By Diana Colson
Approximately 150 Members and Guests of the Siesta Key Association gathered at the Annual Breakfast Meeting. The
event was held at St. Boniface Episcopal Church in the Community Room, with The Honorable Nora Patterson, Sarasota County Commissioner, slated as speaker. Guests gathered between 8 and 8:30 for coffee and juice, and were seated at round tables. There they were treated to an on-going slide presentation of remarkable photographs of Sarasota, perhaps the most extraordinary being the photo of a dog riding the waves on the back of a dolphin!
A lovely breakfast buffet was served, and the annual meeting was underway by 9:30.
Call to Order was made by 2013 President, Catherine Luckner.
Pledge of Allegiance was led by Tom Harmer, County Administrator.
Committee Reports were presented by retiring Board Member, Peter van Roekens. He reported that voters and various groups all over Siesta Key are unanimous in their opposition to the dredging of Big Pass. The noise issue remains ongoing, and is primarily a Village issue. SKA continues to oppose any buildings on undeveloped lots that disregard the setback line.
President’s Message was given by retiring president, Catherine Luckner. She stressed the importance of developing a culture of care for our island environment. Her words were inspirational: “No item is too small. Stewardship is a mindset. It’s a labor of purpose, ethics and care. . . The past matters, because invariably the same issues will continue to surface . . . What we have that is working we want to keep.”
Acknowledgements of Special Guests and Board Retirement: Catherine Luckner presented a stunning glass starfish to retiring board member, Peter van Roekens, who has served for a total of 12 years. To retiring board member Ron Flynn, she presented a handsome glass sculpture that resembled an ocean wave. She spoke very highly of the wonderful work done by both of these men.
Brilliant yellow shirts were presented to several Special Guests: Jeanne Dubi, President of the Audubon Society; Fire Chief Mike Tobias; and soon-to-retire Sheriff Tom Knight.
2014 Directors and Officers were presented by Joyce Kouba, Nominating Chair. She introduced three new Directors: Robert Stein, Troy Roberts, and Paul Wilkinson. Continuing Directors will be Beverly Arias, Helen Clifford, Deet Jonker, Joyce Kouba, Catherine Luckner, Michael Shay, and Joe Volpe. Joyce Kouba will serve as Secretary, Helen Clifford as Treasurer, Catherine Luckner as 2nd Vice President, Robert Stein as 1st Vice President, and Michael Shay as President.
Introduction of Speaker: President Michael Shay performed his first official duty when he presented Sarasota County Commissioner, Nora Patterson, to the audience. He praised her for being a major champion of Siesta Key.
Speaker: Nora Patterson has held political office for over 21 years, and has served 15 years on the County Commission. She will be leaving her position in November of 2014, and views her service as having been an opportunity to make a positive difference. Here are some of the things she said:
“Over the past years, the economy of the state has crashed right along with the economy of the US. Property values plummeted, and Sarasota lost 40% of their tax revenues. They have come back 4 %, but that still leaves a 36% deficit. Nonetheless, we were able to complete a major portion of road network, and also to lengthen the lake out at the rowing facility, a place that will bring business to Sarasota County. We redoubled our efforts to keep tourism going. We raised tax on short term rentals from 3 % to 5 %, and used that to build the new baseball stadium. When declared the #1 beach in the USA, we enjoyed the best tourism seasons we have ever seen. In the last 14 years, we have not raised your taxes. We have the 3rd lowest property tax rates in Florida.
“Now we are through the worse of the recession, and we still have substantial reserve funds. Recovery is happening. There is an increase in prices of our homes, and vacancy rates are lower. A lot of projects are moving forward. We are spending $20 million on Beach improvements, including 140 new parking spaces. At Turtle Beach, we have created more gazebos and walkways, and the beach will be re-nourished. . . Septic tank replacement continues on the mainland, which will affect Siesta Key Waters. . . When the Trolley comes in to Siesta Key Beach, use it or lose it! It will diminish traffic on Siesta Key.”
“To thrive, we have to continue to be a very attractive place. Please, let’s not injure the beauty of Sarasota because we’re coming out of a recession. The 20/50 plan is complex and tough to read, but the intent is the preservation of open space, the maintenance of rural neighborhoods, and the development of property in a walkable way.”
Nora Patterson then introduced Tom Harmer, our new County Administrator, who stressed that it was important to always listen before we act.
Closing Comments: Michael Shay presented Catherine Luckner with a gorgeous orchid plant in appreciation for her leadership of SKA over the past three years.
Michael charged the membership with this responsibility: “The Board does not make decisions alone on what we will work on. You members have a voice in the project. If there is something SKA is not addressing and needs to address, we need to hear it from you.”
The Annual Breakfast Meeting was then adjourned.