Moran to be chair of County Commission in 2024

Neunder named vice chair; Rainford, pro tem

The Sarasota County commissioners engage in discussion with administrative staff members and County Attorney Joshua Moye during their annual planning retreat, which was held on Dec. 8 at the Sarasota County Terrace Building on South Washington Boulevard in downtown Sarasota. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

During their annual planning retreat on Friday, Dec. 8, the Sarasota County commissioners chose Michael Moran as their chair for the 2024 calendar year, county staff has reported.

Moran is vice chair this year. His second and final term will end in November 2024. A Sarasota resident, he is the District 1 representative. He also is the most senior member of the commission.

The board members also selected Commissioner Joe Neunder of Nokomis, the District 4 representative, to serve as vice chair. Commissioner Neil Rainford, whom Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed to the District 3 seat after the April death of Commissioner Nancy Detert, was chosen the pro tem. (As Law Insider explains, a chair pro tem may “chair any board meeting … in the absence of the chairperson [chairman].”)

For the 2022 calendar year, then-Commissioner Alan Maio of Nokomis was chosen to serve as chair. Because he would be stepping down from the board before the end of 2022, and the fact that then-Commissioner Christian Ziegler of Sarasota, who was the pro tem, had chosen not to seek re-election, then-County Attorney Frederick “Rick” Elbrecht pointed out to the commissioners in November 2022 that two of the three board leaders would be giving up their positions later that month, when two new commissioners would be sworn into office.

The new officers would not be chosen until the annual retreat, which was scheduled for Dec. 9, 2022, Elbrecht added.

Therefore, Elbrecht said, if Commissioner Ron Cutsinger, then the vice chair, had to be absent from a meeting, “There would be no backup [for him].” Yet, Elbrecht explained, the acting chair might be needed to sign paperwork in a timely fashion, for example, or handle other county business.

At Elbrecht’s recommendation, in light of that situation, Commissioner Moran made a motion naming Cutsinger acting chair and Detert acting vice chair from Nov. 22 until Dec. 31, 2022.

Neunder just won his seat in November 2022. However, Rainford is running for election to the District 3 seat. His only opponent at this time is former three-term Sheriff Tom Knight of Venice. Both Rainford and Knight are Republicans; therefore, they are expected to face each other in the August 2024 Primary for the District 3 seat.

Given that situation, it remains to be seen whether new County Attorney Joshua Moye will seek action in November 2024 similar to what Elbrecht recommended last year.

Additionally, during the Dec. 8 retreat, the commissioners “identified their strategic priorities that will set the roadmap for next year’s goals, projects, and initiatives,” a county news release said.

“The commissioners will continue to focus on crucial policy agenda items,” including water quality initiatives and the health of Sarasota Bay, affordable housing, public safety, South County regional park planning, and the future of River Road, which is the primary evacuation route for South County, among other topics, the release added.

The board members will finalize their strategic priorities during the Jan. 10, 2024, commission meeting, the release noted. “The Sarasota County Board of County Commission webpage will be updated in January 2024 to reflect these changes and the board’s committee appointments,” the release pointed out.