In high school, Lynn Larson never put her name on the ballot for student-council elections. During past Longboat Key Town Commission elections, she has been behind the scenes, doing paid volunteer work as a precinct clerk for the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office. She was drafted for president of the Country Club Shores Unit IV Association in 2004. But now, Larson, 59, is running against not one, but two opponents for the District 1 Town Commission seat.
“I don’t want us to become an island of the past,” said Larson, who, with her husband, Jim, bought property on Longboat Key in 2000 and moved to the island permanently in 2002. “I want us to remain an island of the present and future.”
On Dec. 11, Larson qualified for the District 1 seat, meaning that she will run against Mayor Lee Rothenberg and Lee Pokoik, both of whom live in Country Club Shores, in a Jan. 26 preliminary election.
The runoff election is the town’s first in 20 years. And, if Larson, who was the first female director of the Florida Department of Insurance, wins that election and the general election in March, she will become the lone woman on the Town Commission and one of just eight women to serve in the town’s 54-year history.
Larson is no newcomer to public service. She serves as a court mediator for the 12th Judicial Circuit and trustee on the Longboat Key police pension board. In the past, she was a citizen representative on the Sarasota County Contractors Licensing Board.
The preliminary election will come just 46 days after she qualified to run. And Larson is ready to speak out about certain issues.
For now, she opposes raising the millage rate, saying that every person on the island has been impacted by the financial crisis. She thinks that the town should look into more beautification grants that could be available through the economic stimulus package. And she thinks that some sort of compromise, instead of litigation, is needed when it comes to the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s $400 million Islandside redevelopment plan.
But her ultimate goal is to speak to as many residents as possible about the issues that concern them. Earlier this month, she attended meetings of the Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key and the Federation of Longboat Key Condominiums. She also plans to seek input from Longboat Key police and firefighters about various issues.
“We have a wealth of information out here, some incredible talent,” Larson said. “When the people have the opportunity to speak, they’re very knowledgeable, and they tell you what they need and their solutions to those needs.”
That’s been her style during the nearly six years in which she has served as Country Club Shores Unit IV president. When the neighborhood’s canal wing-walls showed damage, Larson listened to residents who had an engineering background and devised a plan to fix the problem. She points to the transparency of the board’s activities throughout her tenure. All meetings, which usually take place in her home, are open to all homeowners.
Larson says that her neighbors at Country Club Shores convinced her to run for association president, because they were drawn to her patience and inclusive style of leadership. She criticized the Dec. 7 vote by the Town Commission to change term-limit rules by allowing commissioners to serve three-consecutive, two-year terms in addition to any time served as a partial term, in part, because she said Rothenberg voted on an issue that would directly affect him. But she says that the issue of term limits is also important because town committees and the commission need new voices.
“It’s time for someone new to come in with their ideas,” Larson said.
Former occupation: State administrator and insurance executive with a background as a registered nurse
Hometown: Picayune, Miss.
Passion: Mediation and her five children and nine grandchildren
Interesting fact: Larson enjoys a game of poker and, formerly, in Tallahassee, was a member of a poker group that included some cabinet officers. They always made sure the stakes were low enough that the game was legal.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].
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