Meet eight young leaders who are making an impact on our city.
Photos by Armando Solares
Statistics may not lie, but they can be misleading. Venice has long been known as a quiet little hamlet that attracts mainly seniors. And it’s true that about 60 percent of Venice residents are 65 or over. But in recent years, young people have been moving here in rising numbers. Some grew up here, went off to school and worked in larger Northern cities, but after starting families decided to return to slower-paced seaside living—and grandparents eager to babysit. Others came here all on their own, drawn not only by the beach and balmy weather, but by the chance to make a big impact in a small community. Here’s a look at eight Venetians under 40 who are already shaping our city.
In college, Daniela Poinsett, now 26, and her husband had been “living in the tundra of upstate New York,” she says. After graduation, they decided to reward themselves with a few months in sunny Venice, where his parents lived. “Four years later, we’re still here and loving it,” she says.
With a graduate degree in nonprofit management, Poinsett landed a post with Loveland Center, which serves adults with developmental disabilities. Today, as community impact officer, she—along with the rest of the team—is still celebrating landing a total of $7.75 million from the state of Florida to help build Loveland Village, a complex of independent living apartments for their clients, who these days often outlive the parents who care for them. Now they’re working on raising the rest of the $13 million and will start construction this month.
“Every day is a different adventure at Loveland,” says Poinsett, who especially treasures her daily interactions with the center’s clients. “We get to see how what we do impacts our students.” She appreciates the opportunities she’s had at such a young age not only at her job but in the community at large, where she’s active in YPG, Junior League, Leadership Sarasota—and as mother of a 5-year-old daughter.
“There’s a great sense of community,” she says. “Everybody knows everybody else, and people seem happier here. I know I’m happier here!” —PAM DANIEL
Adam Carter, chair of the Venice Chamber of Commerce, says, “Success is as simple as showing up.” Carter, 34, who co-owns Waypoint Advisors, a financial planning company head-quartered in Englewood, moved from Colorado Springs to Venice with his wife, Anna, in 2006, when she accepted a job here as a speech therapist; and he says he immediately inserted himself into the community. “My first year I joined the Young Professionals Group. The co-chair moved away in the third meeting, and no one except me raised their hand [to take the position],” he says.
As chamber chair, he plans to update the organization’s databases and create systems to make volunteering easier. He’s also involved with the Venice Kiwanis and Sertoma clubs, tutors high school students, participates in community clean-up projects and is father to two young children. And in his downtime? A good speaker, he is frequently asked to emcee events, and has been known to display a talent for comedy, lip-synching Lady Gaga at the YPG banquet and hosting roasts of local leadership.
“I expect to be here 30 years from now,” he says about his new home town. And he’s found that despite its older demographics, Venice welcomes fresh energy and talent. “It’s cool that [people here] are willing to let young people step in and pick up the ball,” he says.
Cassandra “Casey” Trascik, 31, is part of a Venice legacy. Her mother started the Venice Farmers Market, and her grandmother was involved in civic groups. Trascik had roles with virtually every Sarasota County community theater group before graduating Venice High School, earning her BFA at FSU and then relocating to New York City to act, direct and eventually work with a theatrical production management firm.
Venice Theatre head Murray Chase convinced her to come home to manage the brand-new Venice Performing Arts Center. “It seemed like the perfect combination of all the jobs I’d had,” she says.
The $15 million, 47,000-square-foot center opened in November. Trascik coordinates the schedules and needs of the resident artistic companies—primarily Venice Symphony and Venice Concert Band—and then looks for other programs that can unite and elevate Venice’s cultural community, including upcoming TED-X events, as well as potential lectures, film festivals, Broadway tours and even original theatrical productions.
Though she admits she spends most of her time working, Trascik says she’s enjoying reconnecting socially. “I’m living with my best friend from high school,” she says. “It’s so different here than when I was younger. It’s busier. And now I’m working with people that worked with my mom and grandma back then.”—HANNAH WALLACE
Kristofer Geddie, 38, began his position as the first director of diversity at Venice Theatre in 2011. “Venice is not the most diverse place,” he says, “[but] it’s not a blank slate. It has many beautiful colors and is willing to let [us] see what [we] can do.”
Geddie came here from New York four years ago when he landed a part in Venice Theatre’s production of Ragtime. “I got to a point [in New York] where I thought, ‘Commercial theater is not where my passion lies.’ I wanted to do more,” he says. Though he enjoys performing, Geddie decided to move into theater management and found the opportunity here. (He does still take to the stage occasionally.)
Geddie works to expand VT’s reach. “The traditional theater audience is affluent, older and white, but that’s changing,” he says. “We have to build up trust with minorities. It’s about listening to what people need and then following through. Venice has changed so much, with more new and younger people, just since I’ve been here.”
So far, he has created internships with a Kentucky college to bring in students of varied backgrounds and he’s helped get more school-age children involved with the theater.
“There’s a sense of hope that more people of different ages and races are coming and that we can create a culture
of diversity,” he says. —CHELSEY LUCAS
She’s the former chair of the Venice Area Young Professionals; he’s the chair elect of the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce. Together, Dallas and Kati Council, owners of AAMCO Venice, are improving the local business climate and creating a legacy for their three children.
The two grew up in Ocala and became a couple just after high school. Dallas, whose family had owned AAMCO franchises in Texas, managed an AAMCO in Bradenton until an opportunity to purchase a Venice franchise arose in 2008.
Though expansion of U.S. 41 forced them to change buildings this summer, their newly expanded service center is poised to reap the rewards of their community involvement. “In a small town, you’re easily able to tap into a broad segment of the population,” says Kati, 34.
And their networking serves another purpose, too. “When you get involved with the organizations around town, you make friends, you meet people,” she adds. “Those organizations provide the social interaction that people our age need.”
With Dallas, 33, now handling the majority of the AAMCO management and their children getting older, Kati has started another business: Beauty By Momma handmade soaps. “I’m into health and wellness, and I wanted to exercise my creative outlet,” she explains.
And her healthy instincts don’t stop there: In April, Kati will run the Boston Marathon. —HANNAH WALLACE
“I’m an adrenaline junkie,” says 34-year-old Justin Pachota. If so, he’s in the right place. General manager of the year-old Fins at Sharky’s on the Pier and vice president of his parents’ Venice Pier Company, which runs Sharky’s, Fins and Snook Haven, Pachota is at the epicenter of some of the region’s busiest restaurants. Casual and scenic, the restaurants, he says, epitomize “the lifestyle [my family] moved here for” in 1987, the year Sharky’s opened. Plus, he adds, with his headquarters located on the Gulf-front Sharky’s property, “I’ve got the greatest office view in the world.”
Pachota, who earned a degree in hospitality management from the University of Central Florida, says the local restaurant scene has changed dramatically in the last decade. More chains have arrived, and while that means more competition, it also “pushes us independents to be better.”
With the local economy rebounding and tourism at record levels, he expects a “phenomenal season,” and a new wave of housing growth also bodes well for long-term prospects.
When he’s not working, Pachota says his life centers around family. He and his wife, Cheri, have a 9-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. A sports enthusiast, he says family vacations center around sports events, and he recently started coaching his son’s baseball team.
“The advantage of being at a small airport is that you’re able to experience everything,” says Chris Rozansky, the 36-year-old head of Venice Municipal Airport (VNC). “The challenge is that you’re responsible for everything, too.”
As a kid, the New Jersey native dreamed of being a pilot, but then he discovered a love for the multifaceted “city within a city” that is a general aviation airport.
Rozansky came to Venice in October 2010, inheriting a tenuous relationship with the community and an airport earning 56 percent of its revenues from non-aviation enterprises like an on-property golf course, restaurant and mobile home community.
Rozansky quickly negotiated $8.4 million in FAA- and state-subsidized repairs, including noise mitigation and runway extensions away from adjacent neighborhoods; another $4.7 million rehabilitation project will be completed this spring. Essentially, Rozansky’s job is to serve pilots, tenants (in hangars and in mobile homes), the city and the community, all while staying financially
in the black. “We do not receive one cent of ad valorem property tax revenues,” he explains.
And though at 12 he visited his grandparents in Nokomis and swore he’d never live here, he now admits, “Venice has been very good to me.” He met his now wife here, and his mother and sister have moved nearby. “We love nothing more than to grab a picnic dinner, head out to the beach and enjoy sunset,” he says.—HANNAH WALLACE