The town of Longboat Key did its best to practice social distancing when B.J. Bishop and Sherry Dominick were sworn in on Monday morning.
Two newcomers took their seats on the Longboat Key Town Commission at a Monday morning meeting despite concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
“Statutorily, we have to meet and swear in a new commission because there is no provision in our charter or I believe in the Constitution of Florida to stop the democratic process,” Bishop said in a phone interview ahead of the meeting.
Longboat Key did its best to practice social distancing at the meeting by spacing out chairs inside the commission chambers at Town Hall. About 20 or so people attended Monday's meeting.
“We are in unprecedented times I think, except for those people who can remember back to 1918 or maybe the polio situation,” Dominick said before the meeting. “I think everybody is concerned. I think that people are gradually understanding that they need to take this extremely seriously, and like others, I’m limiting non-essential contact.”
During the meeting, each of the commissioners thanked Pastor and Clair for their work on behalf of the town.
“We have commissioners who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes,” Bishop said. “Irwin Pastor has done so much that never really gets a lot of attention, but has been so critical.”
For the foreseeable future, Dominick said she is no longer doing her volunteer work at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. The hospital announced Friday it will no longer allow visitors except in special circumstances.
“I have a daughter who is expecting . . . in another week and a half and she’s made it quite clear that I need to minimize all non-essential contact if I hope to have any contact with her newborn,” Dominick said.
Dominick is a retired lawyer and a Realtor for Michael Saunders and Co. She also serves on the Yale Club Suncoast Board of Directors.
Bishop has been a member of the town’s Planning and Zoning Board since 2006. She served as its chair from 2008-14 and from 2015 to the present. Bishop has also served as mayor and commission member in Leesburg, Va.
Bishop and Dominick becoming Longboat Key commissioners mark the first time since 2015 the commission isn’t filled entirely by men. It marks the fourth time in the town’s history that two women will serve on the commission at the same time.
“I’ve been used to people focusing on, ‘Oh, it’s a woman,’ and I hope at some point, we could stop focusing on that because the last time I checked 50% of the island is women,” Bishop said of her previous experiences in office.
Dominick expressed a similar sentiment.
“I have never personally felt that my voice was quieted because I was a woman, or that there were discrimination issues going on that were overt or anything like that,” Dominick said.
Once the concerns from the coronavirus pandemic subside, Dominick said she would meet with condo and neighborhood associations to learn about their concerns about the town.
“I am concerned about making sure that going forward that if we improve commercial businesses that we make sure we have the infrastructure in place to accommodate those businesses and so as not to cause undue disruption on the island,” Dominick said.
Dominick said she wanted to contribute to finding solutions to the red tide, algae and sea-level rise issues.
Bishop said she wanted to improve the town’s long-term planning and visioning.
“The reality of this community is we're an aging island that really started getting developed about 50 years ago,” Bishop said. “We have a number of older properties that are maybe no longer as viable as they once were.”
Bishop also mentioned the sea-level rise issue and the importance of the town’s beach management plan.
“Without the beach, A.) It certainly is important to our tourism, but B.) it's the only thing that keeps the Gulf of Mexico from coming right across Gulf of Mexico Drive,” Bishop said.
Bishop is scheduled to serve her at-large seat from 2020-2022. It then transitions to three-year terms after the town amended its charter last year.
Dominick is set to have a three-year term from 2020-2023 in District 1.
During Monday’s meeting, the commission also voted in favor of District 3 Commissioner Ken Schneier to serve as the town's new mayor. Schneier replaces George Spoll.
Spoll, who still serves as the District 2 commissioner, said Monday he wanted to finish his term as mayor.
"I had really hoped to finish out my career a year from today as your mayor, which is really an incredible honor," Spoll said. "But, I understand the need for new blood."
District 5 Commissioner Ed Zunz was the only one on the commission who voted for Spoll to resume his tenure as mayor. However, Zunz later changed his vote to support Schneier and make it unanimous.
"I want to thank my fellow commissioners for their confidence and trust," Schneier said.
Schneier also thanked Spoll for his service to the town.
"George Spoll has been everything for us and has done everything for us for many years," Schneier said. "I'm sure he will continue to do so for many more years."
The commission voted for At-Large Commissioner Mike Haycock to replace Zunz as the town's vice mayor. Zunz will continue his term as the District 5 commissioner.
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