Greetings from the Gulf: November

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During this time of thanks we thank The King, cummerbund and all

By John Morton

Five years ago, when Mark Smith allowed this very newspaper to photograph his beach wedding, he must not have had aspirations to run for public office.

Or, he simply didn’t count on a monster like me coming down the pike.
Either way, here we are in 2023, he’s a powerful Sarasota County commissioner, and I’m running a picture of him in his fuchsia cummerbund.
Good thing Smith is a smart fella, well aware that in slander and defamation cases a public figure has a higher burden of proof because they are assumed to have voluntarily exposed themselves to public scrutiny.
So, here we go. Fuchsia? Yes, I know he was playing it smart by matching his lovely wife Esther’s dress, yet I think I’d go with a colorful bow tie instead. Smith’s a thin guy, so it wasn’t like he had something to hold in place.
And this advice comes from a man who wore flipflops to his job interview. Hey, this thing is called Siesta SAND, right?
By the way, for those of you who fear I’m burning a bridge, may I remind you that we have two.

But how do I know Smith will be a good sport on this? Because I already felt him out. There I was at the podium for the 2023 Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner, our version of the Academy Awards, presenting the Shining Star Award, our version of Best Picture.
It was there I brought down the house by declaring that the only thing worse than being slapped by Will Smith is being slapped by Mark Smith.
And it was then and there that I cemented my lofty status as Island Dork.
Smith took the high road, only responding with something clever like “That can be arranged!” He never actually slapped me.
At least not yet.
Anyway, for that I thank him. Which brings me to my point of all this — when asked what I, during this season of gratitude, am most thankful for as far as Siesta Key is concerned, I immediately thought of Mark Smith. We haven’t had a Siesta resident on the commission since Nora Patterson, and she has a park named after her. By the time Mark is done, I hope we can find something more valuable to bear his name than merely a park. Like a parking spot!
And remember, he narrowly won by fewer than 400 votes. If you attend our commissioner meetings, or watch them online, you’ll know how Smith has been the ultimate steward for all things Siesta. I highly doubt we’d be seeing that had his challenger won.
And also remember, Smith took a big chance in potentially losing local votes when, as a county commissioner candidate at a Save Siesta Key town hall meeting, he spoke his mind about his concern over an endeavor that would likely lead to tax increases. To me, that showed his true colors — and fuchsia doesn’t come to mind. In my opinion, he has a black and white sense of what is best for our island with no gray area in between.

This month marks one year in office for Smith. I asked him by email what had been his biggest challenge, top accomplishment, and largest surprise.
His response was a bit uncharacteristically slow in coming, but his one-word answer of “time” on the biggest challenge explained a lot.
As for the others, he said:
“I believe my biggest accomplishment has been advocating for Siesta Key issues before the other commissioners and county staff.
“We have several issues, like adopting a traffic model for Siesta Key that would be developed taking into account the traffic patterns around having the No. 1 beach in the country, our numerous crosswalks, the array of modes of transportation on Siesta Key, and the seasonal increase in traffic that we all enjoy.
“This traffic model would be used to determine the intensity of new development on Siesta Key that requires a special exception to confirm that it would not violate the comprehensive plan.
“My biggest surprise is how welcoming all the neighborhoods, civic associations, and groups of people that I have met with that tell me I’m the first county commissioner they have had at their meetings in years. This all reinforces the fact that we are all in this together and we need to continue to work together for the betterment of our community and county.”
Indeed, Smith has earned our trust and respect. Which means, in year No. 2, he should honor the tried-and-true politician privilege of abusing it!
A lesser man would go with a superhero cape in the commissioner chambers, but that’s been done to death. How about a triumphant return of the fuchsia cummerbund? Can we embroider a big SK on it?
If Mike Cosentino can wear a sport coat to meetings with RBR (Reopen Beach Road) on the lapels, then why not?
And not only would Esther appreciate it, but I’d like to think it would get her to stand by her man at the dais. Did you know Esther is quite the singer? I’ve heard her belt out the national anthem at a variety of public gatherings, and she can really bring it.

So, speaking of Smith earning our respect, a little reinforcement wouldn’t hurt with Esther unloading some Aretha before her husband speaks. After his comments, a little Tina could be in order. “(Simply) the Best” comes to mind.
Hey, had she performed an impassioned version of “Heartbreak Hotel” for commissioners back in October of 2021, maybe we wouldn’t be in all this mess.
Anyway, I’m on to something here. Let’s face it — when you think of Mark Smith, you think of Elvis. And yes, rhinestones can be installed on a cummerbund.
Finally, it is beyond anticlimactic when commission chairman Ron Cutsinger simply says “This meeting is adjourned.”
What we really need to know, announced loudly by Esther, is that “MARK SMITH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING.”
Only then will we leave.

(John Morton is managing editor of Siesta Sand.)

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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