Rainford wins colleagues’ support for new review of county advisory boards, plus report on number of persons serving on more than one of them

Last analysis of advisory boards took place in 2017

Commissioner Neil Rainford. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Sarasota County Commissioner Neil Rainford has won the support of his colleagues in directing staff to provide the them a full list of county advisory boards and lists of people serving on more than one board.

During the Nov. 14 regular commission meeting, Rainford pointed out, “It’s come to my attention” that multiple individuals hold seats on more than one county advisory board.

First, he said, he believes it would be worthwhile for staff to review all of the boards and councils, to determine whether the county has “the right make-up of advisory boards; maybe some are not as utilized.”

He added that he understood such a review had been undertaken in the past.

(In response to a Sarasota News Leader inquiry, county Media Relations officer Sara Nealeigh provided the publication a copy of a March 4, 2021 memo to the commission that noted a comprehensive review of all of the advisory councils in 2017. As a result of that analysis, the commission dissolved three of those councils and took related action in 2017 and 2018, the memo said.)

During the Nov. 14 discussion, in addressing the issue of persons serving on more than one board, Rainford pointed out, “We have such a large population. Obviously, we’ve experienced significant growth in the past few years. … I think that giving opportunities to different individuals on boards would be a great opportunity.”

The University of Florida’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BEBR), which provides a variety of data to government leaders statewide, has estimated the Sarasota County population this year at 464,233. That report cites an increase of 30,217 individuals in the county between 2020 and 2023. The 2020 Census, BEBER says, put the population count at 434,006.

When Chair Ron Cutsinger asked for clarification on Nov. 14 that Rainford was seeking what the commissioners and staff refer to as a “board report,” an assignment for research on a specific topic with a report delivered to the commissioners, Rainford replied, “That is correct.”

These are all of the Sarasota County advisory boards and councils, as shown on the county website this week. Some do not report to the commission, as noted. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Then Cutsinger asked County Administrator Jonathan Lewis whether he would prefer a motion on that direction instead of commission consensus.

Lewis replied that he would like for the commissioners to approve a motion regarding Rainford’s requests.

At that point, Commissioner Joe Neunder sought clarification that the assignment would be to provide the commissioners information first, before any action might be taken.

Assured that that was the case, Neunder responded, “OK.”

Rainford made the formal motion, based on his comments, and Commissioner Michael Moran seconded it. The motion passed 5-0.

Typically, staff tries to complete board assignments within 30 days. Any board discussion on the findings of such a report would be placed on a future agenda.