Five file to run for two at-large Sarasota City Commission seats open this year

Incumbent Ahearn-Koch in fundraising lead through April

File photo

Thus far, five people have filed to run for the two at-large seats on the Sarasota City Commission, which will be filled by the November General Election.

During the November 2018 General Election, 63% of city voters approved a change in the dates for the city elections. Previously, the elections had been conducted in March and May. Therefore, the last time city voters elected at-large candidates was in May 2017.

Before the city commissioners approved placing the referendum on the 2018 ballot, City Attorney Robert Fournier explained that a first election would be held during the August primary if four or more persons qualified for the two at-large seats.

Along with Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch, who is seeking re-election to the seat she won in May 2017, Debbie Trice, Sheldon Rich, Terrill Salem and Carl Shoffstall are running this year, as noted on the webpages of the Sarasota City Auditor and Clerk’s Office.

Commissioner Hagen Brody, who also won an at-large seat in May 2017, is seeking the District 2 seat on the County Commission.

Ahearn-Koch, who lives on Tahiti Parkway, had been active in neighborhood leadership roles before running for the commission. She also had served on the city’s Planning Board. In her capacity as a commissioner, she has continued to be an advocate for neighborhoods.

Shoffstall is immediate past chair of the Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations (CCNA), and he has been president of the Lido Key Residents Association since 2012, his biography on the City Auditor and Clerk’s Office website notes. He also served on the city’s Recreation & Environmental Protection Advisory Board for 12 years, including a stint as its chair; and he has been a member of the city’s Parking Advisory Committee “since its inception,” his biography adds.

Shoffstall points out on his campaign website that he championed the long-planned renourishment of Lido Key Beach, which was completed in the spring of 2021. That included intervening, as leader of the Lido Key Residents Association, in legal challenges brought by Siesta Key organizations.

Trice is a past president of the Rosemary District Association, her biography points out, and she has been active for many years in groups as diverse as the NAACP, Girls Inc., American Association of University Women (AAUW), and the United Way. She previously had a career in marketing and management at IBM.

In his biography on the city website, Rich points out that he is owner and president of SJR Associates LLC, a health care consulting company located in Sarasota. With more than 30 years of experience in the pharmacy field, the biography continues, he “is a nationally recognized lecturer and moderator and provides consulting services to managed care organizations, physician practice groups, employers and pharmaceutical manufacturers.” Before moving to Sarasota, his biography adds, he served as president of two homeowners associations in Palm Beach Gardens. Rich also is a member of the city’s Police Complaint Committee.

No biography for Salem appears on the Auditor and Clerk’s candidate webpages. However, his LinkedIn account says he is a licensed general contractor “with more than 15 years’ experience building and remodeling residential, commercial and light industrial structures.” He also is a Florida real estate broker, the account notes, and he is chair of the city’s Planning Board.

He served eight years as a medic in the U.S. Army, the LinkedIn account points out, and he is a former Sarasota County firefighter. Salem lives on 30th Street in Sarasota.

Ahearn-Koch was the first of the five to file for the 2022 election; she did that on Dec. 1, 2021. Shoffstall submitted his paperwork on Jan. 4, while Salem filed on Feb. 16.

Rich filed on Feb. 28, and Trice turned in her paperwork on March 4, the records show.

Campaign finance reports show Ahearn-Koch in the lead

Sarasota City Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch. File Image

Ahearn-Koch is leading the way in terms of campaign contributions, according to the latest filings with the City Auditor and Clerk’s Office. Altogether, she has raised $30,327, the records show.

She had spent $5,204.13 as of the end of that month, the April report notes.

Shoffstall had a total of $21,300 through April, while Trice had $12,150; Rich had $6,800; and Salem reported only $1,000.

Salem did not add any contributions in April; he filed a waiver of report to that effect, the records make clear.

In her very first report — for January — Ahearn-Koch listed 40 contributions. She took in $10,125 in money and $224.34 in in-kind contributions. The latter was paid by Janet Minker, long-time leader of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, for a campaign event.

The monetary amounts ranged from $10 up to $1,000, which is the state limit.

Among those who gave her $500 were former Sarasota City Commissioner Terry Turner, former Sarasota Mayor and Commissioner Kelly Kirschner, chef Timothy Klauder, and real estate agent Leonard C. Owens Jr.

Several people gave Ahearn-Koch $1,000 each. They were Elliott Himelfarb, the husband of Janet Minker; Key Biscayne attorney and developer Max Puyanic; Puyanic’s wife, Jennie; attorney James Elsasser of Lido Key; Jim Lampl, president of the Rosemary District Association.

All of Ahearn-Koch’s campaign finance filings show a range of contribution levels, with the funds largely coming from city residents.

Among Ahearn-Koch’s biggest expenditures to-date have been two payments of $1,350 each to Street Smartz of Jacksonville for “walkcards.” (The Campaign Workshop calls walk cards “an important element to any field strategy. They give your canvassers something tangible to discuss at the doors and are a great way to introduce your candidate to voters.”)

Additionally in April, she paid $422.80 to Growl Studies in Sarasota for website design and maintenance.

Shoffstall also has shown a range of contributions on the campaign finance forms he has filed with the Office of the City Auditor and Clerk.

Carl Shoffstall. Contributed photo

In his February report, he did note that he loaned his campaign $5,000. In turn, he paid the $5,000 to a Mandeville, La., firm called People Who Think for campaign management services.

The contributions he received in February were between $50 and $200.

In March, he reported 14 contributions, including $1,000 from Sarasota attorney Brenda L. Patten, who handles land-use issues; attorney Jay Elsasser; and Lido Key resident Paul Robbins.

Shoffstall received $200 from Christopher Goglia, who has been a leader of the St. Armands Residents Association; Lou Costa, president of the Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations (CCNA); and John Knutsen Jr., principal of Knutsen Enterprise in Sarasota.

Former City and County Commissioner Paul Caragiulo, whose family owns Caragiulo’s Italian American restaurant on Palm Avenue, gave Shoffstall $100 that month.

In April, Shoffstall loaned his campaign another $5,000, that month’s report says. He also received $1,000 from attorney Johanne Valois of Bradenton Beach and real estate brokerage firm William Andrew Vac LLC of Longboat Key.

Joseph Cincotta, developer of the Sarasota Modern Hotel; Cincotta’s wife, Barbara; and Jasbir and Lakhbir Hayre, both real estate agents on Lido Key, gave Shoffstall $250 apiece, the report says.

Among expenses in April, Shoffstall paid $2,948.11 for “logo and palm cards” to the Louisiana firm People Who Think, plus $2,500 for professional campaign management.

Debbie Trice. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

In her March report, Trice noted that she had loaned her campaign $500. Her other contributions added up to $7,425, the report says, while the tally for her expenses was $276.90.

Lampl of the Rosemary District Association; consultant Ron Kashden; community activist Kelly Franklin; and Anand Pallegar, founder and CEO of the ATLARGE firm in Sarasota, all gave her $1,000, the report says.

Other contributions she received in April ranged from $5 to $500.

Both retiree Donna Cubit-Swoyer, who lives on Lemon Avenue, and Josh Weiner, principal of The Longboat Group — which is a development, property management and investments firm — gave Trice $500 apiece.

Two community activists who often appear at City Commission meetings — Flo Entler and Rob Grant — each contributed $100 to Trice.

Trice’s biggest expense in her March report was $90.10 to Anedot Inc. of New Orleans for processing online payments.

In April, Trice collected another $4,225 and spent $18.66, that report shows.

The largest single contribution in that report was $1,000 from Henry LeBaron Preston, the document notes. He is director of Preston Giuliano Capital Partners, which is an investment partnership that has been acquiring distressed properties in South and Central Florida since 2011, The Sarasota News Leader learned in an online search.

Sheldon Rich. Photo courtesy City of Sarasota

Among other contributors were real estate broker Ian Black, $500; Richard Mones, who deals in antiques, $500; and Christine Jennings, a bank executive and former chair of the Democratic Part of Sarasota County, $100.

In his March report, Rich noted that he contributed all the money he collected that month: $6,100. His largest single expense was $138, which went to in Tel Aviv for the creation of his website, the document says.

In April, Rich collected $700, which came from five people who gave him from $50 to $250 apiece. Both Heritage Builders of West Florida, which is located on Constitution Boulevard in Sarasota, and Justin Powell, vice president of Palmer Ranch Holdings, contributed the top amount.

Terrill Salem. Photo from his LinkedIn account

Rich’s largest expense in April was $211.90, which he paid to VistaPrint in Waltham, Mass., for campaign flyers. He also spent $47.03 with Name Badges Inc. in Cooper City for name tags.

A review of Salem’s finance filings found that he loaned $1,000 to his campaign on Feb. 16. That is the solitary contribution he had through April, according to his reports.

In March, he spent $413.30, with the largest portion — $350 — going to Kinsey 5 Media of Sarasota for photos.

For April, he filed a Waiver of Report, having received no contributions and having spent no funds, that document says.