Meeting time start for County Commission meetings to remain 9 a.m.

Staff outreach showed over 80% of respondents wished to keep long-time schedule

The Sarasota County commissioners sit in session on June 4 in Venice. News Leader image

On April 9, Sarasota County Commissioner Neil Rainford proposed to his colleagues that they move up the starting time of their meetings from 9 a.m. to 8 a.m.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while,” Rainford said that day, adding that an 8 a.m. start would enable people who have workdays that begin at 9 a.m. to be able to appear before the commissioners at the Open to the Public comment periods.

“I’m up early,” he pointed out. “I believe most of you guys are up early,” he said as he looked at his fellow commissioners.

Although Commissioner Joe Neunder joked about needing “all the beauty sleep I can get,” neither he nor any of the other board members offered an outright objection to the proposal.

However, Chair Michael Moran did suggest that the county’s Communications Department staff first conduct outreach on the idea, “to make sure that the public is heard on that.”

Still, Moran added, “Whatever’s more accommodating for [the public], I’m all ears.”
It became obvious, as a result of the public outreach, that the 8 a.m. starting time was not what the majority of members of the public wanted. As Commissioner Rainford put it during a discussion as part of the board’s regular meeting on June 4, “The public spoke, and they’re for keeping it at 9 a.m.”

He added that over 80% of the responses favored that time.

“But I think it was a good exercise,” Rainford said, to look into the potential of the time change. “We received a fair amount of feedback.”

He also expressed his appreciation to county staff members, saying, “I think [they] did a good job with the outreach,” having used different platforms during that process.

County Administrator Jonathan Lewis had scheduled a June 4 presentation on the results of the outreach, but Rainford told his colleagues he did not believe that was necessary.

After Rainford concluded his remarks, Deputy County Administrator Steve Botelho, who was standing at the podium in the Commission Chambers of the R.L. Anderson County Administration Center in Venice, said, “That concludes my presentation,” prompting laughter among the commissioners.

“Good job, Steve,” Moran responded with another laugh.

Altogether, that agenda item took only about 1 minute and 20 seconds, the News Leader observed.

The News Leader did make an inquiry of the county Communications staff, seeking details about the outreach.

Genevieve Judge, the county’s public information and community outreach manager, wrote in a June 4 reply, “Communications launched a three-pronged poll using the Engage platform with links on Facebook, Instagram, and Nextdoor to gather public input on future start times for [the commission] meetings.”

She added, “The polls closed [on] June 3, at 10 a.m.,” noting, “Individuals were asked to choose their preference between an 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. start time for future [County Commission] meetings.”

The results are shown below:

Image courtesy Sarasota County

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