The Better Government Association of Sarasota County (BGA) was founded and incorporated in 1987 by Annamae Sandegren, William T. Leete and Edward C. Krebs Jr. BGS is a nonpartisan civic organization established to promote an informed electorate through education and awareness of important pubic issues.

Th group’s mission is to identify significant public issues, develop and present nonpartisan educational forums, promote ethics and efficiency in government, encourage government policy responsive to the public interest, and promote fair taxation and responsible expenditure of public funds.

Public servants generally have the best interests of the community at heart, but the business of good government is often subverted by special interests. To provide an alternative to this, BGA relies on two main processes to educate and inform on critical public issues—the Forum and the Mini-Forum. The Forum is open to the public. The Mini-Forum is presented in a luncheon environment mainly for members and guests.

The Better Government Association is an all-volunteer civic organization with 150 regular members. The Association has been fortunate over the years to recruit a cadre of dedicated Board members that keeps abreast of  current pubic issues. Some of these key personnel who have provided leadership are noted below.

From the early beginnings in 1987 Annamae Sandegren provided strategy and direction during the early years. Ms. Sandegren was a community activist well connected to City, County and State politics. Her husband Sandy was a dedicated Sarasota County booster and County Commissioner.

In 1993, Bob and Linda Long played a major role in a comprehensive reorganization of the Association.

Jeanne McElmurray, a Sarasota County Commissioner from 1982-1990 and member of the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport Authority Board from 1972-1982 brought extensive government and environmental experience to the Board in the early 90s. She helped save Sarasota Bay from harmful dredging and fill operations. She continued to exert a strong Board presence until her passing in 2008.

John Mikos was another distinguished Board member serving in the late 90s. John was a longtime Sarasota County Property Appraiser. He used his experience to focus Association energies where they would best serve the community. Lucian Vestal, in the early part of the current decade, brought extensive executive and financial skills that provided Board leadership and focused analysis. A. David Dothe, during the 2003-05 period, brought extensive financial and insurance experience. David was a native of Sarasota County. He provided brilliant Board leadership and compassionate service to the community.

The Better Government Association is sensitive to major community issues. Since the mid-90s BGA has hosted 33 Forums and Mini-Forums. The subject breakdown by class: Referendums (8); Candidate Forums (5); Sarasota County Schools (5); Sarasota County Operations (5); Miscellaneous (5); Sarasota-Bradenton Airport (3); and Sarasota Memorial Hospital (2).

Sponsoring Forums requires the allocation of significant personnel and financial resources. Success is judged by our community response. Two recent Forums achieved outstanding success. First, “Midnight Pass—A Scientific Perspective of  Major Community Issue.” This program was particularly challenging because the presentation had to be rescheduled when the keynote speaker, Dr. David Link, PhD. in geology, was not able to leave Africa because of his primary job assignment. The Forum was rescheduled five months later. The delayed Forum was worth the wait. The presentation was loaded with scientific and engineering data that did not support the opening of the Pass. Forum attendees rated the program outstanding.

Second, “Solar Power’s Future—Myth or Reality.” The background behind the program selection timing was the Legislature’s consideration of a Solar Energy Bill. Speakers included Rep. Keith Fitzgerald; John Burgess, Alliance for Renewable Energy; Gerry Karnas, Environmental Defense; and Commissioner Lauren Poe, Gainesville. The audience of 115 environmentally savvy attendees rated the program outstanding.

The philosophy of the Better Government Association recognizes the democratic concept of freedom of speech and action. BGA is a nonpartisan organization whose efforts are directed to informing and educating the public on critical issues. The group believes an informed electorate is the best defense of democracy. BGA employs the Forum and Mini-Forum with a pro and con format in order to accomplish the goal of educating and informing the public.

Plans for the future are to continue to present public Forums emphasizing the core philosophy of educating the community on key issues, increasing their membership, and networking with other like-minded civic organizations.

For further information contact Dave Brown at (941) 966-1613.