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New Leadership Institute office opens downtown with ties to Bridget Ziegler

Written by on Saturday, August 12, 2023

Bridget Ziegler is both Chair of the Sarasota School Board and a salary-earning vice president of the conservative Liberty Institute. That institute opened an office on Main Street in Sarasota, and some protesters were there to point out what they see as a conflict of interests for Ziegler.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: August 11, 2023


Official Transcript

Johannes Werner: Bridget Ziegler is both Chair of the Sarasota School Board and a salary-earning Vice President of a conservative organizing institute. That institute opened an office on Main Street in Sarasota today, and some protesters were there to point out what they see as a conflict of interest for Ziegler. Ramon Lopez has that report.

Crowd: [Chanting] Ho ho, hey hey, Bridget Ziegler, go away! Ho ho, hey hey, Bridget Ziegler, go away!

Host: 30 or 40 angry protesters gathered in hot and humid downtown Sarasota Friday morning to protest the grand opening for the new training center for the Arlington Virginia based conservative Leadership Institute. They wanted Morton Blackwell, the institute’s founder, and Bridget Ziegler, who will head up the training center, to know that they don’t want them interfering in Sarasota public school matters.

That will be hard for Ziegler, however, since she is the conservative Chair of the Sarasota School Board, while at the same time, the Vice President of School Board Training Programs at the Leadership Institute. Both Blackwell and Ziegler were there for a ribbon cutting ceremony which WSLR News was barred from attending.

The Leadership Institute trains conservative college students to organize. Blackwell believes a shortage of active conservatives is “one of America’s greatest weaknesses.” The nonprofit group says it doesn’t make policy, it teaches conservative Americans how to influence policy through activism. The institute strives to produce a new generation of conservative public policy leaders committed to free enterprise, limited government and traditional values.

Speaking at the event was Chris Elston. He described his role with the Leadership Institute.

Chris Elston: I’m working with them, really going forward, I’ll be speaking at university speaking events on campus about what I consider to be the greatest child abuse scandal in modern medicine history, which is this business of gender ideology. Teaching our children that they might have been born in the wrong body, giving kids puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and doing surgeries on children. I speak about that.

And so I work with Moms For Liberty, I work for the Leadership Institute now, I work with the Heritage Foundation just to help create awareness so we can put a stop to this child abuse.

Host: Chris Elston outlined what will take place here in Sarasota under Bridget Ziegler’s control.

CE: This facility here is going to be training people all across the country so they can run for school boards and win. And support them when they have school board positions. Bridget is the Chair for the Sarasota School Board and she’s the Vice President for the School Board Training Program for the Leadership Institute.

Host: Tamara Solum came out to voice her opposition to Bridget Zielger’s questionable activities.

Tamara Solum: I’m a mom and I have also been working in the school system as a Resource Teacher, and I am just very concerned that there’s a strong conflict of interest between our Chair board Bridget Ziegler being the head of our school board and also being the vice president for a recruitment for school board leaders at the Leadership Institute. The fact that they brought this here—Bridget Ziegler as we all know, is one of the founding members of Moms For Liberty. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated for Moms For Liberty as an extremist group.

What we know and what I’ve read about, all the people who are going to be here today is pretty disturbing. They don’t believe in supporting our LGBTQ community, they don’t support trans rights, they are for banning books and limiting what children can read and controlling what teachers teach. And all of that is contrary, I believe, the what the head of a School Board of public education should be doing.

Host: Tamara Solum says Sarasota teachers are upset.

TS: I’m just trying to use my voice so that other people who are feeling marginalized know that we support them. I think there’s a lot of teachers that I know personally who—again, this is the second day of school. For them to be holding this the second day of school, our chair of our school board is attending a Leadership Institute that chooses to support privatizing education. That’s a huge conflict of interest.

And just letting people know and be aware of what’s going on and also letting our teachers know that we don’t think this is okay, because I know a lot of teachers are feeling really demoralized at this time.

Host: Tamara Solum says Bridget Ziegler must go.

TS: We all believe, at this point, she should be off the school board. It’s a conflict of interests. She’s more interested in promoting the Republican agenda and supporting her husband Christian Ziegler who is the head of the Republican Party in the state of Florida. She’s also on the New College presidential selection committee, absolutely inappropriate position. She’s also on the Reedy Creek board for Disney.

The fact that she’s been appointed to all of these positions with a husband who is the head of the Republican Party, you don’t need to connect dots, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to connect those dots.

Host: This has been Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.


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