VENICE — Ron Cutsinger, of Englewood, and Chris Hanks, of North Port, are running for Sarasota County Commission Seat 5 to give South County residents a voice, they told the Republican Club of South Sarasota County on Wednesday.
Cutsinger is a longtime county resident and former member of the Sarasota County Planning Commission, while Hanks, who moved to the area in 2008, is a North Port commissioner and former mayor.
It’s a given the seat in the redrawn district will go to a South County resident, since whichever of them prevails in the Aug. 14 will go on to face Alice White, a Democrat from North Port, in the Nov. 3 general election.
Cutsinger and Hanks spent most of their time laying out their conservative credentials — support for the Second Amendment, opposition to abortion — and comparatively little on county issues until the Q-and-A portion of the program.
Asked what he considers the biggest issue facing the county, Hanks said it’s the under-representation of North Port and Englewood, which he said are like cousins.
Cutsinger said he didn’t disagree, but he included South Venice, saying all three communities need to be represented.
If elected, he said, he’d push for the establishment of a County Commission field office in North Port, the biggest city in the county.
The next question was whether, as a commissioner, either would support a county ordinance overturning the city of Sarasota’s requirement that people wear face masks.
Cutsinger said he’d want to get legal advice before taking any action but complained about the situation.
“We keep seeing our liberties being taken away bit by bit,” Cutsinger said.
Hanks said he knows without consulting an attorney that the county doesn’t have the authority to undo the city’s action.
“No government should be telling anybody to do anything,” Hanks added.
Regarding spending on roads, Hanks said his analysis would be on “what’s in it for North Port, South Venice and Englewood.”
He brought up the extension of the Legacy Trail, a project that connects Venice and Sarasota via an old railway line and that is about to be expanded north and south, into North Port.
It doesn’t involve Englewood “but you’re paying for it,” he said, while all North Port would be getting is “a couple of loads of gravel.”
Cutsinger said that Hanks’ response surprised him, since he’d voted to support the Legacy Trail as a North Port commissioner.
The extension was a grassroots campaign that was approved nearly four to one in a referendum that will pay for paving it all the way to Warm Mineral Springs, he said.
Roads would be a priority for him, he said, including extending River Road to Dearborn Street in Englewood.
Both candidates pledged to continue the 20-year streak of not raising the county’s millage rate.
“I think you can do a better job spending your money than the government can,” Cutsinger said.