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Hizzoner

By Hannah Wallace June 30, 2006

Exactly a year ago I wrote about the need for a CEO of the people-specifically, an elected mayor for the city of Sarasota. The CEO reference related to those common attributes shared by exceptional business and government chief executives. These leaders have vision, inspire others, are focused and decisive, build consensus and continually prioritize. And, while the word may scare some, these executives are strong. These qualities may reside in the city's current commissioners and city manager, but the existing municipal structure stifles their use.

At the risk of seeming to be a dog with a bone, I'm compelled to raise the elected mayor issue again. Why focus on this when there are so many other pressing issues staring us in the face?

It's actually because of all these still unresolved critical issues-including workforce housing, downtown development and parking-that we need an elected mayor now. There's simply too much to deal with and too much at stake to leave it up to five commissioners-any five commissioners. This situation is another example where less can be more in our complex modern society-one leader rather than five.

The current city structure, which might be better suited to a static environment, is the problem. The sluggish and bureaucratic commissioner/city manager system just doesn't seem appropriate for a city that is evolving as dynamically as Sarasota.

Just about everyone I speak with strongly agrees that we need change. While people may differ on how strong the mayor should be, I sense there's a majority out there that truly wants an elected mayor.

A year ago, while I was writing my column, City Commissioner and then-Mayor Mary Ann Servian told me she was a supporter of an elected mayor but was actively opposed to the 2002 referendum on the issue because of overly extensive mayoral powers. She said she would soon put forth an initiative advocating a charter review committee that would make appropriate recommendations on what an elected-mayor system should look like. As I write, the subject has just now been put on the agenda. All I know is it's a year later and we have old and new burning issues facing us, and the clock is ticking.

As I wrote back in 2005, we need someone to cut through all the discussion and lead us through this dramatic period of change. And that mayor should be given appropriate powers and be subject to checks and balances.

Here's hoping that action replaces the inertia on this subject and we have a referendum on it as soon as possible. It would be great to be writing in 2007 about our new CEO of the people.

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