From the Desk of Sarasota
City Manager Tom Barwin
June 5, 2015
Additional playground equipment will be installed soon at Gillespie Park thanks to a generous $50,000 grant from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation which was presented during the City Commission meeting Monday night.  A new net climber, typically geared toward children 5 to 12 years old, will be added in the fall or winter.  Consideration for the grant was a competitive process and the City's plan to improve the playground was selected over two dozen other submissions, in part because of the collaborative efforts with the surrounding neighborhoods.  The playground is popular with families in the Gillespie Park neighborhood and we're excited to receive the funding necessary to enhance the amenities there. The Selby Foundation has a long history of supporting City parks, including helping to fund the original play equipment at Gillespie Park over 20 years ago.  The Foundation also recently provided contributions for new recreational equipment at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex and an orchestra shell at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.  Thank you to the Selby Foundation!


  • Special City Commission
    Mon., June 8 - 6 p.m.
    City Hall - Commission Chambers
  • St. Armands BID
    Tues., June 9 - 8:30 a.m.
    City Hall - Room 109
  • Special Downtown Improvement District
    Tues., June 9 - 9 a.m.
    City Hall Annex - SRQ Media Studio
  • Historic Preservation Board
    Tues., June 9 - 3 p.m.
    City Hall - Commission Chambers
  • Planning Board
    Wed., June 10 - 6 p.m.
    City Hall - Commission Chambers
  • Bobby Jones Golf Club Study Committee
    Thurs., June 11 - 4 p.m.
    City Hall - Commission Chambers
City Career Opportunities
Opportunity, Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Copy Room Over The Dramatic Clouds and Sky.
City Records Manager
Crew Leader I - Solid Waste Division
Golf Course Attendant
IT - Manager, Professional Business Services
Lifeguard I
Loan Processor
Part-Time Administrative Specialist I
Police Officer, 2nd Class
Rec Attendant
School Crossing Guard
Treatment Plant Operator C
   Utilities Engineer (Contract)   

This Week's Items to Know:
Vanguard Lofts - Building Permit Issued    The Building Division of the Neighborhood and Development Services Department issued a building permit for a significant condominium project, called Vanguard Lofts, in the historic Rosemary District where the City is encouraging redevelopment and infill.
The project will be located at Central Avenue and 4th Street, and will be a handsome 4-story building with six condos.  The total construction value is estimated to be $2.4 million.

Although the developer has not given a specific date when construction will begin, we understand they are anxious to turn dirt, so we anticipate it should be relatively soon.

This is another significant residential project that we look forward to seeing come to fruition in response to the recent City Commission catalyst project policy initiatives. The area just north of Fruitville Road is seeing robust redevelopment and this is the kind of residential project which will attract more people and infuse activity and energy into the area, conveniently located within easy walking distance to downtown.
A rendering submitted to the City by Tetra Terra Development. 
Budget Award - A Generation of Excellence   For the 25th consecutive year, the Finance Department was honored with the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award by the Government Finance Officers Association.  This award was given for the financial plan for the current 2014-2015 fiscal year.  As far as professional honors go, this is the highest form of recognition in government budgeting.  In essence, receiving this prestigious award for 25 straight years reflects a generation of commitment and excellence in local government.  That is an extraordinary achievement and it should instill continued trust and confidence with the community that the City has a very professional and committed staff overseeing finances.

Congratulations to the entire Finance Department, especially Deputy Finance Director Kelly Strickland, Budget Manager Michelle Valentich and Susan Dodd, Assistant to the Finance Director, who played key roles supporting Finance Director John Lege in the production of this award winning document.   

Remembering Chris Lyons:  Former Finance Director     One of the reasons why the Finance Department remains in position to be recognized for so many professional accolades is the remarkable leadership of our former Finance Director Chris Lyons.  We are deeply saddened by his passing, last weekend, after a long and courageous battle against cancer.

Chris worked for the City for 25 years, five of which he had his hand on the tiller of the Finance Department serving as Director.  A professional with unwavering integrity and an ability to explain difficult financial issues in layman's terms, he guided the City through many challenging financial times including the Great Recession.  He was greatly respected in his field -- a giant in the government finance realm.  Following his retirement in 2013, the Florida Government Finance Officers Association honored Chris with the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award, just one of many professional recognitions he earned throughout this career. 

I was very fortunate to have Chris, with his vast institutional and professional knowledge, on staff when I became City Manager.  He helped recruit and select his successor, John Lege, and after Chris retired in 2013, he continued to be accessible, emailing or picking up the phone when City staff needed him.  Chris was a true professional -- an exceptional person who, throughout life's challenges, remained light-hearted, mirthful and a pleasure to be around. 

Chris was 60.  He is survived by his wife of 39 years, son, daughter and a 7-month-old grandson.

A celebration of life service will be held Sat., June 6 at 2 p.m. at Covenant Life Presbyterian Church, 8490 McIntosh Road. To read the obituary published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune click here.         

N. Water Tower Park - Improvements Start June 8    Through a collaborative effort between the City, Sarasota County and the
Exotic vegetation, like this air potato vine, will be removed. 
Sarasota Estuary Bay Program (SEBP), improvements at North Water Tower Park are scheduled to begin next Monday, June 8.  Crews will start removing exotic vegetation from the park in order to make way for a bigger improvement project -- construction on the nearby stormwater system.

Expect to see crews removing exotic plants, like Brazilian peppers and air potato vines, for the next 2-3 weeks. Most of the work will be done along the western and southeastern edges of the park, where the vegetation is particularly dense.  The park will remain open to the public.
Last year, SEBP received a $300,000 federal grant earmarked for stormwater improvements at North Water Tower Park and the nearby neighborhoods.  Since Sarasota County manages and maintains the stormwater system throughout the City, all three entities are collaborating on the project.

This is part of the City's proposed North Water Tower Park area Master Plan which includes improving park access to residents and making the park more open and visible by removing dense exotic vegetation.

We'll keep you posted as the project progresses.
The north side of North Water Tower Park. 
Van Wezel - $96,000 TDC Grant    We're pleased to announce our Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall was awarded a significant cultural arts grant in the amount of $96,590 from the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council.  We're appreciative of this grant which will help to continue the excellent programming at the community's cultural arts crown jewel -- and the number one tourist destination in Sarasota County (excluding beaches).

Thank you to the many other donors who, through their generous support, help make the Van Wezel the outstanding facility that it is.  Capital improvements (such as a new orchestra shell that will be installed this summer) and our education and community engagement programs (which introduce children to the cultural arts at a young age) are funded via grants.

In all,14 individuals, foundations, agencies and organizations awarded grants to the Van Wezel this year totaling $180,000.  And, Executive Director Mary Bensel tells us she's optimistically awaiting the results of several other grant submissions.  Thanks again to our generous community!  And a special thank you to the Van Wezel Foundation for their ongoing support.                   
Healthy Community Update - Winners Announced    Believe it or not, the 8-week fitness challenge, "Lose Big, Win Bigger" at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex is over already! 
Pamela Allen claimed first place in the
"Lose Big, Win Bigger" Challenge. 
  We're pleased to announce that 30 people participated in the challenge (21 women and 9 men, ranging from 34 to 64 years old -- including one former City of Sarasota mayor).  Together they lost a combined 337 pounds.  That's an average of 11 pounds per person.  Congratulations, everyone!

Winners were based on the highest percentage of weight loss and awarded prizes:

1st PlacePamela Allen - 11.39% - Wii Fitness Package
2nd PlaceAngela Bacon - 9.24% - Fit Bit Charge
3rd PlaceFredd Atkins - 9.21% - Nextbook 7 Tablet

The goal of "Lose Big, Win Bigger" is to promote and encourage a healthy, fit lifestyle.  As a result of the competition, 20 people registered for passes at RLTCC and now have access to top of the line workout facilities and fun but challenging exercise classes. Keep up the good work!

 2nd place winner Angela Bacon and 3rd place winner Fredd Atkins
City Summer Interns    It's that time of year when students hope to learn more about a possible career path by becoming a summer
Christine Russo is an intern with the Utilities Department working with the City's chemist.  She will attend the University of Florida in the fall and plans to study environmental engineering. 
intern.  Several interns will be in the Neighborhood and Development Services Department as well as Utilities Department learning about various job skills and responsibilities while possibly earning course credit.  Most of the interns are voluntary.  Typically, if a student expresses an interest and a department has a need, the Human Resources Department will work to pair them together. 

Although it's summer vacation, here's to a summer of learning for our interns!  Good luck!

Upcoming Events 

Community Basketball Game 
SPD vs. Booker High Boys Varsity 
Booker High Gym - 3201 N. Orange Ave. 
Fri., June 5  
7 p.m. 
$5 admission

SRQ Conscious Movement Dance
Bayfront Community Center 
Sun., June 7
10 a.m. - Noon

Feldenkrais Yoga 
Bayfront Community Center 
Wed., June 10
9:15 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.

Folk Dancers
Bayfront Community Center
Wed., June 10
7 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Senior Ballroom Dancing 
Bayfront Community Center
Thurs., June 11
10 a.m. - Noon

Scottish Dancers 
Bayfront Community Center
Thurs., June 11
7 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. 

Van Wezel:  Shows on Sale Now! 

Friday Fest:  Kettle of Fish
Fri., June 19 - 5 p.m. 
Free Outdoor Concert

American Idol Live!

Wed., July 8 - 7:30 p.m.

Friday Fest: Kim Betts & the Gamble Creek Band
Fri., July 10 - 5 p.m. 
Free Outdoor Concert

Friday Fest:  Yesterdayze
Fri., August 21 - 5 p.m. 

Friday Fest: Reverend Barry & Funktastic Soul
Featuring The Hellacious Horns
Fri., Sept. 18 

The Ultimate Doo Wop Show

Sat., Oct. 24 - 8 p.m.

Lewis Black:  The Rant is Due:  Part Deux
Fri., November 13 - 8 p.m.

Straight No Chaser
Thurs., November 19 - 8 p.m.

Moscow Ballet:  Great Russian Nutcracker
Mon., December 28 - 3 p.m. & 7 p.m.

Don't forget:  subscriptions are now on sale for the upcoming 2015-2016 season of Broadway, dance, and orchestra performances. The digital edition of the 2015-2016 Subscriptions Brochure can be viewed by clicking here

To purchase tickets over the phone call 941-953-3368 or stop by the Box Office at 777 N.Tamiami Trail. 

For more information visit

Thanks for reading this week's edition.  If you'd like to receive Weekly Briefs directly to your inbox click 'Join Our Mailing List' below or send us an email at

Tom Barwin
City Manager