Phillip Younger lost by just 94 votes to incumbent at-large Commissioner Hal Lenobel in the March Longboat Key Town Commission election. But he continued to faithfully attend every commission meeting, sitting toward the back of the room, as he had done every month starting in September, when he became a certified commission candidate.
“I was still interested in what was going on,” Younger said. “Winning or losing didn’t change that.”
But after a special meeting Monday, June 7, at Temple Beth Israel, the Bay Isles resident will have a new seat at Town Hall chambers: He was unanimously selected by commissioners to replace Commissioner Gene Jaleski, who resigned May 25.
“I feel honored, frankly,” Younger said. “I appreciate the commissioners feeling confidence in me to fill the vacancy.”
In a February interview, Younger told The Longboat Observer his top priorities for the town: a resolution of the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation-and-expansion plan; finding a long-term solution for protection of beaches; pension liability resolution; maintaining Comprehensive Plan requirements as related to maintaining local amenities; establishing a realistic budget for the coming year with transparency of the budgeting process; and enhancing communications on the island.
Four months later, Younger, 65, says those priorities haven’t changed.
“There hasn’t been the opportunity to resolve anything in the past couple of months, and (my) priorities remain the same,” he said.
When Younger was running for office, the commission appeared ready to vote on the Key Club’s plan before the general election. Instead, the Key Club withdrew its plans to make modifications and to request zoning code changes. When Younger took his oath of office Monday, June 7, he immediately found himself part of a commission acting as judges in an eight-hour project hearing.
Now that he holds office, Younger says that he is limited in what he can discuss about the project. But he said that a compromise that he offered in January for the Key Club was meant as a suggestion and was not presented to tell commissioners how to vote. He also pointed out that some of Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson’s concerns at Monday’s meeting appeared to involve Longboat Club Road, which Younger had addressed in his compromise, in which he suggested that traffic impacts could be lessened by moving the road’s entrance to the south edge of the golf course and curving it back to the current road after passing the proposed meeting center.
An Atlanta native and Georgia Tech graduate who worked as a manager of technical-support area and line maintenance for Delta Airlines, Younger has built a career out of problem solving. He was promoted from industrial engineer to manager during his 31 years at Delta and also earned his law degree in 1977. While at Delta, Younger designed and patented a lightweight cargo container door with no bars, which saved the airline millions of dollars in fuel costs. Now, as a commissioner, he could help determine how the town saves money by voting on how the town prepares its budget.
Technically, Younger has been retired since 2002. But he has been increasingly involved in town affairs since 2005, when he and his wife, Fanny, became permanent residents. He served on the Longboat Key Public Interest Committee board from 2007-08, the town’s Code Enforcement Board 2008-10, and, most recently, on the P&Z Board from May to June 7.
Younger summed up his thoughts on running for the commission in a December 2009 profile in The Longboat Observer.
“This is what retirement does to you,” he said. “Being a commissioner is the culmination of my sitting on the sidelines and either continuing to complain or deciding to do something about it.”
In his own words
Commissioner Phil Younger spoke out while he was on the campaign trail this season.
“Congratulations to commissioners for your vote to set the upcoming fiscal year’s tax rate at 1.4903 mils, a rate even slightly lower than this year’s and which, most importantly, can be accomplished without a decrease in town services. Your resolve to achieve this goal for the benefit of residents is quite admirable,” Younger wrote in a Sept. 15 e-mail to the Town Commission
“There has been some decline on the island in the last several years. I would like to see a little more vibrancy restored to an island I still consider one of the top-10 places I have ever visited,” Younger told The Longboat Observer in December
“ … I was the only person who stood before the commission and presented a proposal that would harm all and benefit none. I believe in the arts of negotiation and compromise,” Younger said during a March 4 debate held by L’Ambiance and Grand Bay, when asked about the possibility for mediation to resolve issues with the Key Club’s Islandside plan
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].