SARASOTA COUNTY — Home remodeling contractor and former Sarasota County Planning Commission Vice Chairman Mark Hawkins is the first to file for public office for the 2022 general election.
Hawkins has lived most of his life in Sarasota County and will seek the District 4 seat now held by Alan Maio. Hawkins, 68, said he hopes to bring common sense and accountability back into hands of the constituents.
“Right now, we’re lacking that in the district,” Hawkins said. “Common sense says you can’t put a mega-building complex on Stickney Point and U.S. 41 and say it won’t impact traffic and the neighborhood.”
Hawkins was referring to the Benderson Development Corp.’s Siesta Promenade project. The large mixed-use development plan was approved in 2018 and hotly contested by area residents largely because they felt it would cause greater traffic turmoil.
“Thousands pleaded for common sense,” Hawkins said. “The people’s needs were ignored and that happens time and time again.”
Hawkins also said he won’t accept money from PACs or from area developers who primarily bankroll Sarasota County Commission candidates.
Developers “control what’s going on,” Hawkins said. “I want the people of Sarasota County to control what’s going on.”
Hawkins ran for the County Commission in 2010 as a Democrat, losing to former commissioner Nora Patterson. He switched to the Republican Party and won a seat on the county Charter Review Board two years later. He was appointed to the county’s volunteer advisory planning panel in 2015.
As a Republican candidate for the County Commission, Hawkins supports retaining the single-member districts method of electing commissioners.
The majority of county voters approved the single-member districts referendum in 2018, shifting to a system that elects commissioners by district rather than countywide. The County Commission has made it a legislative priority this year potentially dismantle the system.
Hawkins owns Hawk’s Nest Construction. He hopes to make inroads with working class people. As a commissioner, he vows to help foster a better environment to raise a family.
He also said he wants the county to establish a small county business advisory board.
“What we found out during the pandemic is that small businesses carry the tax burden for Sarasota County,” Hawkins said. “Go to Gulf Gate and talk to business people. They will tell you the impact of the government taking away the ability to make a living and earn a proper wage.”
To get more money to improve the road network, Hawkins is floating the idea of altering the impact fees developers pay. He said the county could also add a “transfer fee” that all homeowners would pay when they purchase a property. Hawkins said people who move into existing houses still have a big impact on roads and schools.
Hawkins is a married father of two children. He has seven grandchildren and lives on Phillippi Creek. His home is about five minutes from the house he lived in while attending Riverview High School.
Timothy Fanning covers Sarasota government for the Herald-Tribune. Reach Timothy at [email protected] or on Twitter: @timothyjfanning. Support the Herald-Tribune by subscribing today.