A recent appointment to a statewide committee is bringing some extra attention to the city of North Port in south Sarasota County.
North Port City Manager A. Jerome Fletcher II was appointed to the Florida League of Cities municipal administration committee. He’ll serve for a year developing the organization’s legislative platform on issues that affect municipal governance. The committee was appointed by Greg Ross, the mayor of Cooper City and Florida League of Cities president. The organization coins itself as the united voice for Florida’s municipalities.
Fletcher, city manager since October 2021, realized two months ago at the organization’s annual conference that if he wants to see action, he needs to get involved. “In order to make a difference, you have to have a seat at the table and this is my way of getting a seat at the table,” Fletcher says.
Already the appointment is paying off for North Port, he says, noting the one meeting the committee has had brought forward topics relevant to the city.
The Florida Gaming Control Commission, for example, explained how illegal gambling is happening all over the state. “That was eye opening,” Fletcher says. He brought the information gathered from that meeting back to the city’s police chief, Todd Garrison, who confirmed the city has a history with that topic. “It’s very relevant to making sure we pay attention and we follow the current laws in place.”
Right now, the committee is focused on sifting through legislation to determine what to bring forward and discuss with state legislators during the legislative action days in January, Fletcher says.
One of those topics is the Live Local Act, which went into effect July 1. It was designed to increase affordable housing development, but some local leaders are questioning whether it was as good as it sounds. Specifically, regarding the provision that preempts local governments’ requirements regarding zoning, density, and height.
“Giving some feedback on that current bill is one of the more short term actions that we want to do,” he says.
For Fletcher personally, his long term goal through the committee is commitment. While it’s a one-year term, Fletcher is prepared to serve multiple years.
The additional spotlight is welcome at North Port, which has been on a path of growth of late with developments like Wellen Park, which is on 11,000 acres with a planned 22,000 homes; the Anna Maria Oyster Bar opening and expansion; and the addition of Myakka Crossings Commercial Park, a 7.5-acre mixed-use development currently under construction. The city is located in the southeast corner of Sarasota County, neighboring the south end of Venice.
“I think it means for the city of North Port that we are maturing,” Fletcher says of his appointment. “The city is only coming up on its 65th anniversary next year. By city age, that means we’re in a very young place.
“Going through that growth spurt means you need more mature conversations.”