The past four years have been interesting for an architect who never thought he would become involved in town politics.
Longboat Key Mayor Jim Brown calls it all a “blur.”
The former Planning and Zoning Board chairman still marvels at how it all came to pass and how it still, to this day, revolves around a community center he covets for the Key.
A longtime tennis player, Brown says he got to know the political players who urged him to join the planning board while playing at the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center.
Former Mayor Joan Webster approached Brown about becoming the chairman of the Community Center Advisory Committee in the late 1990s. The committee expressed its belief that the town should build a new $6 million recreational building at Bayfront Park Recreation Center.
Brown, though, was on the losing side of the battle after voters turned the center down in a local election.
More than two decades later, talk of a community center on the expanded park site that he can view from his front yard in Longboat Key Estates continues.
“The community center is still a goal that I have for this town,” Brown said. “I recognize it’s a bit controversial but, done properly, it would take this Key to another level.”
Today, Brown is working with others to develop a local community foundation that could help generate funds for a project that will cost millions.
“I think it has to be a great source of private funding,” Brown said. “In turn, a center would create a great source of community pride.”
Brown maintains his greatest strength as a commissioner is analyzing problems.
“As an architect, you’re an orchestra leader because you don’t play all the instruments, but you keep them all together as a project comes together,” Brown said.
During the past four years what Brown has enjoyed the most is what he perceives as a changing Key attitude.
“We just wanted everyone to leave us alone,” Brown said. “Now, we realize the Key needs to evolve and grow to survive.”
Brown said a voluntary rebuild ordinance and a method to distribute 250 lost tourism units, both measures he worked with as a commissioner and a planning board member, show how the Key’s line of thinking has shifted.
Brown is also proud of a three-year contract with the Longboat Key Fire Rescue that he’d like to see the union ratify soon.
“This group of commissioners was hell-bent on doing this,” Brown said. “We didn’t want to kick the pension debt down the road any longer.”
So, what’s next for Brown if he’s elected for a third consecutive two-year term in March over challenger Larry Grossman?
Updating the town’s codes and Comprehensive Plan, for one.
Other top issues Brown wants to tackle include “solving the Colony mess,” reviewing a Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort application, overseeing the 2013 beach project and working with the Police Department union on a new contract.
“We’ve accomplished a lot as a commission that’s willing to do things differently,” Brown said. “I’m hopeful I can continue that work.”
Occupation: Architect. Brown currently has two homes under construction on the Key.
Family: Wife, Joan
Hometown: Huntsville, Ala.
Hobbies: Sailing, fishing, hunting and golf
Passion: Traveling the world; Brown has visited more than 45 countries.
Interesting fact: Brown has designed homes, shopping plazas, commercial buildings, restaurants and hotels all over the country. He also designed a military base in Saudi Arabia and homes in Japan. Brown still designs homes on the Key for friends and neighbors.