Neunder, Smith formally sworn in as members of Sarasota County Commission

Chief judge of 12th Judicial Circuit Court administers oaths

With Karen Rushing, Sarasota County clerk of the Circuit Court and county comptroller serving as mistress of ceremonies, the two new Sarasota County commissioners were sworn into office just after 9 a.m. on Nov. 22.

Chief Judge Charles E. Roberts of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court led first Mark Smith of Siesta Key and then Joe Neunder of Nokomis through their formal oaths.

Smith was accompanied by his wife, Esther, and his daughter, Liz. Neunder was surrounded by a larger group that included not only his wife and three children but also his parents.

At the outset, Rushing explained that new commissioners are sworn in to office on the second Tuesday following the election in which they won their seats, “pursuant to law.”

Smith, an architect and long-time business leader on Siesta Key, won the District 2 seat, which includes the northern portion of the barrier island and much of the city of Sarasota.

Along with his decades of service on the Board of Directors of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, Smith is a past member of the boards of All Faiths Food Bank and the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, and he was president of the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects in 2007, his county biography notes.

Neunder, a chiropractor and past member of the county’s Planning Commission and the Venice City Council, prevailed in the District 4 race, which includes the southern half of Siesta Key, all of Casey Key and part of the city of Venice.

Neunder’s county biography points out that he moved with his family from Buffalo, N.Y., to Florida when he was a teenager. “He swam competitively for Swim Florida and Venice High School,” it adds.

Further, Neunder has served on the boards of the Evalyn Sadlier-Jones Branch of the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club and the City of Venice Historic Preservation Board, his biography notes.

This year, both of the new commissioners won their seats through the Single-Member Districts voting system that citizens approved during the November 2018 General Election. Only voters who lived in the same districts as the candidates could cast ballots for them.

Smith and Neunder are Republicans, as are their colleagues on the commission.

Chair Alan Maio of Nokomis previously held the District 4 seat, having won his first term in 2014. Maio was term-limited, since he won re-election in 2018.

Commissioner Christian Ziegler of Sarasota, who won the District 2 seat in 2018, chose not to seek another term on the board.

The Sarasota County Charter does provide that a commissioner who has served two consecutive terms may seek a board seat again “after a lapse of service in office of at least two years.”

In the past, new members of the county board have been sworn in to office prior to the start of a regular meeting. However, the commissioners conducted two regular sessions last week — on Nov. 15 and Nov. 16.

In closing the Nov. 22 event, Rushing pointed out, “Although brief, it’s a significant ceremony.”

She invited all attendees in the Commission Chambers in downtown Sarasota to join Smith, Neunder and their families for “a small get-together” in what is called the Training Room near the Chambers, on the ground floor of the County Administration Center.

Altogether, according to a Sarasota News Leader clock, the ceremony lasted about 8 minutes.