Benson and Bispham reappointed to Sarasota County Planning Commission on unanimous vote

Teresa Mast to fill out unexpired term on that board

Laura Benson. Image from the Michael Saunders & Co. website

With only one set of nominations offered from a Sarasota County commissioner this week, two people have been reappointed to the county’s Planning Commission and a new member has been added to fill an unexpired term.

On a July 12 motion by Commissioner Alan Maio, the County Commission unanimously approved the applications of Laura Benson and Jack Bispham to continue their service on the Planning Commission. Maio’s motion also called for Teresa Mast to fill out the unexpired term of Mark Hawkins, who had resigned.

The terms for Benson and Bispham are for four years, through August 2021. Mast will serve through January 2020, according to a memo from Tate Taylor, manager of the Current Planning Services Division of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department.

Benson originally was appointed to the Planning Commission in June 2016, to fill out the unexpired term of Michael Beaumier. A Venice resident, she is a real estate broker and manger with Michael Saunders & Co. Bispham, who lives in Sarasota, is the owner of Bayside Sod, which has its office on Ibis Street.

In response to a question on her application about why she wanted to serve on the board again, Benson wrote, “If no one steps up — nothing gets done. If I truly love this County (and I do) then I should do what I can to see it remains a wonderful place to live, work, raise a family, and eventually retire. I have the time, the energy, and the knowledge to be a positive participant.”

Both Bispham and Benson identified attainable housing as one of the most pressing planning and land use issues in the county, as noted on their applications.

Mast, who also is a Sarasota resident, pointed out on her application that she has been the owner of The Davin Group construction company for 25 years. Last year, Mast ran for the District 2 School Board seat, which incumbent Caroline Zucker won. Mast also is a former Sarasota County Neighborhood Services Community Outreach leader.

Teresa Mast. Contributed photo

On her application, Mast wrote that “[r]esponsible revisions to the Comprehensive Plan and Land Uses” are the most pressing planning and land use issues facing the county. Replying to the question about how to resolve them, she continued, “By addressing compatible uses within the Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Code and Land Development Regulations.”

The other two applications under consideration by the County Commission this week for the Planning Commission seats were submitted by Francesco “Frankie” Abbruzzino and Loretta Bosserman.

Abbruzzino, who lives in Venice, is founder and owner of Telfonix, a medical consulting firm. Telfonix’s original focus, according to its website, was on chiropractic billing, which is still its specialty. However, the website continues, the firm “has become [an] expert in Pain Management, Neurologist and Orthopedic billing.”

Abbruzzino lost a 2016 bid for a seat on the Venice City Council.

On his application, Abbruzzino wrote that he wanted to serve on the Planning Commission “to have my voice be heard.” Asked what he sees as the county’s most pressing planning and land use issues, he responded, “Finding the balance between growth & maintaining the essence of the county.”

On her application, Bosserman, who is a Sarasota retiree, noted that she has a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan and more than “20 years of experience in public administration at the city, county and federal levels, including three years as staff in the Comprehensive Planning Office of a County Planning Department.”

Frankie Abbruzzino. Image from the Telfonix website

In response to the application question about the most pressing county planning and lands use issues, she wrote, “Population growth, traffic conditions and safety, and continued economic development. Balancing these issues with the need to maintain adequate natural resources.”

In the follow-up question about how best to resolve those issues, she responded, “Through expert studies and professional analysis, followed by well publicized public meetings and opportunities for input.”
The Planning Commission long has been considered one of the most influential advisory boards in Sarasota County. Members often have launched bids for the County Commission after serving on it. Current County Commissioners Alan Maio and Michael Moran both were prior Planning Commission members.