decennial Charter Review Committee for changes to the City Charter.)

Following Battie’s election as mayor, he presented Arroyo with a key to the city. That prompted Arroyo to remark, “I gave this out a lot; never received it.”

Commissioners’ comments

When Battie called on Trice for comments on Nov. 4, she said, “This has been an amazing eight months getting to this point. One year ago, serving on the City Commission wasn’t in my plan,” she added. “It wasn’t even on my radar. But I didn’t feel right standing on the sidelines while the housing needs of Sarasota’s working families and long-time retirees wasn’t being adequately addressed.”

Trice also pointed out, “I met many people whose lives are seriously affected by our housing crisis,” some of whom are just weeks away from homelessness. “We all need to work together to communicate and collaborate,” she said, “coming up with approaches that best meet each need.”

Additionally, Trice extended her appreciation to Ahearn-Koch, who, Trice said, “is in a league of her own.”
On the campaign trail, Trice continued, Ahearn-Koch “discreetly offered advice and facts, and she always had a smile on her face, even when a lesser individual might have run out of patience.”

During her comments, Ahearn-Koch talked of wanting to underscore statements that Brody had made. He had reminded his colleagues and the audience members that “We” is the first word in the United States Constitution and in the Sarasota City Charter. “Thank you to all those who make up our ‘we,’ ” Brody had added.

We work for you,” Ahearn-Koch stressed in her remarks to the public. “We can only do this with you, together.”

“It is an honor and a privilege to continue to serve you all and be your voice here,” she said. “I look forward to the next four years of having a really strong, robust and respectful communication with one another.”

Arroyo pointed out, “If we disrespect each other,” city residents feel as though the commissioners are disrespecting them, “and then it gets very contentious.”

Finally, taking his turn for remarks, Battie told those gathered in the City Commission Chambers in downtown Sarasota that he wanted to thank “God Almighty, [who] took a nobody like me and turned him into a somebody in front of everybody without asking anybody.”

Battie also talked about his mother and sister being in heaven, hoping they were looking down on him that day. “I know there have been more times that I disappointed than I’ve made them proud.” Still, he said, any goodness in him “comes from them. Anything that’s not worth a damn, I take full responsibility for.”

Battie further pointed out that his father instilled in him and his sister the need to “never say ‘can’t’ ” and to “never make excuses.”

He also thanked his fellow commissioners “for entrusting this mayorship to me … Hopefully, I don’t tear it down.”

Among his final remarks, Battie recognized a member of the audience whom he called his best friend, David Banks.

One time, Battie said, Banks told him, “ ‘You can do anything you put your mind to.’ ”

Battie indicated that it was not often that even close friends make such statements.