Commissioners sworn in, Snyder selected as new mayor

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SARASOTA - In a slight surprise, Sarasota City Commissioners chose Shannon Snyder to be the city's next mayor. They voted 3-2 for Snyder over Vice Mayor Willie Shaw, who keeps that post.

"You never know what's going to happen when you sit around that table," Snyder said afterward. Snyder succeeds Suzanne Atwell, who remains on the commission after winning another term Tuesday. Susan Chapman won the other spot to replace Terry Turner.

In her last act as mayor, Atwell delivered the "State of the City" address. "The state of the city is good," she said, but warned that challenges still loom with crime in north Sarasota, homelessness near downtown, and pension obligations crunching the city's budget.

After cutting a quarter of the city's staff over the last five years, Atwell said that she and her fellow commissioners might have to choose between keeping city services and adding new taxes. "We may have to be looking at a millage increase," she said in an interview after the meeting. "We don't like to look at that because people see 'raising taxes,' but the health and the welfare of the city is very important."

She said that solving the homeless problem involves more than removing an eyesore. Though they constitute a tiny amount of the city's population, homeless people account for nearly a quarter of all the arrests in the city. "This is a health and welfare of our community issue," Atwell said.

After the new commission took its seats, City Clerk Pamela Nadalini asked for nominations for mayor. Chapman nominated Shaw then Paul Caragiulo nominated Snyder. Atwell cast the deciding vote for Snyder. Snyder heaped praise on his predecessor. "(She) had such class and was such an example of how I should behave as mayor," he said.

He said he echoed the thoughts of her address, including the priority. "I think it's the long-term fiscal issues," he said. "The sooner we address them, the more control we're going to have over how we solve them." Hearings about the next budget begin in July.