County Commission appoints Robert James Bessom and Victoria Brill to the two open positions, after re-advertising the vacancies
Once again, a Siesta Key resident who is a past candidate for the Sarasota County Commission has been turned down by that commission for a seat on one of its advisory boards.
On July 12 — the day it held its final regular meeting before taking its summer break — the County Commission unanimously voted to appoint Robert James Bessom of Venice and Victoria Brill of Longboat Key to its Public Facilities Financing Advisory Board (PFFAB). Commissioner Michael Moran nominated both Bessom and Brill, and Commissioner Alan Maio seconded the nominations.
In late May, Moran complained that only two people had applied for two seats open on that board. Lourdes Ramirez of Siesta Key was one of them. The other was Keith Johnson of Sarasota, a client advisor and vice president of banking and financial planning with SunTrust Bank in downtown Sarasota.
Ramirez is a past president of both the Siesta Key Association and the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA). She also ran against Maio in the 2014 Republican Primary for the seat Maio ended up winning.
“I’m struggling that this is fair from an applicant pool,” Moran told his colleagues on May 23. Perhaps the county should re-advertise the positions, he suggested.
When Commissioner Nancy Detert responded that the commissioners should feel fortunate that they have volunteers for the multitude of advisory boards, Moran agreed with her. Nonetheless, he pointed out that attendance on the PFFAB is stable. “We’re not taking a step backwards. In fact, I suggest that we might raise the bar, rather,” Moran added.
Then he made a motion to re-advertise the two vacancies, and Maio seconded it, calling the PFFAB “a big important board.” Only Commissioner Charles Hines voted against re-advertising the open seats.
The county’s website explains that the Public Facilities Financing Advisory Board advises and makes recommendations “to the County Commission on impact fees, other funding sources, the fiscal impacts of levels of service and other issues relating to the provision and financing of public facilities.”
Among the board’s current members are Kevin Cooper, president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce; former Sarasota County Administrator Jim Ley; and former e Planning Commission member Roland Piccone.
The advisory council’s governing document calls for it to have three representatives of public facilities and/or financial professionals; three representatives of civic organizations; and three representatives “of development, building and construction,” the website notes.
A memo provided to the County Commission in advance of the July 12 meeting says the notice about the vacancies was issued following the board’s May 23 discussion; the application period was open through June 23.
After the two open positions were re-advertised on the county’s website, Bessom, Brill and Jon Mast also applied for the seats. On July 11, the commission appointed Mast, CEO of the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association, to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Ramirez had filed her application with the county on March 22, according to a document provided to the commission; Johnson filed his on March 23.
Mast submitted his application on June 5, followed by Bessom on June 9 and Brill on June 16.
During a presentation that lasted only a couple of minutes, Tom Polk, the county’s impact fee administrator — who also serves as the liaison to the PFFAB — pointed out to the commission on July 12 that the criteria for one of the unexpired, three-year terms to be filled called for the individual to be a “financial professional representative.” The other position needed to be filled by someone representing a civic organization, Polk added. Both terms are effective through January 2019.
On her application, Ramirez wrote that she is an entrepreneur whose business is called Siesta Key Community Inc. She is on the board of the League of Women Voters, she noted, and she has owned small businesses since 1999. Additionally, she wrote, she has an MBA “with extensive experience in finance while working for a variety of businesses.”
The new PFFAB members
Bessom noted on his PFFAB application that he learned about the position from Maio. A nine-year resident of the county, Bessom wrote in his resume — which he submitted with the application — that he retired as senior staff engineer for new product introduction/Six Sigma in General Electric’s Aviation division in 2008. He had been with the company for 42 years, he added.
In the latter part of his career, Bessom continued, he “focused on productivity/process improvements as [he] personally generated over $50 million in savings/cost reductions from projects for which I was responsible.”
From 2008 to 2010, he noted, he held the positions of director at large, vice president and president of the Casa Del Lago Condominium Association. From 2013 to 2015, he was “Treasurer/Secretary for the Residences at Gondola Park Condominium Association and responsible for an Operations Budget of $246,000 and Reserve Funds of $491,000,” he added.
Brill wrote in her application that she has been a county resident for 14 years. She serves as a legislative assistant in the Florida Legislature.
Brill noted that she learned of the PFFAB vacancy through the county’s weekly email blast.
A member of the Junior League of Sarasota, the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club and Sarasota Young Professionals, she wrote that she is “an experienced professional that has a diverse background in state government, non-profits, and public and private sector jobs. I will be graduating with a Master’s in Business Administration in December. My combined work and education has provided a vast area of knowledge and skills that will be useful towards the council.”