Felton files as third candidate for District 1 seat on Sarasota City Commission

She has won endorsements from former Mayors Shaw and Atkins, as well as Jetson Grimes

Sequoia Felton. Image from her campaign website

A third candidate has filed for the District 1 seat on the Sarasota City Commission, with qualifying having begun at noon on Monday, June 10, and ending at noon on Friday, June 14.

Sequoia Denise Felton filed her paperwork on May 13 with the City Auditor and Clerk’s Office, the city’s website shows. Her campaign announcement points out that she has the backing of District 1 leaders Willie Charles Shaw and Fredd Atkins, who both served in the past as mayors as well as commissioners while representing that area of the city. Jetson Grimes, founder of the Greater Newtown Redevelopment Corp., also is supporting Felton’s campaign, her announcement notes.

A native of Oneco, in Manatee County, Felton was reared by her grandmother, a corrections officer, from the time Felton was a year old until her grandmother died in 2001, when Felton was 15, the campaign news release says.

Felton took on the “responsibility for helping to support and educate her 5 younger siblings, working as an expediter at the Longboat Key Club & Resort,” the release adds. Following her employment there, it continues, she worked at Plymouth Harbor for seven years as an environmental technician.

She is a past member of the city’s Human Relations Board and a member of the Black Caucus, the release notes. She also is a volunteer at The Harvest, it says.

On its website, The Harvest explains, “We are an inclusive, safe place for ANYONE who is looking for a church that celebrates questions and values the beauty of God’s grace and mercy for all.

“We LOVE ALL without any fine print. That’s right  ALL! LGBTQ? YES! DEMOCRAT? YES! REPUBLICAN? YES! ADDICTS? YES! BROKEN? YES! ATHIEST? YES! You get the point!  There is no ‘bait and switch’ here at Harvest.”

As Felton works downtown, her campaign news release points out, she often commutes to her Newtown home by using a Veo. “Like all of my neighbors,” she says in the release, “I have a vested interest in safe, shaded multi-modal transportation and clean streets!”

The release further notes, “Shared spaces, common ground, and building bridges — both literal (to The Bay [Park on the city’s waterfront] to provide safe passage across [U.S.] 41 for pedestrians, and metaphorical (among Sarasota’s diverse fabric of communities) — are focal issues for Felton’s campaign.”

Nonetheless, it says, her primary concern is neighborhood housing. “To make the ‘live, work and play’ concept work in the real world, we need housing that working people can afford,” she points out in the release, referring to a city tagline. “We have lost much of what was affordable housing to short term rentals and gentrification. I will prioritize human scale housing that creates community,” she adds.

Former Mayor and City Commissioner Willie Shaw. File photo

The release quotes former Commissioner Shaw about his backing of Felton: “I encouraged Sequoia Felton to run because her life experience shows she knows the value of hard work, has the spirit to overcome challenges, the energy to represent public interest with zest, and the integrity and compassion to lead from the heart, mind, and soul.”

On her website, Felton says, “I value people first, second, and third. As the city has rapidly grown, District 1 has been left behind, overshadowed, or displaced.”

She also points to her concerns about the environment: “Whether it is air pollution, a healthy bay, or fortifying homes to withstand storms, our lives and livelihoods depend upon our shared environment. I’ll prioritize access to restorative parks like The Bay, and measures to improve run-off, like the Whitaker Bayou clean-up.”

Further, she expresses her support for the use of federal grant funds for “long-overdue [Americans with Disabilities Act] improvements and the Newtown Sidewalk Rehabilitation Community Project. As a scooter-commuter,” she notes, “I’d like to see shade restored along our re-developed roads and the Legacy Trail extended along the railroad tracks.”

The other District 1 candidates are incumbent Kyle Battie, who was elected in 2020, and Melissa Morrill-Furman, a Cocoanut Avenue resident.

Furman filed her paperwork with the City Auditor and Clerk’s Office on March 22, the document shows.

Battie, who lives on Walker Circle near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, just east of Bradenton Road in Newtown, filed for re-election on Feb. 21.

Following voters’ 2018 approval of changes to the City Commission’s election cycle, the initial vote on candidates takes place in August, but only if three or more persons qualify for the district seats. In races with just two candidates, the votes occur during the November General Election.

Previously, the city held its elections in March, with any runoffs following in May.

Thus far, the District 1 race is the only one with three candidates.

In District 2, Laurel Park resident and neighborhood advocate Ron Kashden is challenging Mayor Liz Alpert, while in District 3, former Planning Board member Kathy Kelley Ohlrich filed to run against Commissioner Erik Arroyo, who won his seat in November 2020.

Ohlrich also is a past leader of the Coalition of the City Neighborhood Associations of Sarasota (CCNA).