SARASOTA — If Sarasota County commissioners expected the same sometimes awkward, sometimes painful, priority-setting session of the past, they were dead wrong Friday.

As they gathered for their annual retreat in the Edson Keith Mansion at Phillippi Estate Park, commissioners were presented with a thick binder prepared by Lyle Sumek.

That binder contained summaries of conversations and meetings Sumek held with commissioners, the county’s constitutional officers, administration and department directors.

It set the framework for the day-long conversation Sumek led commissioners through to establish what their 15-year vision was for the county.

“This sets the platform for the vision,” County Administrator Jonathan Lewis told commissioners, by way of explanation for the process. “This isn’t setting up for next year. That’s for next week.”

“This is looking at where you want to go,” Sumek added. “What kind of county you want to create.”

At times grudgingly, commissioners went along with the process.

Sumek, according to his website, is a consultant who works with local governments in team building, strategic planning and goal setting.

Lewis was working as an intern for the city of Clearwater when he first became familiar with Sumek and his work.

Sensing that there was frustration on the part of commissioners with last year’s retreat, and feeling that commissioners had not fully taken ownership of the priorities they set, Lewis hired Sumek to lead the retreat this year.

Based upon his conversations, Sumek had prepared an early statement that captured thoughts about that vision, namely, that Sarasota County was a beautiful community that preserved natural areas, had world-class amenities, and a robust but diverse local economy.

Added to that broad vision, people said the county was a great place to live with mobility options and had a strong sense of pride and community.

By consensus, commissioners appeared to agree with these statements as their guiding principles for each one, then set about establishing objectives for each one.

For example, under community pride, commissioners endorsed strong community festivals and events bringing people together, and residents taking pride in and contributing to the Sarasota Community.

Commissioners will meet again next Friday in a second day for the retreat to set more specific goals based upon the framework established yesterday.

Before commissioners delved into their goal-setting task, they did complete some administrative tasks, electing Commissioner Charles Hines as chairman for 2019, Commissioner Mike Moran as vice-chair, and Commissioner Alan Maio as chairman pro tem.

Hines will take over from Commissioner Nancy Detert as chair at the first commissioner meeting in January.

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