Staff had worked for about two years to fill vacancy
From time to time, Sarasota County commissioners offer commendations to the numerous individuals who serve on the county’s advisory committees. Chair Alan Maio even jokes on occasion about the big fees that those volunteers receive; no compensation is provided to them.
Commissioners also have reflected on the fact that filling seats on some of the boards can be a challenge.
Whereas the commissioners typically have several candidates to choose from when a Planning Commission seat opens up — because of the prestige of that board, which handles land-use and development issues — county staff struggles to garner public interest in other situations.
Most recently, the latter problem was emphasized in a June 8 staff memo to the commission.
“A Coastal Advisory Committee vacancy has persisted since the resignation of one member in 2019,” that memo pointed out. “The vacancy has been advertised on [the county website],” seeking interested persons, the memo added.
Finally, the memo reported, “One qualified applicant” submitted a county form, expressing his desire for appointment to that committee. Joseph Kraus, the county staff liaison to the advisory group, confirmed that the individual is qualified for that service, the memo said.
The purpose of the Coastal Advisory Committee, the county website explains, is to “[a]dvise and make recommendations to the County Commission on matters pertaining to coastal issues, projects, and programs.”
The nine members are elected to three-year terms, the website points out. Usually, the committee meets bimonthly, the website adds.
These are the requirements for the committee’s make-up, the website says:
- Five at-large members.
- Four ex-officio members (Sarasota County, Town of Longboat Key, City of Sarasota, City of Venice). Those members are Sarasota City Commissioner Kyle Scott Battie; Rachel Herman, environmental protection manager for the county; Venice City Council member Joseph Neunder; and Susan Phillips of the Town of Longboat Key, the website says.
- Must be familiar with coastal processes, inlet dynamics, Sarasota County Gulf of Mexico shoreline and associated inlets.
- Familiarity with local, state, and federal coastal management programs (regulatory and non-regulatory) preferred.
- Background in coastal engineering, coastal geology, coastal zone management or similar related field.
- Must be Sarasota County resident.
- At-large members may not hold elected office.
On June 8, the County Commission unanimously approved the appointment of Raymond Knowles of Sarasota to the seat that had been open for about two years. The decision came with the board’s vote on its Consent Agenda of routine business matters that day. As is their usual practice with those agenda items, none of the commissioners remarked on the issue before the vote.
In his application, Knowles wrote that he is a retired geologist. Given his expertise in that profession, he continued, “I have an excellent knowledge of the processes at work both on land and in the sea. I would like to put that knowledge to working protecting our shoreline and adjacent waters given their importance to our economy and our environment.”
Not only does he hold a doctorate in geology, Knowles noted, but he has taught geomorphology of land forms, which “includes shorelines and the processes at work at the shoreline.”
He indicated that he had learned about the opening on the Coastal Advisory Committee from seeing the notice on the county website.
Knowles also wrote that he had been a county resident for six months when he submitted his application on March 21.
Included in the agenda packet for the commission’s June 8 meeting was an attendance sheet for the Coastal Advisory Committee members. It covered the period from January 2019 through February of this year. The lowest attendance mark for anyone outside of the ex officio members was 86% for Cliff Truitt of Sarasota, whose LinkedIn account says he is chief engineering at Taylor Engineering in Jacksonville. However, he had missed only one meeting, the sheet showed.
Of the ex officio members, Sarasota City Commissioner Battie had the lowest mark, having missed both meetings this year, following his appointment.