Two Sarasota residents win appointment to county’s Citizen Tax Oversight Committee

Board deals with issues related to county’s 1-cent discretionary sales tax

The commissioners meet in downtown Sarasota on Sept. 22, with Chair Michael Moran absent. News Leader image

With the majority of the Sarasota County commissioners indicating uncertainty about whom to nominate — and then technical problems for acting Chair Alan Maio — it took about five-and-a-half minutes on Sept. 22 for the board to approve two new members of the county’s Citizen Tax Oversight Committee.

Having announced that Chair Michael Moran was away in Michigan because of a family emergency, Maio was presiding when Kim Radtke, director of the Office of Financial Management, stepped to the podium to announce the agenda item.

A Sept. 22 staff memo noted that two individuals needed to be named to serve as at-large representatives on the committee, effective through October 2024, “in order to maintain staggered terms.”

Three people had applied for the positions, Radtke noted, and all three were qualified.

When Maio asked for nominations, none of his colleagues responded. After 14 seconds ticked away, Commissioner Nancy Detert said, “I don’t know any of the applicants.” She acknowledged that the chair of the commission typically talks last on any agenda item. Nonetheless, she told Maio, “If you know any of ’em …”

“I do,” he replied. “I really want to reserve my talking for when you all are done,” he added.

Then Maio reminded his colleagues that all three applications were in their packets for the meeting that day.

“Just looking for the resumes,” Detert responded.

Commissioner Charles Hines indicated that he found all three to have good qualifications for service on the committee.

The county’s webpage for the Citizens Tax Oversight Committee, which is not an advisory board, says the members “[e]nsure the infrastructure surtax project process is fair, open and fully disclosed and that money is allocated appropriately.”

“Surtax” refers to the penny sales tax used to generate revenue for county construction projects, such as new libraries and parks. County voters last approved the surtax during a referendum in 2007. That tax levy, which began on Sept. 1, 2009, is in effect through Dec. 31, 2024.

The county’s first 1%, discretionary sales surtax was approved by voters on June 27, 1989, a county document says.

The members of the committee serve four-year terms, the webpage notes.

With no nominations forthcoming from the other board members on Sept. 22, Maio said, “I’m usually the first one out of the gate with [those], I know, but I didn’t think I’d be doing it [that day].”

Maio then cited the names of the three applicants: Clay Keeley, Duncan Miller and Les Nichols, all of Sarasota.

Immediately after that, Maio pointed out that his laptop was not working, so he called for a break, so a county staff member could try to resolve the problem.

After the break, the board members’ microphones apparently did not work right away. Finally, Karen Rushing, clerk of the Circuit Court and county comptroller, told the commissioners the mics were back on.

Les Nichols. Image from his LinkedIn account

Maio then announced that Miller and Nichols had been nominated. No board member proposed that Keeley be considered, so Maio called for the official vote on Miller’s and Nichols’ appointments. They won unanimous approval.

Miller noted in his application that he is an economist. In response to the question, “Why do you want to serve on this advisory council?” he wrote, “To apply my education and work experience to the problems of my community.”

Miller pointed out that he holds a doctorate in economics and that he worked for a number of organizations, including Arthur Anderson & Co. in Chicago and the U.S. Agency for International Development (having served in Turkey, Oman, Egypt and the Ivory Coast ). He also is a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute’s Executive Excellence Program.

Nichols wrote on his application that he is regional director of the Castle Group. “I was raised to always serve the community in some form or fashion,” he added. “I have always worked in some capacity wherever I have lived.”

A native of north Georgia, he noted that he is a Marine, having served in the Corps for four years. Additionally, “I have worked in the property management industry for 20 years,” he wrote. He manages a team of 60 employees “with Properties scattered from St. Pete to South Sarasota,” he noted.

Miller also wrote that he has had his real estate license for four years.

Clay Keeley. Image from his LinkedIn account

Keeley noted in his application that he works for the ARGI Financial Group in Louisville, Ky., an investment management firm. He added that he has owned a home on Siesta Key for more than three years and recently made Florida his home.

Keeley wrote that he worked with Merrill Lynch for 30 years before joining ARGI Financial.

“With my financial background and experience,” he continued, “I felt this would be a way to serve the community. It is also a good way to meet others that also like to serve.”

A related document in the commission packet for the Sept. 22 meeting said Nichols submitted his application on July 15; Keeley, on July 16; and Miller, on Aug. 5.