By John Morton
Certainly frustrated, but thoroughly undaunted.
That is how members of the Save Siesta Key incorporation group felt, and stood, after the tie vote (3-3) by the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation on Jan. 4 that killed, for now, the bill that many in the community hoped would progress to the state capitol for consideration and then to the local ballot.
Now, the earliest Siesta Key could become a municipality is Dec. 31 of 2023. If it again pursues that goal, it must start from scratch with the application process.
“We are disappointed with the outcome of last night’s vote, but we are not discouraged,” read a Save Siesta Key statement on Jan. 5. “We are currently evaluating our next steps and have no intention of giving up. We are so grateful for the support of our community and the volunteer neighborhood ambassadors.”
The Hon. Harry Anand, a Save Siesta Key board member and former mayor on Long Island who twice down the stretch made presentations to the delegation, shared optimism with his fellow board members and the ambassadors with an email the day after the vote.
“I am proud of the fact that this small community came together to take control of our island. This is true civic engagement,” he said, in part.
Anand also added, “This is by no definition a defeat. I agree that we have a road map for the future. I am confident that this community will pick up from here and make it happen two years from now.”
How the board will look going forward is unknown. The seven members are currently Anand, Tracy Jackson, Lisa Choate, Chuck Byrne, Steve Lexow, Tim Hensey, and chairman John Davidson.
Original board member Rick Munroe stepped down in September.
As for Davidson, who first spearheaded an incorporation effort in the 1990s but dropped the pursuit when Sarasota County agreed to work more closely with Siesta Key, he said he will no longer serve as chairman.
“I just don’t have the time. I still work a regular job. And now I’m 90,” Davidson said. “But I still want to be involved.”
Meanwhile, Jackson said the group will still collect petitions and donations.
During the Jan. 4 delegation meeting, it reported it had collected 2,360 petitions, about 1,600 of which came from registered voters – plenty more than the 10% required by state statute in the incorporation application process. Siesta Key has a population of 8,915, with about 7,500 registered voters.
However, the delegation during the vote voiced it wanted to see petitions of support from at least half of the registered voters if there is another incorporation attempt.
“We learned what we needed to do for next time,” Jackson said. “We’ll be addressing those concerns more thoroughly. We are not going away.”
Ways to do that, Jackson said, would be by recruiting more neighborhood ambassadors (about 30 are on board now) and adding more board members who possess sought-after areas of expertise that the board will soon be identifying.
“We’re looking from the cream of the crop to step up,” she said of potential additions to the board.
Regarding donations, Save Siesta Key as of Jan. 10 had collected $122,014 from 417 contributors.
Lexow, the board’s treasurer, reports that $77,944.52 has thus far gone out in the form of expenditures that include marketing, the hiring of consultant Bill Underwood to create a required feasibility study, for attorney Bob Pritt to write a required town charter, and for the hiring of Tallahassee lobbyist Jon Moyle, who was prepared to work with legislators during 2022 session.