LAKEWOOD RANCH — There’s no question Eva Rey has hit the ground running at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
The organization’s executive director has worked diligently to help establish a voice and identity for Lakewood Ranch’s community development districts through a new website; improved processes and the accessibility of records; improved customer relations with residents, boards, media and outside groups; and made other improvements to the organization, of which she assumed leadership Aug. 1, 2011.
Tom Green, chairman of the Inter-District Authority Board, the agency that oversees Town Hall operations on behalf of the districts, commended Rey on her performance Sept. 13, after releasing results of Rey’s first performance review.
“I asked for input from every key (person/group Eva works with),” IDA Chairman Tom Green said. “The results (all) came back the same. They, and I, feel Eva is doing an outstanding job.”
The East County Observer caught Rey for a few minutes to discuss her first year.
What has your first year been like?
In the beginning, it was a little bit of a learning curve — getting to know the boards and staff and current policies. Then, there was a process of evaluating to determine where we could find efficiencies and improvements. Then, there was the implementation period. The website deployed. We did a salary study. We hired a clerk. We’ve really done a lot, in my opinion, in terms of policy and process.
What do you feel has been the most important change you’ve made?
I think all the employees feel more empowered to do their jobs. They’ve all embraced my philosophy of openness and transparency and customer service. It’s a visible change. When residents comment to me about the changes they notice, it’s that it feels better. It’s a more positive experience for them.
You’ve done a lot to improve transparency with the website. Why did you feel that was so important?
It’s a tool for instantly communicating. We can put everything out there, and any given individual should be able to find what they’re looking for.
We’re still trying to market (the website). We’ve seen a steady increase in unique users to the site, so we know new people are learning about it, but the number is still small given the population.
What are your top priorities for 2013?
Irrigation is a subject the community is very focused on right now. Our strategic plan that we’re developing, hopefully, will play a key role in resolving irrigation issues.
A big piece of it is behavioral — residents watching their water usage and understanding the correlation between turf health and water usage.
There are a lot of educational components we want to do, including to have a whole web page devoted to conservation issues and best practices. It’s not all making the pipes better or (spending money on) infrastructure improvements.
If we can accomplish a lot of those smaller things, we can impact the quality of the system without putting a shovel in the ground.
We’re looking at bringing the audits to the boards sooner. I’m working with staff to evaluate all of our job descriptions.
The maintenance facility — put a star by that one. We want to make sure that goes off without a hitch. We’re working on all administrative policies and procedures. In our clerk’s division, we’re working on converting our documents electronically and setting up a recording system for her to procure the minutes.
I have lofty goals.
What has been the biggest highlight professionally of your first year?
There are so many, but I’m really proud of the website. A lot of work went into that and it looks good and it’s user-friendly, in my opinion. It heralded the arrival of Lakewood Ranch not just as a community, but the governance side of it, too, I think. It puts us on the map from a governance standpoint.
You’ve been at numerous community events over the last year. Which was your favorite?
Boo Fest. The costumes were so creative, and the kids had so much fun. I couldn’t believe the work that went into the transforming the travel agency into a scene from “Alice in Wonderland.”
What’s become your go-to activities when guests visit?
I take them to Polo Grill for lunch or dinner. I really enjoy it. I like (the owners) Tommy and Jaymie (Klauber).
The Ringling Museum is always a must-see for anyone who visits me.
What is the most recent book you read?
I read “The Hunger Games” series. I loved them. I read them in succession in about one week. As soon as the movie came out on DVD, I watched it. I loved it, and I had to read the books.
What has been your biggest personal highlight over the last year?
I bought my new car. It’s a 2012 Shelby Cobra — all black. It’s my dream car.