Atkins Files In District 1, Whatever That May Be

Atkins Files In District 1, Whatever That May Be

Jacob Ogles

Former Sarasota Mayor Fredd Atkinswill run for Sarasota County Commission, no matter what district lines look like.

“It should be rather obvious the county commission is trying to redraw the lines to significantly affect the campaign,” Atkins said. “I’m running to provide the face of who they are trying to get out of the process.”

Atkins last week filed as candidate in District 1. That’s the same district where the Democrat was defeated by Republican Mike Moran in 2016, but this year brings a decidedly different political landscape. With passage of single-member districts, commissioners will no longer be selected by county-wide vote but by only voters within their district.

At least for the moment, Democratic voters make up a plurality in District 1. The district also boasts the highest concentration of black and Hispanic voters in the county.

In so many ways, Atkins sees this election as a parallel to his entry into politics in the late 1980s. After working for years with the NAACP to force Sarasota to go from city-wide races to having three district races, Atkins in 1985 ran and became Sarasota’s first black city commissioner. A couple years later he was elected mayor.

Now he wants to be Sarasota County’s first Democratic commissioner in more than 50 years. He’s always disliked at-large elections, which he said unfairly superimpose a majority view in a large area across all smaller communities in a jurisdiction.

He promises to bring change in a number of ways to county dialogue. That includes reducing the influence of developers and increasing transparency of meetings, he said.

He also hopes to take some lessons he demonstrated at the city for solving the county’s affordable housing crisis. “I tore down shacks and shanties and quarters and put in attainable housing that working class people can afford to buy,” he said, pointing at work by the Sarasota Housing Authority.

The county has turned away from mechanisms like community redevelopment areas to list blighted areas and improve housing options, but he believes, with a seat at the dais, he can direct the conversation toward progress.

Atkins is the first candidate to file for the 2020 election in County Commission District 1.

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