Kevin Cooper reappointed to county Planning Commission

No other person nominated

Planning Commissioner Kevin Cooper. File photo

It took only a couple of minutes this week for the Sarasota County Commission to reappoint Kevin Cooper, president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, to the county’s Planning Commission.

Cooper first won a seat on the board in September 2015, when the commission unanimously chose him to fill out an unexpired term that will end on Dec. 30. This time, he will have a full four years on what is considered the commission’s most influential advisory board.

Cooper was director of community investment for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation from November 2015 until October, when he was named to succeed Steve Queior, who led the Chamber for 13 years. Prior to joining the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Cooper was a vice president of the Greater Sarasota Chamber from December 2013 to November 2015.

He served as the executive director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce for almost exactly three years before he first joined the Greater Sarasota Chamber staff.

In his Nov. 3 application for the Planning Commission seat, Cooper pointed out that he had read all of the county’s Comprehensive Plan and most of its zoning ordinances, giving him “an understanding of the elements covered by each” and enabling him to know which sections to refer to as issues arise before the commission.

“Of course,” he continued, “it’s not always enough to know what something says,” adding that “it’s critical to understand how it is applied in a ‘real-world’ sense. Given my professional involvement in local Chambers of Commerce, I have a broad community awareness in terms of how these regulations are applied in a sense specific to real development in Sarasota County and the history behind many past decisions.”

Jordan Letschert via Twitter.

County staff received applications from four other people seeking the position:

  • Robert Fletcher of Sarasota, a real estate appraiser with his own firm, Fletcher Appraisal Services. He served on the City of Sarasota’s Planning Board from 2008 to 2010.
  • Jordan Letschert of Sarasota, who is co-manager and owner of TTJ Investments LLC. He is a past general manager of Café L’Europe, and he owned the former Fred’s Restaurant in Southside Village in Sarasota. “TTJ Investments initially concentrated on purchasing foreclosed residential properties, performing whatever repairs and renovation work were necessary, and selling them on the open market,” he wrote in his application. Under his direction, the company has invested in five Crunch Gym franchises, he added, and he and his brother have acquired a partnership in the Galleon Resort and Marina in Key West.
  • Dr. Joseph M. Neunder of Nokomis, a chiropractic physician who is president and owner of Sarasota Spinal Mechanics. He is a member of the board of the Evalyn Sadlier Jones Branch of the Sarasota YMCA; a member of the board of the My Choice Pregnancy Center; and a parishioner at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, he wrote in his application.
  • Colin R. Pember of Sarasota, a commercial real estate agent and associate with Michael Saunders & Co. He also is a member of the Florida Bar.
Colin Pember. Image from Michael Saunders & Co.

Fletcher, Letschert, Neunder and Pember were under consideration for a Planning Commission appointment in June, as well. At that time, the County Commission named Laura Benson, a real estate broker with Michael Saunders & Co. and a past Sarasota County School Board member, to fill an unexpired term on the board.

On Dec. 14, Commissioner Charles Hines nominated Cooper. With no other names offered, Chair Alan Maio said, Mr. Cooper, you have been signed up for another engaging, fun, frolicking four years on the Planning Commission,” eliciting laughter from his colleagues.

Maio added that Cooper was “sitting in the audience, somewhat holding his head.” Then Maio told Cooper, “Thank you, my friend.”

Dec. 14 marked the board’s final regularly scheduled meeting of the year.