Challengers seeking to defeat Alpert and Arroyo in their re-election bids

Kashden and Ohlrich known for representing neighborhood interests

Ron Kashden. Contributed photo

As of the middle of this week, two of the three Sarasota City Commission incumbents whose seats will be contested this year have filed for re-election, and both will face challengers, city records show.

District 2 Commissioner Liz Alpert, whose colleagues elected her mayor for this year, will face Ron Kashden, a Laurel Park resident who has addressed the City Commission multiple times over various issues during the past few years.

Long-time neighborhood advocate Katherine Kelley Ohlrich has filed for the District 3 seat, which Commissioner Erik Arroyo won in 2020.

Alpert is an attorney with a family law practice in Sarasota. She first won the District 2 seat in 2015. A change in the election cycle, from March/May voting to the biennial November general election cycle, resulted in her not needing to seek a second term until 2020. Thus, Alpert will be vying for a third term on the commission.

In November 2020, she won 51.61%% of the 11,754 votes cast in the District 2 race, defeating former City Commissioner Terry Turner.

In his first bid for a City Commission seat, Arroyo won 51.26% of the 7,152 votes cast in the November 2020 General Election. His opponent was Daniel Clermont, who has been serving on the city’s Planning Board.

Mayor Liz Alpert. Image from her 2020 campaign website

The District 1 seat, which Commissioner Kyle Battie won in 2020, also is up for election this year. Battie carried the 2020 race with 53.85% of the 6,472 votes cast, defeating incumbent Willie Charles Shaw.

As of Jan. 22, The Sarasota News Leader saw no candidate’s statement for Alpert on the city webpages dedicated to the 2024 election, and it found no information online about her having a campaign website.

Ohlrich’s background and experience

As noted on the city election webpages maintained by the Office of the City Auditor and Clerk, Ohlrich earned a Bachelor of Science in communicative disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master of Education from Cleveland State University. “She spent 32 years working in school districts and related agencies as a speech-language pathologist, staff development trainer, and assessment coordinator,” her biographical statement adds.

“For years,” the statement continues, Ohlrich “has been involved in governance and government, serving as president of the Ohio Speech Language Hearing Association, member and chair of the Ohio Board of Speech Language Pathology.”
She also has served as a member and chair of the City of Sarasota’s Citizens with Disabilities Advisory Board and as a member of the city’s Planning Board — after serving as vice chair and chair. She “brings a depth of knowledge related to planning, zoning, and development standards,” the statement continues.

Kathy Kelley Ohlrich. Contributed photo

Further, Ohlrich has served on the Architectural Review Committee, as secretary and president of her neighborhood association, the statement notes. She also represented Glen Oaks Ridge at the Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations (CCNA), and she has served on the CCNA Executive Committee as first vice chair, along with holding two terms as chair — in 2015 and 2016.

In years past, the statement points out, Ohlrich was elected a member of the city council in the Ohio municipality, where she lived, and she chaired the committee that wrote the comprehensive plan for her community in Ohio. Comprehensive plans guide growth in municipalities and counties.

Ohlrich’s campaign website says she has lived in Sarasota for the past 30 years. “Growth-focused special interests have the ears of the current commission,” her website says. “Kathy brings a resident-friendly voice to the community conversation.”

Kashden’s biography and views

Kashden graduated from Lehigh University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and then he earned his Certified Public Accountant license from the State of New York, his campaign statement says.

“As the owner of a historic home in Laurel Park — a charming, walkable neighborhood at heart of downtown Sarasota — Ron has over a decade of civic involvement working with neighbors to improve and protect community assets,” the statement continues. “Questions that impact livability — what to build, what to protect, what to keep, what to change, and how much to spend — are the main policy decisions city commissioners make,” the statement points out.

“Kashden says he’ll help the city restore balance by focusing on 5 grounding principles, the statement adds:

  • “1. putting neighbors first — the most important customer government serves is the public.
  • “2. supporting local businesses — homegrown, sustainable, compatible.
  • “3. preserving city’s charm — protect the places that make Sarasota special.
  • “4. promoting law & order — enforce the existing ordinances.
  • “5. ensuring fiscal responsibility — create a safe, clean & hospitable environment.”

In the statement, Kashden says, “I’m running to add a voice of reason and give the public a seat at the table.”

Arroyo’s focus as city commissioner

A news release issued on Jan. 19 about his filing for re-election points out that while he has been serving on the City Commission, “Arroyo has been a staunch advocate for District 3, which consists of the eastern portion of the City of Sarasota, home to many seniors and young families. Arroyo is the only City Commissioner with young children and believes that perspective is important to maintain on the Commission,” the release adds.

“This is not just about Sarasota today, but also about the Sarasota our children will inherit tomorrow,” says Arroyo.

Commissioner Erik Arroyo. Contributed photo

“Since being elected,” the release continues, he has fought to reduce taxes and fees for residents to ease the cost of living, supported record investment in public safety, and has been a steadfast advocate for our public parks. He fought to restore and reopen the historic Bobby Jones Golf Course and championed the new adjoining nature park in the heart of the district.

“Looking forward, my focus remains on safeguarding our natural resources, ensuring responsible and sustainable development, and addressing the urgent issue of rising property insurance costs,” Arroyo stated in the release, which added that he was “emphasizing his ongoing commitment to the community.”

A Hispanic first-generation high school graduate who later obtained his law degree, Arroyo subsequently served as the youngest mayor in Sarasota’s history, winning that distinction during the November 2020 statutory City Commission meeting following that election.

Along with practicing as an attorney and handling his duties on the commission, the release notes, “he volunteers with various community organizations, including the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, Teen Court of Sarasota, the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Arroyo grew up in Sarasota and married his high school sweetheart, Victoria, who teaches at Sarasota High School, the release adds. The Arroyos have two young children, Ava and Max.