BIRTHPLACE: White Plains, N.Y. (However I have lived in Bradenton since I was 3 years old).
FAMILY: Eric Center, deputy fire marshal for Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue. Three kids, ages 11, 12 and 13.
EDUCATION: B.A. in psychology from USF
PROFESSIONAL CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Rookie of the Year award my first year in real estate at Michael Saunders & Co. and also named Part-Time Associate of the Year my first year as a part-time agent at Leslie Wells Realty Inc.
FUN FACT: I was trapped in a burning apartment building my first semester at the University of Florida where I was rescued by firefighters. That experience completely solidified my admiration and respect for the work that firemen do.
Why are you running for office?
I am running for office because I have a strong desire to give back to my community and to support an organization that is near and dear to my heart. Because both my husband and my father-in-law are in the fire service, my interest in the position is as personal as it is professional, in that I want to continue my family’s legacy by taking an active role in the future of the fire service in Manatee County.
What experiences qualify you for this position?
My desire to give back to my community and my willingness to further develop my knowledge of the fire service qualifies me for this position.
I’ve spent most of my life in Bradenton, and I believe this is the perfect opportunity for me to give back to this community. As the wife of a fire service employee, I have a strong sense of the service’s culture. I’m also a working mother with multiple degrees, including a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. This background in particular has provided me with an ability to analyze and manage people efficiently and effectively, as I did in my role as staffing manager/recruiter with Snelling Staffing Services. For Snelling Staffing Services, I worked extensively with several businesses in our local community. I have also been an active Realtor in Manatee County for 10 years, developing strong ties to this area along the way.
My professional management and real-estate experience has included work with clients, contracts, budgets and other confidential information. I see our community as my client, and believe that I have an obligation to work ethically and fairly on behalf of the taxpayers to support fire service members. This is a belief I intend to develop at Thomas Cooley, where I was recently accepted for law school.
What makes you more qualified than your opponent?
Because I am running for an open elected position, I view my candidacy in less competitive terms, preferring instead to emphasize my qualifications. I am not only an engaged citizen who wants to serve my community, but have a unique combination of educational and professional experiences that make me well suited to the position, as well as strong family ties to the fire service.
What do you feel are the biggest issues facing the district and what do you propose to address them?
Currently the district is well managed, well funded and serves the public professionally with highly skilled and trained firefighters. I wish to continue to ensure this level of service.
What is your position on the staffing of the fire district — sufficient, insufficient. Please explain.
The district serves and protects the public extremely well through its current staffing. If in the future the district requires more staffing in order to keep the same level of service, or if public safety requires it, I hope to provide for those needs at that time.
The 2012-2013 budget shows the district operating at a $2,213,744 deficit. What is your position on that?
I don’t believe the district is operating at a deficit. The district appears to be adequately funded, maintains an excellent reserve fund and has balanced debt. The district is not raising taxes and is holding the line on its revenues and expenditures. I hope to be able to continue to ensure great service without additional taxation.
The 2012-2013 budget shows the district’s reserve funds are greater than the annual operating budget — in effect, the district has $10 million in a savings account, with about half of that restricted and committed and $5 million of that “unassigned.” What is your position on the reserve funds: Is that amount too large?
Reserve funds are absolutely necessary for a public emergency service organization. They are recognized and demanded during the annual audit process as well as in emergency situations. In the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster, or in the case of an unforeseen emergency, and considering the continued economic distress of our community, emergency services must remain available.
It is also an accounting recommendation to reserve a minimum of three to five months of operating expenses (more if possible). I cannot speak to whether or not the reserve fund is too large until I am on the board and I have more information regarding its future station plans and build-outs. Based on the level of service that our community is accustomed to, I would not suggest the reserve as too large.
Should the millage rate be reduced and some of those reserve funds be refunded to taxpayers?
I support the efforts of the current board in achieving adequate reserves. Once I’m on the board I will more fully evaluate the continuing needs of the districts reserve fund levels.
What do you think is the right level of “unassigned” reserve funds?
Again, at a minimum three to five months, if not more, of operating expenses. If there are available funds to be expended from the reserves, these funds should be utilized for the continued upkeep, maintenance, and improvement of facilities, staffing and equipment.
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