Director of marketing and operations at Jon Swift construction firm appointed to Planning Commission

Legler to replace Mast, who is running for County Commission

With Sarasota resident Teresa Mast having resigned her position on the Sarasota County Planning Commission to run for the County Commission District 1 seat, the county commissioners this week appointed Emmalee Legler of Sarasota, director of marketing and operations at the John F. Swift Inc. construction firm, to serve out Mast’s term.

That term continues through January 2024, a county staff memo said.

Legler was one of three people who had applied for the position, as shown in documents provided to the County Commission in its agenda packet for its regular meeting on April 11 in Venice.

The others were Sarasota architect James S. Piatchuk, who has his own firm; and Thomas Gretz of Sarasota, who works in real estate and development for a medical cannabis firm in Atlanta called TheraTrue Inc.

Commissioner Michael Moran nominated Legler, while Commissioner Mark Smith — also an architect — nominated Piatchuk. Smith cast the sole “No” vote for Legler.

With Commissioner Nancy Detert having passed away last week, the commission has four remaining members. Thus, the vote in favor of Legler was 3-1.

Chair Ron Cutsinger asked that county staff thank Legler “for her willingness to serve.”

The Planning Commission is considered the county’s most influential advisory board, because it reviews land-use applications. The board’s county webpages also note that the Planning Commission “is obligated to interpret and advise the County Commission on the adoption of and amendments to the Comprehensive Plan,” which guides growth in the county.

Another document in the April 11 agenda packet showed that county staff received Legler’s application on March 2. Gretz’s application was marked as having been received on March 13, while staff accepted Piatchuk’s on March 17, the form says.

Details about the applicants

In her application, Legler explained why she sought the Planning Commission seat: “As a young leader, it is important to contribute to the future of the community I call home. I want to be able to

look back at this experience and tell my daughters the impact I had to help shape what Sarasota will be for their future. Additionally, I believe Sarasota County may be participating in an evaluation and appraisal review of the County’s Comprehensive Plan and that is a process I would like to be a part of and contribute to.”

In response to another set of questions — “What do you believe are the most pressing planning and land issues in Sarasota County? How do you think they may best be resolved?” — Legler wrote, “Reviewing the existing Comprehensive Plan as it relates to the increased growth of Sarasota County over the past 3 years while also preserving the natural and cultural areas throughout Sarasota County.”

The last time the entire Comprehensive Plan went through an update was in 2016; the final version won County Commission approval in October 2016.

Legler added that she is a member of the board of the Florida Center for Early Childhood, and she is a member of the Junior League of Sarasota.

She holds a degree in communications from Stetson University, she noted, and she earned a master’s degree in journalism and media studies from the University of South Florida.

Further, Legler wrote, “For the past 7 years I have worked in the commercial construction industry for a firm that has deep roots in the Sarasota community. Our company builds new commercial construction, as well as remodels and renovates various existing buildings in the community.”

She added, “Having a background in this specific area would benefit my future role as a Planning Commissioner by incorporating the knowledge I have acquired through the building process to the development and land use process.”

On another point — in response to an application question — Legler acknowledged that Jon F. Swift “occasionally [provides] construction management at risk services for Sarasota County. I would abstain from voting on any potential conflicts of interest.”

As the website explains it, “[T]he construction manager is committed to delivering the project within a guaranteed maximum price (GMP). The construction manager acts as a consultant to the project owner during the development and design phases or preconstruction services. During the construction phase, they act as the general contractor.

“Since the construction manager is bound to the GMP, their relationship changes as they’re acting in the owner’s interest while managing and controlling construction costs to not exceed the GMP. If they do, the construction management company will take a financial hit,” the website description said.

In his application, Piatchuk wrote that he was interested in serving on the Planning Commission  because “I would like to be engaged and active in the development affairs of my own hometown and bring what professional abilities as an architect that I can to improve and add to the quality of an area that already has so much to offer.”

He serves on the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals and the Historic Preservation Board, he noted.

A graduate of the University of Florida, Piatchuk noted that he earned a Bachelor of Design degree, with a minor in business administration, and then a Master of Architecture degree. He has been a Florida-licensed architect for more than 25 years, he pointed out.

“It’s important that a [Planning Commission] member have an understanding of and appreciation of the area’s history and context,” he wrote.

Further, Piatchuk noted that he was president of the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2021-22.

In his application, Gretz wrote that he was interested in serving on the Planning Commission because he wants “to make a local impact.” He continued, “I started my career in Washington D.C. over 15 years ago during a time of great expansion for the city. I personally witnessed the trials and tribulations the City encountered dealing with the structural issues rapid growth presents. I would like to find the opportunity to share with the board best practices I witnessed with a rapidly growing metropolitan area and help grow Sarasota smartly given the recent influx of residents. It would be my small contribution to what could really become a world class destination.”

He added that he is “involved in” the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Policy Advisory Board, and he also serves on the board of directors of the Foxtrace Homeowners Association in Sarasota.

A former Navy petty officer second class, Gretz wrote that he served overseas from 1999 to 2003. “After being honorably discharged from Service,” he continued, “I went back to college and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Maryland.” He also received a Professional Graduate Certificate from the university’s Colvin Institute of Real Estate Development, he noted.

He has held corporate real estate positions with “multiple Fortune 500 companies, the Federal Government as well as private start-ups,” he added, and he is a member of the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.