County Commission approves nominees on unanimous vote
Thanks to a unanimous vote of the Sarasota County Commission, two new members will serve on the county’s Planning Commission.
On Jan. 25, the County Commission named Dr. Joseph Neunder, a Nokomis chiropractor, and Colin Pember of Siesta Key, a commercial real estate agent, to replace Planning Commission members John Ask and Philip Kellogg, whose terms had expired.
Neunder and Pember were among four people who had applied for the positions, a staff worksheet shows. The others were Robert Fletcher and Jordan Letschert, both of Sarasota. All four submitted their applications in May 2016, the worksheet notes. The County Commission also considered the same four people for Planning Commission seats in June and December 2016. In June of last year, the County Commission appointed Laura Benson of Venice, a real estate broker with Michael Saunders & Co.; in December 2016, it reappointed Kevin Cooper, president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
Commissioner Alan Maio nominated both Neunder and Pember on Jan. 25. No other names were put forth.
After the vote, Chair Paul Caragiulo extended thanks to the two men for their “willingness to commit an extraordinary amount of time [to the voluntary positions].”
The Planning Commission is considered the county’s most influential advisory board; it also has proven a stepping-stone to seats on the County Commission.
In his application, Neunder wrote that he has owned his own clinic since 2010: Sarasota Spinal Mechanics on Beneva Road in Sarasota.
In 2010, he also made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Sarasota County School Board. In the three-way District 1 race — with incumbent Carol Todd and challenger Barry Woolf — Neunder garnered 21.63% of the vote to Todd’s 61.87% and Woolf’s 16.5%, according to records maintained by the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office.
Neunder is a member of the board of the Sarasota YMCA’s Evalyn Sadlier Jones Branch, a member of the board of the My Choice Pregnancy Center and a parishioner at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, he wrote on his application.
He served as director of education and a dean at Meridian College in Sarasota from 2009 to 2010, he continued, in which capacity he often needed “to interact with local community businesses, in order to address academic and trade requirements/needs for the community. In conjunction with the information collected,” he wrote, “and the help of my colleagues on campus, we were able to derive plausible working solutions to the need of the business community at large.” That experience, he added, would be an asset to the Planning Commission.
In responses on a county questionnaire as part of the application process, Neunder wrote, “It is my position that Sarasota [County] will continue to have concerns regarding infrastructure and our ability to ‘Absorb’ [his emphasis] our future growth. Affordable and reliable housing in the county for younger individuals and families are also an important issue to me.”
He added, “By the year 2026, I would expect Sarasota County to be a growing, multi-cultural and prosperous community, that has the infrastructure and resources to support our existing population and the ability of growth both in the private and government sectors.”
In his application, Pember wrote that he has been an associate with Michael Saunders & Co. since November 2015. He also is a member of the Florida Bar.
“I have a deep interest in public service, law, development, and our natural resources,” he wrote.
He has owned Centric Commercial Cleaning in Sarasota since March 2007, he noted in the resume he attached to his application.
From January 2009 to August 2010, he was a member of the board of FloridaOil.org in Sarasota, his resume says. In that capacity, he wrote, he researched and studied the Submerged Lands Act of 1953, worked with the Florida Legislature on an offshore oil-drilling bill and worked with the American Petroleum Institute and the Office of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
At the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich., he added in his resume, he took classes on zoning and land use planning, as well as on water law, property law, oil and gas law, contracts and constitutional law.
Answering one of the application’s questions, Pember wrote that “road efficiency” is the most pressing planning and land use issue in the county. He added that it “could best be resolved by analyzing and using logic skills after listening to both public and private experts, looking at [the county’s] comprehensive plan and studies provided, and working in concert with landowners, developers, businesses, and citizens.”
He also wrote of Sarasota’s need for “industry and housing that is affordable to keep young professionals in [the community] as well as pull them in after they graduate.”
The other applicants
Fletcher is a real estate appraiser with his own firm, Fletcher Appraisal Services, in downtown Sarasota, his application shows. He served as a member and later chair of the City of Sarasota’s Planning Board during a term from 2008 to 2010, his application says.
Letschert, who is co-manager and owner of TTJ Investments LLC, 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.