As befitting their last meeting before the holidays, the members of the Siesta Key Association this month took the opportunity to thank county employees who play major roles in the upkeep of the Key’s beaches and the protection of its wildlife.
SKA President Catherine Luckner opened the recognition part of the Dec. 1 meeting by recalling a phone call she had received about 6 a.m. May 27, from Carolyn Brown, who, at that time, was the interim general manager of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“She could hardly wait for dawn to call,” Luckner said with a laugh.
Confessing she was not wide awake, Luckner said she heard a voice talking after she answered the phone, but she was not registering much of what the voice was saying.
Luckner finally had to ask, “Who is this?”
The reason Brown was calling, Luckner continued, was that Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman of Florida International University — the renowned Dr. Beach — was getting ready to tell a national TV audience that he had elevated the Siesta beach from its No. 2 spot for two years in a row on his Top 10 U.S. Beaches list to No. 1 for 2011.
Luckner added she was taking great pleasure in announcing that Brown no longer had “interim” attached to her title.
Brown told Luckner and the SKA board: “Thank you all for having us. … It is truly our pleasure to serve the county.”
Then, nodding toward her fellow staff members, Brown said, “Without them, truly, I couldn’t do anything.”
Accompanying Brown for the celebration were Jonathan Poyner, beach events coordinator; George Tatge and Jerris Foote, both Parks and Recreation Department managers; and Jessica Ritter, who works on planning for beach projects.
Brown, a Venice native and Eckerd College graduate, told the SKA audience she had been a county employee for 23 years.
“It’s amazing what we have (in Sarasota County),” she said. “I truly feel I have the best job in the whole entire world and the best staff.”
Tatge, who has been in his position 10 years, talked of the importance of county staff partnering with organizations and residents.
“We don’t do a whole lot out here without your input,” he said.
Poyner “high-fived” almost everyone in the audience then thanked the SKA for its financial support of the Kids Summer Beach Runs, the July Fourth fireworks show and the amateur sandsculpting competition the Parks and Recreation and the Pelican Press sponsor the first Saturday in May.
One of the best things about the Siesta Key Public Beach, he pointed out, is that it is growing, or accreting sand. It has grown from 40 acres to 100 acres over time, Poyner said.
“Jonathan, you’re a lot of fun,” Luckner told him.
A former resident of Washington, D.C., Ritter said she had been a county employee for six years.
Foote said she moved to Sarasota County in 1982. She managed Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program for a number of years, she said, before becoming a supervisor of natural areas for the Parks and Recreation Department.
Luckner also recognized Dr. Allan Worms and Dick Miles, Siesta Beach Ambassador volunteers, for the time they devote to protecting the environment and helping people understand the need for people and a wide variety of creatures to co-exist on the Key.
Worms took that opportunity to say at least five species of rare birds nest in the county.
An annual volunteer in Sarasota Audubon’s program to protect the endangered snowy plovers, Worms extended an open invitation to enjoy a morning walk to check the birds’ nesting status during the spring and summer.
+ More kudos
Following a discussion of lawn service code violations during the SKA’s Dec. 1 meeting, audience member Katherine Zimmerman said one of her neighbors had an air-conditioning unit that was unusually noisy.
“Call 861-5000 and make a complaint,” said John Lally, the Key’s code enforcement officer. He was referring to the Sarasota County Call Center.
Zimmerman said she was inclined to print notices asking people to refrain from operating noisy yard equipment early on weekend mornings and in the evenings, when residents like to sit outside. When she added she was thinking of putting such notices in her neighbors’ mailboxes, SKA board member Bob Waechter drew laughter from other audience members when he told her, “Of course, it’s a federal offense to put things in mailboxes.”
At the end of the discussion, SKA board member Deet Jonker said he wanted to thank Lally for his work, adding that Lally “is the best thing that’s happened to the Key in a long time.”
As audience members began to applaud, Waechter interjected, “No, Nora is,” referring to Patterson. That comment drew another round of applause.
+ Parade duty
During her report to the SKA audience Dec. 1, Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce President Cheryl Gaddie was enthusiastic about the success of Light Up the Village, the holiday season kickoff event held the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
“I think the best part of the parade,” she said, “was this group pushing that (fire truck) up Ocean Boulevard.”
After the laughter died down, SKA board member Joe Volpe said: “Last year, I was chasing the fire truck. This year, I was pushing it.”
The fire truck to which they both referred is an antique belonging to SKA board member Bob Waechter. SKA Vice President Peter van Roekens explained to me later that Waechter tried using an inverter to run lights on the truck. Apparently, that was too heavy a burden for the battery and electrical system. As a result, the truck just died in place.
However, not wanting to disappoint anyone — especially the youngsters lining Beach Road and Ocean Boulevard — van Roekens, Volpe and others just put “manpower” into maneuvering the truck along the parade route.
Van Roekens told me wryly that the truck started fine the next morning.