Gov. DeSantis taps Kevin Cooper to chair Early Learning Coalition in Sarasota County

Kevin Cooper photo [91] copy
Cooper is part of an anti-privatization slate of candidates running for the Hospital Board.

Kevin Cooper, the top fundraiser in a Sarasota Hospital Board race, just added a new line to his résumé: He’s now a Gov. Ron DeSantis appointee.

The Governor appointed Cooper to chair the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County.

DeSantis named Cooper and two others, yes. every kid. Government Affairs Director Tiffany Barfield and Holiday House of SRQ founder Jennifer Infanti, to the organization’s Board.

The appointment comes as Cooper continues his run for Seat 2 on the Sarasota County Hospital Board. Cooper has raised more than $28,000 for the race, more than anyone has ever raised for a Hospital Board position in Sarasota County history. He will continue running for the seat.

Cooper voiced gratitude for the appointment.

“As a father of two young children, I am acutely aware of how critical early learning development is for the foundation of a successful future,” Cooper said. “As I continue my volunteer commitment to organizations that support young children and families, I feel blessed that Governor DeSantis has entrusted me to carry forward the interests of the citizens of Sarasota County and the state of Florida.”

Cooper said he intends to be an ally with local lawmakers like Sen. Joe Gruters and Rep. Fiona McFarland, Sarasota Republicans who have advocated for local child services support in the Legislature.

The Early Learning Coalition was created by statute to provide oversight over local early education services in the Sarasota area.

The Governor’s Office noted Cooper serves now as Vice President at Mote Marine Laboratory. A release also noted Cooper’s service in the Army National Guard and his background as former President of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and Community Investment director for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Cooper faces Stephen Guffanti, part of a slate of public health critics running for Hospital Board positions, in a Republican Primary. Guffanti has raised more than $5,500. The contest has received a high level of attention thanks to an attempted political takeover by critics of the hospital over its COVID policies.

The winner of the race will face Democrat John Lutz, who has raised $200 for the post. A write-in candidate also qualified.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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