News, views and faces from the city beat.

By staff February 1, 2005


Managing her famous father leads to Fortune 500 success for Sherri Vitale.

Sherri Vitale is a bona fide jock. The 30-year-old daughter of professional sports broadcaster and Sarasota resident Dick Vitale trained at Nick Bollettieri's tennis academy, then scored a tennis scholarship to Notre Dame, where she earned her MBA.

In addition to Final Four tournaments, she's attended every major sporting event, from the U.S. Open to the World Series, Kentucky Derby, and the Barcelona Olympics. She and husband Thomas Krug, himself a former Notre Dame quarterback, added a set of twins to their team in 2002.

As founder of Tandem Enterprises, Sherri manages her famous father's Web site (, product merchandising, media requests, interviews, appearances and speaking engagements. Her success in handling Dad attracted Fortune 500 suitors, and now she oversees promotional and marketing projects for companies like Pepsi, General Motors and American Express. Is it hard to be a woman working in sports? On the contrary, it's opened many doors. There are tremendous opportunities for young girls and women to become active in a sport they enjoy, and they can make it a lifetime career. What was it like growing up with Dick Vitale? He has access to the players, athletes and coaches, so I had an opportunity to see first-hand the incredible work ethic, desire and determination these individuals possess and that it's not all the glamour you see on TV. Is he as energetic off-screen as on? Yes! Any broadcasting aspirations of your own? No, there isn't room in our family for another celebrity. Teams to watch this year? That's my dad's area of expertise, but as a former Domer, I will always be cheering for the Fighting Irish.-Pat Haire

Now Hear This

"Sarasota politics remind me a lot of those trick birthday candles you

can't blow out. You think you've dealt with an issue; but sure enough, six months later it flares up again."-- Sarasota City Manager Mike McNees at a Sarasota Civic League luncheon

Hot Seat

Mary Anne Servian is scheduled to be elected to a one-year term as mayor of Sarasota by her fellow city commissioners in the coming weeks; we asked her what to expect in city politics this year.

Q: Is all this growth we're seeing in Sarasota paying for itself?

A: Not yet, and that's because most of the growth we're seeing right now is cranes and construction sites, and they don't pay much taxes. But once people move in, it remains to be seen if the taxes paid will cover the costs of services used. I tend to think they will, because most people living downtown will be patronizing downtown merchants and sales tax revenues will grow-not just property taxes. Downtown growth will benefit the rest of the city, too; we'll be able to maintain a high level of services without putting the burden on the neighborhoods.

Q: How big a job is serving on the city commission these days?

A: Full-time. I spend 30 to 35 hours a week as a commissioner; and as a mayor, I expect to spend closer to 50 hours, including social obligations and public relations duties. The job has become more complex as the city has become more dynamic. There isn't a day goes by someone doesn't want to sit down and pitch their idea to us. And with all this redevelopment, it's more important than ever to preserve our city neighborhoods and the quality of life there.

Q: Do you have any goals for your first term as mayor?

A: First of all, I want to dedicate my year to veterans and

highlight veterans' issues. We're bringing the Traveling Wall here for the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War-that's April 30. Secondly, I want to emphasize the functions of the mayor's office. The mayor in Sarasota has more responsibilities but little more power than the other commissioners. I plan to be more accessible and visible. Now I walk every day-most often on Main Street-and pop in to ask merchants what they have to say. I also expect to shape commission meetings so we're not there until midnight. Good government doesn't happen after 11 p.m.

Q: Sarasota's Sister Cities program is a mystery to many. Could you tell us about your experience with it?

A: I've been abroad once as part of program, exploring setting up a sister city relationship with Treviso, a lovely community in the Dolomites. Not only did I learn; the people in Treviso learned from me, too. For example, they were shocked we have public input-they have none. They asked for some videotapes of our city commission meetings. They'd like to establish some small, clean manufacturing plants in the Sarasota area if we, in return, send more tourism into their community.

Q: What keeps you awake at night?

A: The tough decisions. Neighborhood leaders always want me to vote their way, but that's not the job of a commissioner. You're trying to look at the city overall.

Another thing is seeing the deplorable conditions that tenants in our public housing are living in and knowing I have virtually no control over the situation. No matter how badly I want to, I can't bring about any change there. All I can do is bring back communication.-Bob Ardren

Bay Trek

Everyone seems to have a private little list of what it takes to become a genuine Sarasotan-besides being third-generation. High on many lists is the simple act of sailing on Sarasota Bay. It's amazing how many people in today's society have never experienced the thrill of being aboard a boat under sail. The silence and grace are simply shocking the first time. And you really haven't seen all of Sarasota's beauty until you're quietly taking it in from the water.

No, you needn't buy a sailboat, or even have a friend who'll loan you

one. Just buy a ticket on the Enterprise and let somebody else do all the work while you just ride along, under sail.

Capt. Kirk Harden and his son, Capt. Justin, pilot their 42-foot Morgan Out Island Enterprise the length of Sarasota Bay and the nearby coastal waters, depending upon weather and length of sailing trip. For full details, go to the Enterprise's Web site at Ardren

Name That Dolphin

Every one of the 150 or so bottlenose dolphins that live in Sarasota Bay at some point during the year has a name-or at least a number- assigned by the world's oldest dolphin study program, the 34-year-old program operating out of Mote Marine Laboratory and largely funded by the Chicago Zoological Society.

Dr. Randy Wells, who's employed by the Chicago Zoological Society to run the program, says the number of dolphins living part of their lives in Sarasota Bay has increased 50 percent since 1970 when the count and study began. He's not really sure why, but suspects it has something to do with the lower shark population these days-the result of overfishing of that creature. The downside to that is, fewer sharks mean more stingrays (a favorite food of sharks), which actually means more dolphins injured by the rays. Nothing in life is free.-Bob Ardren

Big Top at the Pines

What do a circus and a community nursing facility for the aged have in

common? More than you might imagine. Hard work and dedication, for starters.

You see, some people are surprised to learn that not every old person in Sarasota is rich. Not even some of the best-known old Sarasotans.

Remember Helen Griffith, for example, who penned a gossip column for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for many years? Beloved by the community but needing help, Helen was one of many older Sarasotans who spent their last days in loving care at the Pines of Sarasota.

Stories of such community care span more than 50 years. And at least partly because of the Pines' care for many aged circus folks, along with the rest of Sarasota's less-than-wealthy class, the splendid Circus Sarasota is performing at the Pines as the near-northside facility unveils its capital campaign project of replacing the 1940s and '50s-standards buildings containing its 122 skilled nursing beds, more than half of the 204-bed total capacity.

"A half-century of compassion for all Sarasotans" is the theme of the

kickoff event Feb. 22, officially beginning the campaign of raising $10

million. Like the circus that will perform up close and personal at

the kickoff, the fund-raising magic will require tons of hard work and

dedication, too.

You probably won't be surprised in this day and age to learn that the Pines receives no city, state or federal subsidies. So instead of government, caretakers of our oldest turn to the circus-and us. Only in Sarasota.

If you'd like to help or attend the performance, call the Pines

director, John Overton, at 305-0250, ext. 7159.-Bob Ardren

Best Bite

Three cheeses-mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan-flavor my new favorite calzone, available as a cook-at-home dish from Whole Foods, Sarasota's newest social and, oh, yes, food center.

Sure, a slice or two of good anchovies would make it heavenly. But the "stock" three-cheese calzone takes only 10 to 12 minutes at 360 degrees, and you've got a hot-from-the-oven great sandwich.

This calzone offers good bread dough, even better cheese, a couple of herbs, and it tastes great. I like to sprinkle a bit of salt atop mine after brushing with milk just before baking to help the cheese flavors sparkle.

It's cheap ($3.98), keeps in the Kelvinator for days and days, and has that "fresh-baked" taste. Mmmm. Also available as pepperoni and meatball versions-here's betting you'll like them, too.-Bob Ardren

Art Buzz

Inside the visual arts with Mark Ormond.

Photographer Bill West, who's based in Sarasota, and his wife, Hope, a journalist, travel the world on assignment, and both now have projects involving the Web. Hope is writing a book about Charles Scowen, a Scotsman who worked in Sri Lanka between 1870 and 1880 doing botanical studies. The Wests came across Scowen in an album of prints they bought several years ago at auction in Europe. Hope was impressed with the work "because the images are so powerful and modern. Photographers had to experiment then because they were accustomed to using chemicals in certain climates and at certain temperatures and elevations."

Bill, whose work is featured regularly in national and local publications, is known for his black-and-white photography and is one of the few photographers who prints with platinum. He also says he's entering the digital world. "It bends your mind in that how you think about imagery is different," he says. "The scene does not have to be there when you take it [the picture.]" His work can be seen on, an online collection marketed to designers, corporations, advertising agencies and publishers who appreciate photography. He's recently done a new series about war that's on the site.

Bleushift, a visual arts studio led by Carol King, has produced a video in collaboration with musician-artist Francis Schwartz, who performs all over the world and lives in Sarasota. The DVD (soon to be released) was filmed at the Sainer Pavilion at New College and captures Schwartz's performance of The Headless Glory of André Chenier, a piece Schwartz composed in 1989 as an official part of the French Revolution Bicentennial celebration; it was also performed at the Sorbonne. (Poet Chenier's commitment to human rights earned him a trip to the guillotine.)

Bleushift has also been hired by Hollywood's Granite Heart Enterprises to create the opening title sequence and promotional materials for the film Builders, based on a story by Richard Yates. John Lacey, the film's director, is Yates' godson; executive producer Kip Skapyac lives in Sarasota.

And members of Bleushift are having an exhibition this month. Carol King is presenting collages about symbols used by the Freemasons and producing a video using miniature stages and puppets to tell the story of a man in prison. She'll also install four monitors with video headshots of people emoting. Joe Winchester will exhibit new video about "memory in relation to imagination and how one dictates the other" and will also show new large-format images taken with a pinhole camera. For more details, including the exhibition's location, go to

Plans are moving ahead to transform the former Sarasota High School building at U.S. 41 near Mound into a facility for the Ringling School of Art and Design and the new Sarasota Museum of Art, now that approval from the Sarasota County School Board has been won. How much the effort will finally cost is unclear at the moment. Architect Peter Horstman, who made the study and plan to bring the building up to school board standards for educational purposes and ADA requirements, says his estimate including plumbing, wiring and asbestos removal was $6 million.

There's not another building like this one in the city. Huge classrooms open from its wide terrazzo corridors and offer 50,000 square feet of space. The potential is enormous, with the school occupying the second and third floors and the museum to occupy the first. Ringling School president Larry Thompson is excited about this cultural arts and education center, and predicts that "when people think about the contemporary art museum they will also be thinking about the Ringling School."-Mark Ormond

From the pages of Sarasota-Manatee Business

Under the Radar

Bill and Charles Isaac are quietly amassing enough property to remake downtown Sarasota into a retail destination. For two years, the brothers have been approaching owners of downtown properties around Main Street about selling their storefronts in the hopes of assembling a piece big enough for what could be a $100 million project.

So far, the pair has purchased Ovo Café at State Street and Lemon Avenue for $2.4 million and the old Sanders Antiques building at the corner of First Street and Lemon Avenue for $1,060,500. They also have an option on a 99-year lease to build on United Methodist Church's parking lot on State.

Bill, former chairman of the FDIC, has talked about a mixed-use development with national brand retailers like Crate and Barrel.

Top Companies

Vengroff Williams & Associates, the Sarasota-based credit and collections agency headed by Harvey Vengroff, topped the 2005 list of top companies with $2.8 billion in annual sales-double its previous year's revenues. The list includes 108 local companies earning $20 million or more in gross revenue.

Real estate reported the biggest revenue gains, an average of 33 percent. Close behind were home building/construction (27 percent), retail (26 percent), insurance (22 percent) and manufacturing (19 percent).

Sunny Skies Ahead

For 2005, area experts are predicting more tourists from Canada and Europe (a population expected to expand by 9,000 in Sarasota County alone, in part because many boomers are not only retiring here, they're moving their adult children and their families here as well) and continually rising residential real estate values. "I don't see much evidence of a slowdown," says Fred Strobel, the Selby Professor of Economics at New College of Florida.

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