Library Foundation for Sarasota County Board of Directors

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can tell a lot about a foundation by the people who serve on its board. The Board of the Library Foundation for Sarasota County encompasses a best-selling author of international renown, a former Sarasota County Commissioner, the CEO of a publishing company and a dozen more members with vast experience in philanthropy and civic affairs. This diverse group has a shared passion for making Sarasota County’s libraries extraordinary.


Isabel Norton has devoted more than 30 years to making Sarasota and Florida a better place to live for all people. She served on the initial board of directors of SCOPE and later chaired its Aging: The Possibilities Initiative. She chaired the Board of Trustees of Ringling College and was co-chair of the Ringling College Library campaign that raised more than $16M to build the new Ringling College Library. Isabel has been Chair of the Board of Florida Prevent Blindness and Chair of the Manatee/Sarasota Suncoast Workforce Board. She is a 1993 graduate of Leadership Florida and was honored, along with Carolyn Johnson, with the Leadership Florida Distinguished Member Award in June 2016. Isabel believes “books are the windows to the whole world and it is critical that we work to provide access to those books and to the other exciting things libraries now have to offer.

Sarah Karon is a resident of Longboat Key who divides her time between the Twin Cities and Florida.   She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and holds a Master’s in Creative Writing from Hamline University.

Sarah has extensive non-profit Board experience including serving on the Board of City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis from 1994-2004.  During her tenure, she chaired a three-year, $2 million capital campaign to create the K-8 school’s first permanent home. Sarah also served on the WCA Foundation Board in Minnetonka, MN and on the founding Board of Directors of World Without Genocide in St. Paul.   She is a past trustee of St. Paul Academy and Summit School in St. Paul where she chaired the Annual Fund.  In Florida, Sarah has joined WUSF Public Media in Tampa as a member of the Community Advisory Board. Sarah believes, “Literacy is the key to an informed, engaged society, and libraries are places where all kinds of community magic happens.”

Kat Hughes is the executive editor of the Observer Media Group, where she oversees editorial content for all of its publications, including the Longboat, Sarasota, East County, Siesta and Business Observers as well as Season and LWR Life magazines. Growing up in Aurora, Colo., Hughes counted her library card as one of her most prized possessions. Hughes, who is a Sarasota resident, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri journalism school and her MBA from the University of Wyoming.


A retired educator and consultant, Davis joined the Free Library of Philadelphia when she was seven years old, and says “I have been a fan of libraries ever since.” Before moving to Sarasota, she was an assistant school superintendent in Pennsylvania, and served as a vice-president and division director of the Gallup Organization. She is treasurer of the Casey Key Association, and has served on the board of the Casey Key Library Association since 2003. While chairing the Sarasota County Library Advisory Board, she led discussions that led to the creation of the Library Foundation for Sarasota County.


Betty-Jean Bavar has 40 plus years professional experience in libraries and she has worked in a variety of settings including law, public, college, government and business. As both an avid reader and an advocate for childhood literacy, books are her passion.

She is a resident of Longboat Key and spends the off-season in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Betty-Jean is active in a variety of community organizations in both Sarasota and Baltimore. She is a graduate of Temple University and has a Masters in Library Science from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Terry Brackett is a retired Washington, D.C. energy lawyer and former legal advisor to Dr. Matthew Holden at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. She was partner in the law firm of Brackett and Brackett for 25 years. She has done extensive volunteer work concentrating on issues impacting women, including sexual violence and sex trafficking.

Ms. Brackett is a member of the Board of the US National Committee for UN Women and serves on the Advisory Board for the Asolo Repertory Theatre Company, WUSF Public Radio Station and Protect Our Defenders. She was also the Festival Director for 9 years of Through Women’s Eyes International Film Festival and is currently on their Advisory Board. She has also been a Board Member of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Sarasota Canine Search and Rescue Squad.

Cardillo, a retired business executive at Lenox Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, has served on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters, Roanoke, VA. She is a volunteer and advocate at Girls Inc of Sarasota, and Job Resource Coach at Church of the Palms-Presbyterian. She moved here from her native state of NJ in 2011. “My mother was an avid reader and my sister and I were so proud to have our first library cards. We continue to delight in reading and realize the blessings and importance of how our library system enables learning and magical experiences,” Cardillo says.


Ilene Denton was affiliated with the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall for 16 years, first as its free-lance public relations officer from 1984 to 1991, and then full-time as Deputy Director/Marketing and Development from 1991 through 2001. At the Van Wezel, she was instrumental in developing programming and special events, including turning the bayfront lawn into a midway—complete with Ferris wheel—in conjunction with the national tour of “State Fair” and the celebrations surrounding the Van Wezel’s 25th anniversary. She then moved to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens as marketing and visitor services director.

Ilene was a grants panelist for the state Department of Cultural Affairs, was active on the Sarasota County Arts Council’s cultural tourism taskforce and served briefly on the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau board until returning in late 2003 to Sarasota Magazine, where she originally started her career. She is a 47-year resident of Sarasota and raised two children (and several yappy dogs) here with her husband, David.

Judy Liersch is a resident of Sarasota who has lived all over the world.  Judy is a native of Montreal but lived in Kobe, Japan, New York City, Washington, DC, Los Alamos, NM and now Florida.  A graduate of Cornell University, she learned about computers early in her life while employed at IBM.  She also worked as a teacher in Japan and a computer programmer for Time magazine in Montreal and New York.

Judy acquired an MBA at Stanford, where she was one of 19 women in a class of 300.  Her MBA led to an interest in public policy and a new U.S. government program in public management, which was seeking qualified women.  Judy spent time as assistant director of government relations for the Department of Energy’s national laboratory at Los Alamos and with the Office of Management and Budget in Washington.   Judy has served on several local non-profit boards including the Women’s Resource Center, Sarasota Orchestra and Community Foundation of Sarasota County.  Judy is a member of the new Community Advocacy Team

Colleen Lundwall is an attorney who has worked for the NYS Supreme Court as a Judicial Referee and Court Attorney, in private practice and as an Assistant County Attorney in New York State. She was a frequent lecturer for the Bar Association.

Her community interests and advocacy work include serving as the Chair and member of the Community Advisory Board for WEDU and as a docent for the Ringling Museum. She was a Library Trustee in Wilton, CT and served on the Planning and Zoning Commission in her town. Colleen has volunteered annually with the LFSC Author Luncheon.

Colleen is the mother of three grown children and five grandchildren. She is a passionate supporter of libraries and chose to live in Sarasota for the quality of our libraries!

Lamar Matthews is Co-Founder of Matthews Eastmoore. In 2014, the Judges of the 12th Judicial Circuit selected Lamar as one of 10 “Legal Legends” among living and deceased lawyers and judges in Sarasota. Lamar has provided legal services to a diverse group of clients with varying complex legal issues. They include School Board of Sarasota County, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department, Sarasota County’s Administrator, the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority, Palm Beach County, and the City of Gainesville. Cases have included diverse matters of eminent domain, inverse condemnation, Federal tort claims, and matters before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. During the first term of Bob Graham as Governor of Florida, Lamar served as his General Counsel.

A graduate of the public schools of Sarasota and Manatee counties, Stetson University and the University of Florida Levin College of Law, Lamar has served the Bar and community in a number of roles — as president of his law school student body and the Florida Bar Young Lawyers’ Division; a member of the Board of Governors of the Florida Bar and the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. He has been appointed to the Federal Judicial Nominating Commission for Florida; the judicially appointed Grievance Committee, Federal District Court, Tampa, Middle District of Florida, and numerous other positions relating to the legal profession.

Lamar serves as a member of the CAT. He is married to Dr. Janet Matthews, an historian and author of a number of books concerning Florida history.

Dr. McKenzie-Wharton’s life work has centered on education, advocacy, and leadership. She is currently the Executive Director of Wharton and McKenzie-Wharton Educational Consultants.
She received an Ed.D. in Educational Administration of School Systems from Columbia University and holds several advanced degrees and certifications. She held positions within Federal and State programs focused on education, public schools, school desegregation assistance and more. She is a mentor to teachers and master teacher/supervisor, and champion for reading, literacy and libraries.

Dr. McKenzie-Wharton has received many honors for her work in education and civil rights. She has served in leadership roles on the boards of Glasser-Schoenbaum Human Services Center, The Exchange, Women’ Alliance, Boys and Girls Clubs, United Way, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and more.

She is married to Dr. Richard G. Wharton and has two sons. She has traveled to 48 states in the U.S., and around the world to all continents and many countries many times. She enjoys tennis, golf, piano, opera, plays and reading.

Peter Pearson is the recently retired President of The Friends of the Saint Paul (MN) Public Library, a position he held for the last 25 years. He grew that 70- year-old organization into a 2,500 member organization with endowment of $16 million. The endowment covers all operating costs and staff salaries and enables The Friends to provide $1.4 million annually in financial assistance to St. Paul’s libraries. The Friends also partnered with the City of St. Paul in funding branch renovations and other capital improvements through 5 capital campaigns during his tenure.

Peter has a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Minnesota. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association representing Friends, Foundations, Trustees and Advocates. In 2005, Peter was inducted into the American Library Association’s Advocacy Honor Roll as an outstanding library advocate, an acknowledgment of his leadership in working with St. Paul’s elected officials to secure increased library funding in 22 out of the last 23 years.

Peter was a trusted advisor to Sarabeth Kalajian as she worked to create the Library Foundation for Sarasota County. He is a tireless member of the new Community Advocacy Team and a Library Leader.

My name is Victor (Vic) Romano. My wife and I are both originally from Fairfield, Connecticut I graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in Economics in 1967 and later from the University of Bridgeport with an MBA in Finance.

Following graduation, E.I. DuPont de Nemours. Working primarily in international markets until 1977 when we began a series of relocations to the Midwest, Far West and back to Wilmington, Delaware where I retired from Remington/DuPont as VP Marketing and Research.

In 1996 we returned to Southern California and established a start-up artisan bread bakery, in Palos Verdes, California. I joined the board of directors of the Palos Verdes Merchants Association and the board of the Peninsula Symphony.

In 1999 returned to the outdoor recreation world with a non-profit trade association, NSSF as VP Marketing and Strategic Partnerships. My primary focus was on building relationships with NGO’s and other organizations, mostly in Washington, DC and collaborating in working on various national elections in 2000 and 2002.

For several years in the early 2000’s I did consulting work in the Southwest for the outdoor recreation industries. In 2013 we bought a permanent home and moved from California. Charlene is on the board of the Friends of the Venice Public Library and I volunteer there in the bookstore. We are both avid readers (books). My passions include classical music and reading history, biography and now especially Florida’s history, ecology and water-related issues.

Libraries have been a part of our personal and community lives wherever we have been and continue to be.

Fletcher is a Carolina-born Floridian, having spent his early years in the Charlotte area before relocating to Florida for college. After planting his roots in Florida, Fletcher attended the University of Florida where he earned a degree in economics, his juris doctor, and master of laws in taxation. Fletcher and his wife, Laura, now live in Sarasota where they plan to start a family. Fletcher is a practicing attorney, assisting clients in the field of wills, trusts, estates, and real estate. Fletcher also serves on the board of the United Way of South Sarasota County and the Sarasota County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division. Fletcher has been a card-carrying library member for as long as he can remember and can often be found at the Gulf Gate Library. Fletcher believes “public libraries are essential to our community. In addition to the fundamental access to books and information, libraries provide a litany of services, especially to those in need.”

Hank Tafaro is an entrepreneur who understands the value of libraries to community life. Hank founded The Hanleigh Companies, an insurance underwriting firm on behalf of certain underwriters at Lloyd’s and other UK and European companies. His clients include most major entertainment groups, professional sports teams and Fortune 500 companies. After selling the firm, Hank created an underwriting consulting group and a new underwriting company. Hank has a long history of civic engagement, having served on the Town Council of Rockleigh, NJ for 12 years and as the town mayor for 8. He has served on many boards and is currently on the Board of the Casey Key Foundation. Hank says “I consider libraries to be the cornerstone of a civilized society, and a key to fight illiteracy in America. But, author Ray Bradbury put it best, ‘Without libraries we have no past and no future.’”

Hailed by many literary critics as the finest historical novelist of our time, John Jakes is a master of the family saga. His strong storytelling ability and his penchant for historical accuracy have won him a worldwide audience. More than 55 million copies of The Kent Family Chronicles, eight volumes tracing an American family from the Revolution to the dawn of the 20th century, are in print, as well as another 10 million copies of his “North and South“ trilogy. Six of his novels have been adapted for television.

Libraries have been central to Jakes’ life since he was a page at the Chicago Public Library – his first paid job. He has been involved with library Friends groups in Rochester, N.Y. and Hilton Head, S.C. Jakes was a delegate to the White House Conference on Libraries and Information in 1991. He is currently a board member of the Van Wezel Foundation. “Libraries are essential for a healthy community,” Jakes says. “Of course, given the nature of my work, I’m what you might call a heavy user.”