3rd generation Holmes takes helm in Holmes Beach

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City clerk Stacey Johnston, left, and new Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth embrace Nov. 29 after her swearing-in at Holmes Beach city hall, 5801 Marina Drive. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Esformes

Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Holmes Titsworth didn’t even think twice about it.

“It’s hard not to when you grow up here,” Titsworth, newly elected mayor of Holmes Beach, said Nov. 29 of her time spent rescuing animals caught in fishing line in Sarasota Bay.

“We played outside every single day. I lived in the bay or I lived in trees. When you grow up on the water like that, it’s all you can do but love it.”

Titsworth grew up on Anna Maria Island — a third generation member of the Holmes family. Her grandfather John E. Holmes Sr. is the namesake of the city that was incorporated in 1950.

She said she hopes to see more longstanding islanders getting involved in city government.

“I would love to get more people that have been here for 20 years or more to volunteer” for civic service, Titsworth said, regarding Holmes Beach. “People who understand the comprehensive plan is our compass.”

Titsworth, who co-owns Shoreline Builders construction company with her husband, Steve, said she plans to further improve the city building department.

She said she would work with the building department to ensure permits are issued in a timely manner.

“I have just been reading, reading and studying that comp plan to make some really informed decisions,” Titsworth said.

She said she had people ask her why she would give up her seat as a commissioner — she served as chair — to become mayor.

Holmes Beach operates under a strong mayor form of government and, as a commissioner, Titsworth had a vote on legislative decisions. As mayor of the city, elected by voters, she becomes management — entrusted to carry out legilative decisions.

“I was asked, ‘Why would you want to be mayor? You have so much power as chair,’” Titsworth said, adding that she knows there has been discussion in the city regarding a city-manager form of government.

In an organizational meeting following the swearing-in ceremony Nov. 29, Commissioner Jim Kihm was elected commission chair and Commissioner Pat Morton was voted vice chair.

“I have the experience of being a commissioner and I don’t want to change our charter to bring in a city manager when I can see the strength of our charter,” Titsworth said. “If you bring in a city manager, they can hire or fire at will and can come in from anywhere,” adding she thinks it is too soon to determine if that is best for the city.

Titsworth said she anticipates the work to come from the newly elected charter review commission.

David Zaccagnino, Sean Murphy, Ed Upshaw, Claudia Carlson and Nancy Deal were elected to the charter review commission Nov. 6 as part of a required five-year charter review.

Their review recommendations will be placed on the November 2019 ballot.

“I want them to be able to shine in the charter positions,” Titsworth said. “It will benefit us all.”

Titsworth said she is confident in the city’s future.

“We can do it really well if we can all do it together,” she said. “This is about doing what’s best for our city.”