With two officers of County Commission officially leaving as of Nov. 22, county attorney recommends interim chair and vice chair be named

Cutsinger to be acting chair and Detert acting vice chair until Dec. 9 board retreat

Each year, during their annual retreat, in December, the Sarasota County commissioners elect from among themselves three new officers for the next year: the chair, the vice chair and the pro tem.

(As Law Insider explains, a chair pro tem may “chair any board meeting … in the absence of the chairperson [chairman].”)

In December 2021, the commissioners named Alan Maio the chair for his final year on the board, with term limits necessitating his stepping down from the District 4 seat as of November 2022. Then they elected Commissioner Ron Cutsinger, who had joined the board in November 2020, as vice chair.

Cutsinger had prior local government leadership experience as a member of the county’s Planning Commission, which considers land-use issues and makes recommendations on them to the County Commission.

Finally, the commissioners in December 2021 named Commissioner Christian Ziegler pro tem.

If he wanted another term on the commission, Ziegler would have to run for re-election in 2022, they knew.

As it turned out, Ziegler chose not to seek another term on the board. Thus, as County Attorney Frederick “Rick” Elbrecht pointed out to the commissioners on Nov. 15, two of the three board officers would be giving up their positions as of Nov. 22, when the two new commissioners will be sworn into office. (They are Siesta Key architect Mark Smith, who won the District 2 seat that Ziegler is vacating; and Nokomis chiropractor Joe Neunder, who will take Maio’s place as the District 4 representative.)

Therefore, Elbrecht continued, since the new officers would not be chosen until the Dec. 9 board retreat, he and his staff recommended that an acting chair and acting vice chair be named in the interim.

If Commissioner Cutsinger had to be absent from a meeting, Elbrecht explained, “There would be no backup [for him].”

Yet, Elbrecht added, the acting chair might be needed to sign paperwork in a timely fashion, for example, or handle other necessary county business.

In response to the recommendation, Commissioner Michael Moran made a motion naming Cutsinger acting chair and Commissioner Nancy Detert acting vice chair from Nov. 22 until Dec. 31.

“We will have those deeper discussions at the retreat in December,” Moran added, referring to the officers for the 2023 calendar year.

Then Elbrecht pointed out that the acting positions should be in effect until Dec. 9.

Maio clarified that further for his colleagues: “We need the continuity till your board retreat, which [Ziegler] and I won’t be at …”

On Dec. 9, Maio continued, the commissioners could elect an acting chair and acting vice chair to serve through the end of December, as well as new officers for 2023.

“Is that right?” Maio asked Elbrecht.

“Yes,” Elbrecht replied.

Moran promptly amended his motion to name Cutsinger acting chair and Detert acting vice chair from Nov. 22 to Dec. 9. After Maio seconded it, the motion won unanimous approval.

In his final action as chair during a board meeting, on Nov. 16, just before noon, Maio started to hand Cutsinger the gavel. However, as Cutsinger reached for it, Maio held onto it.

“Let it go. Let it go,” Cutsinger told Maio laughingly.

“No!” Maio replied, also chuckling. “I want it. I want to keep it!”

Finally, Maio let it go, and Cutsinger adjourned the meeting.