The Sarasota-Manatee Originals Elects New Board Members; Sonia Velasco, marketing and business development consultant, takes the reins from Steve Harner, former Board President

Comment Off 83 Views


The Sarasota-Manatee Originals Elects New Board Members

Sonia Velasco, marketing and business development consultant, takes the reins from Steve Harner, former Board President

Sarasota, Florida ~ The Sarasota-Manatee Originals, a not-for-profit organization with over 50 member restaurants, recently elected Sonia Velasco as the new Board President. The Sarasota-Manatee Originals is the largest member organization of locally owned and independent restaurants.

Newly elected Board President Sonia Velasco brings over 25 years experience in communications, graphic design and marketing. For the past 13 years, she has worked with local businesses, restaurants, and non-profit organizations in the Sarasota-Manatee area. Prior to election as president, Velasco has served two terms (four years) as the board secretary of the Sarasota-Manatee Originals. Sonia is a self-proclaimed foodie at heart who loves to cook and bake for friends and family

“I have enjoyed my role as President of the Originals the past two years,” says Steve Harner, owner of The Crow’s Nest. “I appreciate the trust our more than 50 members have put in me, our board, and staff. All successful endeavors are the result of a team effort and it has certainly been that! I was fortunate to have stepped into a solid, established organization built on the hard work of my predecessors. Now, we are fortunate to have a talented, focused, experienced go-getter in Sonia Velasco, taking on the reins of leadership. With Sonia at the helm, a great staff, and an engaged membership, our future is very bright!”

Looking ahead at the direction of The Originals, Sonia says “As our region begins to gain national recognition as a ‘Foodie Destination,’ I’m looking forward to the growth of our organization, both internally and externally. I give a lot of credit to Steve Harner; during his term we have redefined our focus and membership to provide more value to our members as well as service to our patrons and community. I want to continue where Steve left off.”

Velasco adds, “Restaurant patrons are becoming more educated and interested in food quality and source and gravitating towards local businesses in search of memorable food experiences. Our goal is to provide the resources and tools to our members to assist them in all aspects of their business. Excellent quality and service is key, but we want to help them succeed and run efficiently; that means not only marketing but through education and knowledge-sharing.”

Kate Atkin, Executive Director of The Originals states, “The success of such a large organization has come highly in part from bringing together like-minded individuals to serve on the Board of Directors. Our Executive Board helps to guide and lead the organization. I feel so lucky to work with such a dynamic group. Each board member may have different backgrounds, areas of expertise, and years of experience, but it is exciting and inspiring to see the group working together for the greater good of the organization. With their shared passion to promote our local culinary scene and independent restaurants, I expect great new initiatives under their guidance.”

The Executive Board of Directors includes:

  • Sonia Velasco, Business Development and Marketing Consultant (Board President)
  • Beth Owen-Cipielewski, Co-Owner Siesta Key Oyster Bar (Board Vice President)
  • Emma Kate Silvestri, Marketing Director for Venice Pier Group (Board Secretary)
  • Michael Harb, Owner Fast N Fresh (Board Treasurer)


At Large Board Members include:

  • D’Arcy Arpke, Co-Owner Euphemia Haye
  • Greg Campbell, Executive Chef and Manager Pier 22
  • Josh Halbrucker, Managing Partner Duval’s. Fresh. Local. Seafood.
  • Steve Harner, Owner The Crow’s Nest
  • Michael Klauber, Co-Proprietor Michael’s On East (Founding Board President)

About the Sarasota-Manatee Originals
The Sarasota-Manatee Originals is a group of locally owned restaurants who share a passion for dining excellence and commitment to our community. With more than 50 restaurants the group has become the go-to resource for an “Eat Like a Local” experience. For more information, call 941-365-2800 or visit

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author

Editor of Media website.
Free Newsletter Updated Daily