Thaxton once again loses out on bid for Planning Commission seat

Stultz wins reappointment to advisory board, with Peters to fill out Neunder’s unexpired term

Former County Commissioner Jon Thaxton. Photo courtesy of Sarasota County

This week, for the third time in almost six years, former County Commissioner Jon Thaxton lost out on a bid to join the advisory board considered the most prestigious in county government.

Although Commissioner Nancy Detert nominated Thaxton for a term on the Planning Commission on May 8, she was the sole commissioner to support him.

Instead, on a 4-1 vote, her colleagues reappointed T. Andrew Stultz to a seat on the Planning Commission. Stultz’s term was due to expire at the end of the month, according to a memo provided to the County Commission in advance of the May 8 meeting.

Each term is four years.

Stultz, a Venice resident, owns Atlas Building Co. of Florida LLC, a construction company, his application said. He has been a resident of the county for 13 years, the application noted, adding that his firm “pursues Sarasota County construction projects.”

Stultz also wrote that he is a member of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange “and various industry groups.”

Detert did support the naming of Andrew Peters of Sarasota, vice president of wealth management for LCM Capital Advisors, to fill out the unexpired term of Dr. Joseph Neunder, who had resigned from the Planning Commission.

In his application, Peters wrote, “The most pressing planning and land use issues in Sarasota County involve strategies to properly [cope] with the immense population growth in Sarasota in ways that can appease both current residents of Sarasota while continuing to encourage new residents to make Sarasota their home. In order to resolve this issue a very long term planning view must always be taken into account when making current planning decisions so that new projects and developments do not negatively impact future developments that have not yet begun the planning process.”

Maio nominated Neunder, a Nokomis chiropractor, to the Planning Commission in January 2017. Neunder was one of the contributors to Maio’s re-election campaign in 2018, campaign finance records showed.

The May 8 staff memo said Peters’ term would be in effect through January 2021.

Andrew Peters. Image from the LCM Capital Advisors website

When Chair Charles Hines introduced the agenda item on May 8, county Planner Todd Dary pointed out that eight applications had come in for the two positions. However, the staff memo to the board noted that two of those “were received after the April 19, 2019 deadline, as indicated on the Applicant Appointment Worksheet.”

One of those was from Douglas Christy of Sarasota, which came in on April 26, the worksheet said. The other was from Ellen Silkes, which came in on April 22.

Christy is an attorney with Becker & Poliakoff in Sarasota, he noted in his application. Silkes is a retired “physician/surgeon,” she wrote on her application. She lives in downtown Sarasota.

Thaxton was the earliest of the eight to submit his application, according to the worksheet: March 25.

Thaxton stepped down from the County Commission in 2012 after three terms. A lawsuit filed by a citizens group had led to the implementation of a two-term limit for the board.

An Osprey resident, Thaxton is senior vice president for community investment with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation in Venice. He won respect on the County Commission as an environmental advocate, including serving as a champion of the endangered Florida scrub jay. He also was one of the primary proponents of the county’s ban on nitrogen-based fertilizers during the rainy season each year, an effort to reduce the runoff of those nutrients. Researchers consider nitrogen the biggest source of fuel for red tide blooms. (See the related story in this issue.)

With the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Thaxton has been prominent in community discussions regarding measures to help reduce homelessness and to create more affordable housing stock.

He noted on his application that he had learned of the unexpired Planning Commission term from Neunder. Thaxton previously applied for a Planning Commission seat in 2013 and in 2015. In that first attempt, he won support only from then-Commissioner Nora Patterson. On Thaxton’s second attempt, no county commissioner voted for him. The unanimous decision went to Kevin Cooper of Sarasota, then vice president of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. (Cooper went on to lead the Chamber for several years.)

The other applicants for the open seats this time were James DeNiro of Sarasota, a retired sergeant with the Sarasota Police Department and a licensed Realtor; Mark Hawkins of Sarasota, a general contractor who is a past candidate for the County Commission; and Bruce M. Iorie of Osprey, a retired electrician.

T. Andrew Stultz. Image from LinkedIn

After Chair Hines called for nominations for the two seats during the commission’s regular meeting on May 8, Commissioner Alan Maio put up the names of Stultz and Peters.

“I have a conflicting nomination,” Detert announced, noting that she wanted to nominate Peters and Thaxton.

After conferring with County Attorney Frederick “Rick” Elbrecht, Hines called first for a vote on Peters. Following the board’s unanimous approval of that appointment, Hines then called for the vote on Stultz. With Maio and Commissioners Michael Moran and Christian Ziegler voicing support for Stultz, Hines said, “I’ll vote ‘Aye’ on Andy Stultz,” which made that a 4-1 decision.

Then Maio told his colleagues, “I think we owe a thank you to Dr. Joe Neunder for his service for several years as he moves on to another thing in his life,” which necessitated his resignation.

Referring to the applicants, Hines said, “Great group.”

3 thoughts on “Thaxton once again loses out on bid for Planning Commission seat”

  1. In a state that’s on the forefront of visible effects of climate change one would think someone like Jon Thaxton would be an obvious choice to serve on the Planning Commission. Unless we get a handle on red tide, toxic algae, water quality we may be seeing a net loss of population. Let me quote Kenneth Boulding a British economist/educator, “Anyone who believes in exponential growth in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”
    The County Commission bias toward the developers is as unconscionable as it is obvious.

  2. Jon Thaxton, of course, should be kept off the Planning Commission at all costs! As a County Commissioner he led the way to preserving open spaces, expanding park lands, protecting the Myakka River Valley, and worked on a comprehensive plan that allowed sustainable growth, among other accomplishments. Who wants a Republican like that butting into to paving paradises!

  3. It’s extremely disappointing our Commissioners never selected Jon Thaxton for the Planning Commission.
    Serving on the citizen-driven Planning commission requires Members with a strong knowledge base, care for the future of our community, experience with our Development history and ordinance, and willingness to ask often difficult questions.
    Knowledgeable and fact- based discussions provides the credibility to subsequent decisions. Willingness to consider disputed elements and public comments.

    We both believed development and planning expertise, history of public service with distinction, environmental regulations and economic values for our County would be a dream candidate.

    If these skills do not qualify someone, what are the BCC standards?
    Who reviews the qualification standards for the Planning Commission?
    We appreciate your news coverage. Thank you, Catherine and Bob

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