Farrell tops Fiedler for Venice Council Seat 1; Smith captures Seat 2
Sarasota Herald-Tribune USA TODAY NETWORK
VENICE – Joan Farrell and Ron Smith both claimed seats on the Venice City Council Tuesday, with Farrell ousting incumbent Mitzi Fielder and Smith besting newcomer Dusty Feller, as both winners contended the outcome was a verdict on development decisions. With all 12 precincts reporting, Farrell captured 52.3% of the vote to win Seat 1, according to unofficial totals from the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office. Smith had an even easier time in winning Seat 2 with 61.8% of the vote.
A total of 40.6% of the city’s 22,823 registered voters cast ballots, with a majority of those 9,254 votes coming in by mail; 3,487 were cast at the polls Tuesday and 633 via early voting.
The two new members of the Venice City Council will be sworn in at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 28.
Farrell, who learned about her apparent victory from a reporter, said “I’m just excited about all the voters and my volunteers have been fabulous – unbelievable dedication, I’m so impressed and thankful.
“I went to all the precincts twice today and really enjoyed meeting all the people that were just giving their all,” she added.
Throughout her campaign Farrell said the election outcome would determine whether “the voters have a seat at the table or the developers continue to control.” “I think what’s happened is there’s been a sea change and I think the voters have woken up to the realization that development has proceeded too quickly,” she added. “I think they’re not against development but I think they’re alarmed at the speed and intensity of it and I think the vote reflected that.”
Smith agreed that the intensity of growth influenced voters. “It’s no doubt unbridled growth was a key issue in the whole campaign,” Smith said. “They hate to see clear-cutting, it enrages people when they see that.”
Growth concerns sparked Farrell’s candidacy; Smith wins in second try
Farrell decided to run after the City Council’s decision to approve a land-use map change that would allow the south- west corner of Laurel Road and East Venice Avenue site now earmarked as a preserve to become a shopping center. Smith, who ran unsuccessfully in 2022 for Seat 5 against Rick Howard, raised his profile considerably by helping Venice Unites to negotiate changes to the city’s Land Development Regulations to forestall a potential legal battle related to Venice Unites’ petition drive to undo those regulations. Most of the members of Venice Unites formed Venice Thrives, a group that both backed Smith and promoted a “clean campaign pledge,” that both Farrell and Smith agreed with but Fiedler and Feller did not. The clean campaign pledge was one aspect of a particularly messy campaign – amplified by the fact that there were no other races on tonight’s ballot – that featured ads backed by the Republican Party of Sarasota County that were critical of both Smith and Farrell.
The clean campaign pledge was one aspect of a particularly messy campaign – amplified by the fact that there were no other races on tonight’s ballot – that featured ads backed by the Republican Party of Sarasota County that were critical of both Smith and Farrell.
Smith said he was grateful for the large turnout in his favor then added, “I think people made a statement that they do want a nonpartisan election, I think they made a statement that they don’t want outside money influencing Venice elections – I do believe that.”
Smith pointed to the Clean Campaign Pledge – which he hopes the League of Women Voters of Sarasota County will sponsor in future elections – as an important factor in the race. Continued