Lynn Larson doesn’t feel like the commissioners are listening to voters.
That’s why she acquiesced to requests by her friends to run for the District 1 seat against her Country Club Shores neighbors, Lee Rothenberg and Lee Pokoik.
“I feel like they think they know better than their own constituents,” she says.
Larson, 59, says if she’s elected, she would consult with Longboat citizens to discern their views before making any decisions.
Asked if she supports the $2.5 million breakwater plan for the severely eroded beach on the north end of the island, Larson said she doesn’t know.
“I would have to poll the people directly affected by that decision,” Larson says. “They would have to look at the breakwaters every day. It’s up to them.”
And Larson, who was voted onto a police-pension trustee seat last year, has no qualms about telling you why she vied for a seat on that board.
“The town’s pension funds should never be in the shape they are in today,” Larson says. “If they had been managed properly, the taxpayers would never be in this situation.”
Larson has been a paid volunteer for the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office for years; she is in her last term of service as the president of the Country Club Shores Unit IV Association; and she is a longtime Red Cross volunteer who has used her registered-nursing skills to assist after the tragedies of recent hurricanes.
Larson spent many years as a registered nurse, before making a transition to a rehabilitation nurse in 1977, which led to a career move as a vice president in charge of rehabilitation-nurse training in the private sector.
In 1984, Larson was recruited by the Florida Department of Insurance and quickly became its first female director. She worked for Bill Nelson and Tom Gallagher and was promoted as division director of the state’s insurance fund before retiring in 2002.
After scouting Hawaii, and California, for possible places to retire, Larson and her husband, Jim, settled in 2000 on Longboat Key and moved here permanently in 2002.
“We knew this was it when we were sitting on a bench on St. Armands Circle taking it all in,” Larson says.
Larson, who tore down and built a new home in Country Club Shores a few years ago, blames some of the island’s deterioration on town codes.
“We could only improve our home up to 50% of the common structure every five years,” Larson says. “That led a lot of people to hold off on home renovations.”
The 50% rule has since been modified to eliminate the five-year language, but Larson says inconsistent town codes like that cause problems.
Larson has some ideas for the town budget, too. “I don’t think the town manager should receive a raise any higher than the raises his employees receive,” she says.
If elected, she hopes she can effect change among her commission peers. Says Larson: “We need an attitude from the commission on down that we are here as a town to help its citizens.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at email@example.com
Family: husband, Jim; five children; and nine grandchildren.
Professional: Former director of the Florida Department of Insurance.
Hometown: Picayune, Miss.
Passion: Muffin, her 11-month-old Yorkie; and Tweetie Bird, her parakeet.
Interesting fact: Larson loves to sew and makes special quilts for her grandchildren and friends.
Q&A with Lynn Larson
How should the town handle a pension shortfall of more than $26 million?
They have a short-term solution worked out on the state level. We need to look into a defined contribution plan for new employees and others who want to opt out. But we need to live up to our promises (in the old plans). We don’t need to jeopardize that. We do need to give a concentrated effort and research to see if we should join the state pension plan as well.
Should the town be spending $25,000 for a consultant to combat the city of Sarasota’s roundabout plan?
The commission could have brought in city, county and transportation people to discuss our issues. I am open-minded to the roundabouts, but I’m aware they can be very confusing to someone not familiar with the area.
How should the town move forward with its north-end erosion problems?
They need to ask the people who front that property. That’s a decision the residents need to make because it’s their property at risk. It’s their decision.
What are your thoughts on The Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation and expansion project?
We must update our island. It can’t be allowed to deteriorate. We have to support small business and business in general. If the Key Club does not update, we are going to be faced with another situation like The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort. We need to support places like the Colony and help situations.