Sarasota CEO vows to bring business friendliness back to City Hall

Don Patterson, co-founder and CEO of Ascend Wireless Network, is running for Sarasota City Commission District 2.

SARASOTA — The novel coronavirus has pummeled nearly every kind of business in America and Don Patterson believes the city of Sarasota’s recent actions to curb infections have made it difficult for them to stay afloat.

Patterson, a technology CEO who has never sought public office, jumped into the crowded City Commission District 2 race late.

His catalyst for running was the city’s decision to keep Lido Beach closed for nearly a month after Sarasota County lifted restrictions on all other shorelines. That decision frustrated many businesses on St. Armands Circle who rely on patronage from nearby Lido.

“That’s really the gut punch that got me into this race,” Patterson said. “Obviously the city wasn’t listening to businesses and was working against them.”

Patterson, the co-founder and CEO of Ascend Wireless Network, said he is ready to spend $100,000 of his own money on the district-level race. He has also been frustrated by what he sees as the city’s failure to live up to its potential.

Patterson has 35 years of experience as a business and civic leader. He promises to bring innovation and execution to the city.

He’s says he’s committed to preserving neighborhoods. He believes that hotel houses and Airbnbs are possible but must be in appropriate locations and be permitted. He believes the city should be responsive to neighborhoods.

As a commissioner, Patterson vows to revisit a city policy that allows staff to administratively review many projects without holding any public hearings on the plans.

Patterson grew up in Brandon, raised by a single, working mother. He said he struggled in school until he enrolled in Big Brothers Big Sisters. That experience had a profound impact on his life and is something he credits for helping build his character. He is now chairman of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast.

Patterson’s telecommunications career began with his role as an equipment installer with the GTE Central Offices. Prior to co-founding Ascend Wireless Networks, he served as vice president of operations for Betacom Inc., and led the company’s operations and expansion throughout eight southeastern states.

He has served in senior management roles at public, private and venture fund startup companies and hopes to take that same entrepreneurial spirit to the commission.

For Patterson, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a perfect opportunity to audit and reimagine the way the city delivers services to residents — that includes continuing to transition to an online platform for certain services. He has also proposed reducing city staff and other cost-saving measures.

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