He participates in his first meeting on June 13
A Sarasota County Planning Commission member who also is the secretary of the Republican Party of Sarasota County has won the appointment to fill out the term of the late Commissioner Nancy Detert, who died unexpectedly in early April.
Late in the afternoon of June 9, the Office of the Governor announced that Gov. Ron DeSantis had named Neil Rainford, 36, a senior executive with Mullet’s Aluminum Products Inc. of Sarasota, to fill the seat until the 2024 election has been conducted.
Because Detert was term-limited, the District 3 seat would have been open regardless of her passing.
That District 3 seat covers Venice and parts of Nokomis and North Port, a county news release noted.
Rainford’s employer, Mullet’s, is one of the largest architectural aluminum manufacturers in the Southeastern United States, the county news release pointed out.
Rainford “moved to the Sarasota area shortly after graduating from Florida State University” in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science with an emphasis on urban and regional planning, the release added.
The Governor’s Office announcement also noted that Rainford serves as a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors, the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association (MSBIA), and the Sarasota-Manatee Area Manufacturers Association.
“Assuming the seat of a legend like Nancy Detert won’t be easy, but I’m honored to be entrusted by Gov. DeSantis with this appointment to the Sarasota County Commission,” Rainford said in the release. “We are consistently ranked as one of the top communities in the nation in which to live. So, we are already doing a lot right.”
The county Republican Party website notes that since he joined its Executive Committee in 2018, “Rainford has developed extensive experience in the local GOP and in government offices both in an appointed position and in winning office countywide. He served as Co-Chair of the [Republican Executive Committee’s] Membership Committee during a time of exponential growth, before being elected to serve as Secretary in 2020 and again in 2022. Neil was elected to the Sarasota County Charter Review Board in 2018” before the County Commission appointed him a member of the Planning Commission, which he had been serving as vice chair, it added.
Rainford won the Planning Commission seat on a 4-1 vote on Jan. 15, 2020. Coincidentally, that day, Detert cast the “No” vote, having nominated former Commissioner Jon Thaxton, who serves as senior vice president for community leadership with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.
In his application for the Planning Commission seat, Rainford wrote, “Have followed the ongoings of this committee for many years and know from time to time vacancies come up from board members running for other elected positions. When I learned that a seat had become available I was eager to serve.”
Because it deals with Comprehensive Plan issues, as well as land-use and zoning applications, the Planning Commission is considered to be the county’s most influential advisory board.
County government policy does not allow a person to keep seats on both the Planning Commission and the County Commission. Its webpages already show that Rainford has given up his seat on the Planning Commission.
In the county news release, Rainford said his priorities as a county commissioner “will be infrastructure, business climate and workforce housing.”
Rainford also formerly served on the board of trustees of Tabernacle Church in Sarasota, the release points out.
He has been married for 11 years and has one son, it adds.
Rainford took the oath of office at the start of the County Commission’s regular meeting on June 13, which was conducted in Venice.
Karen Rushing, clerk of the Circuit Court and county comptroller, administered it as Rainford’s wife and son stood at his side.
After Rushing pointed out, “This is a family affair,” Rainford told her that June 13 was his son’s birthday. However, he declined her offer to have the audience sing “Happy Birthday” to his son.
Then Rushing told Rainford that being a county commissioner “is an awesome responsibility.” She added that she had seen him quoted as acknowledging that he has “big shoes to fill,” in taking over Detert’s seat. Nonetheless, she said, “I’m sure you will do a fantastic job.”
Next, before administering the oath, Rushing pointed out that, having been in public service many years herself, she had “just a few words” that she wanted to share with him.
Among her comments, Rushing told Rainford, “Life is a gift. You’ll have a lot of opportunities to make that count for your community.”
She continued, “Learn every day. The people you will serve have a wealth of knowledge. Lead by example and inspiration, and you won’t need authority.”
“Use nothing but honesty,” she said. “Find the positive in everything you possibly can. Fight for freedom, which is the foundation of the oath you’re about to take today, and don’t ever quit.”
“You got that,” Rainford responded.
After taking the oath and then hugging his wife and son, Rainford told those gathered in the Commission Chambers of the R.L. Anderson Administration Center in Venice, “Super excited. This is a great opportunity that the Governor has bestowed upon me, and I’m humbled by it.”
He added that he is looking forward to hearing from all of his District 3 constituents.
“Sarasota is the place where everyone wants to live,” Rainford said, “and we intend to keep it that way.”