Retired economist vies for at-large seat

 

Retired economist vies for at-large seat

 

Date: November 6, 2013
by: Kurt Schultheis | Managing Editor

 
 

Country Club Shores resident Armando Linde performed financial work for governments in more than 60 countries for 33 years; he led teams of economists and lawyers that provided financial assistance and economic management structures.

Now, in retirement, he wants to tackle the town of Longboat Key’s $4 million general fund as a commissioner.

Linde has taken out papers to run against at-large Commissioner Terry Gans and anticipates qualifying for the race by the end of this week.

“I’ve been asked how I can adjust from all those large numbers I used to calculate for countries to our little town’s budget,” Linde said. “My answer is all of the same policies, issues and tradeoffs are the same with just smaller numbers involved. This is my community and I’m ready to help anyway I can.”

Linde moved three years ago to Longboat Key after retiring from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
When he read a story in the Longboat Observer earlier this year that explained the town’s Investment Advisory Committee was looking for a new member, he applied and landed the job. He took on that responsibility after receiving an appointment to the town’s new Longboat Key Firefighters’ Retirement System board of trustees.

Linde made an impact on the investment committee immediately.

At its Oct. 11 meeting, committee members and town staff debated the pros and cons of dealing with more than $27 million in pension debt.

Linde urged staff and committee members not to obtain a bond to pay off the debt, noting the town can continue to budget for the annual required contributions and plan for making more than the annual required contributions to pay down the debt over time.

“No one is saying we have to pay it all now and fund the burden all at once,” Linde said. “The bond market is in disarray, and interest rates will continue to rise. I suggest we forget about the bond.”

The committee and the commission agreed with that approach.

Linde said he just wants to use the knowledge he’s obtained over the years to the town.

Linde’s background

Born in 1943, Linde and his family operated a mid-sized hotel on a resort beach in his native Havana.

“When Fidel Castro took over, my father decided after a year of his reign that things weren’t looking up and sent my brother and I to a family friend’s home in Maryland in 1960, when I was 16 years old,” Linde said. “A year later, my parents arrived after losing their hotel and 90% of their assets, like many Cubans.”

Linde said his family always expected to go back to Cuba after Castro’s reign ended.

“When we knew that wasn’t going to happen, it was time to make a life for ourselves in the United States,” Linde said.

Linde delved into his studies; he graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He was on his way to attaining a doctorate degree in economics when the IMF recruited him in 1976. He went to work as an economist, working for more than 60 countries and being promoted to the IMF senior staff.

Linde was eventually promoted to deputy secretary of the IMF, which employs approximately 2,500 people.

When he retired four years ago, Linde and his wife, Felicity, knew they wanted to live in Florida and settled on Longboat Key after being stuck behind a slow-moving trolley that gave them time to look at the Key on their way from Anna Maria Island to Sarasota.

“We live right next to a small city with big-city amenities,” Linde said.

After three years of retirement, Linde said he “was sitting on my hands.”

“It became normal to want to do something for my town,” Linde said.

His work on the investment committee has led to a decision to run as a commissioner, with a platform of fiscal conservatism.

Although Linde says he’s happy with the commission’s work to freeze the unfunded pension liabilities, he said there’s much more work to be done.

Commission platform
“The commission did a great job stopping the bleeding, but I’m worried about the unfunded liabilities,” Linde said.

Linde suggests the $27 million number that’s used to describe the unfunded debt is actually much more, noting that rates of return for that debt is at 8% for the firefighter fund, when, in reality, its rates of return are 5.6%.

“There’s an issue of transparency there,” Linde said.

Linde is also disappointed with the commission’s decision to allow more employees to enter the Deferred Retirement Options Program (DROP).

“I’m tired of hearing that employees could be afforded the DROP or the town can afford things because the town is an affluent community and its residents can afford it,” said Linde, noting that the 2010 U.S. Census showed that 60% of Key households earn less than $50,000 a year. “It sends a bad message.”
Linde also suggests the town can continue to cut its budget and look at outsourcing certain services to either Manatee or Sarasota counties.

“My experience on fiscal issues and the need to maintain fiscal discipline can help,” Linde said. “I’m ready to try and hold a public platform to discuss the issues with residents to see if they like my ideas of fiscal prudence.”

Armando Linde
Age: 70
Family: Wife, Felicity; four children; and four grandchildren
Former occupation: Economist
Hometown: Born in Havana. Linde left when he was 16 and lived in Washington, D.C., until retiring three years ago to Longboat Key.
Hobbies: Tennis, walking and swimming
Interesting Fact: Linde has worked with more than 60 countries on four continents. He lived in India for two years and in Liberia for two years.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at kschultheis@yourobserver.com

 

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