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Steve Schield
Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016 5 years ago

A Conversation with Steve Schield

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Steve Schield, 60, has been a town employee for 26 years and a resident of the island since 1994. The senior planner is known as the town’s tree protector who helps developers realize trees on a project site can be an asset instead of a roadblock.
by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Steve Schield, 60, has been a town employee for 26 years and a resident of the island since 1994. The senior planner is known as the town’s tree protector who helps developers realize trees on a project site can be an asset instead of a roadblock.

What was life like growing up in Central Florida in the 1950s?
I moved from Waverly, Iowa, to Kissimmee in 1958, which means I lived there B.D. — Before Disney. The change that community saw when Walt Disney bought up all that farmland was dramatic and amazing to watch. Once the park opened in 1971, it was either digging ditches in the hot summer with my dad for his plumbing business or working at the theme park. The choice was easy. I worked as a Disney Jungle Cruise captain for three summers while putting myself through college at the University of Florida. I still remember my speech.

How did you make your way to Longboat Key?
When Doreen and I got married, I started my own architecture firm and bought and sold homes in Plant City, where we lived. But there was an economic downturn in the late 1980s, and work dried up. I applied for the Longboat Key job and started in 1989. I thought it would help me get through the downturn. Here I am 26 years later as a government employee.

Your street, St. Judes Drive, has above-ground power lines. Will you support burying neighborhood power lines?
I support undergrounding. Having said that, I don’t know if I can afford the increase in my tax bill. I need to run the budget numbers some more. A lot of my neighbors don’t support the project.

How many trees have you helped save from being bulldozed?
Too many to count. Thousands. I enjoy working with developers to make them realize the trees can be a focal point of their projects instead of a detriment.

What project stands out most for protecting the environment?
Marina Bay originally wanted to tear down all of their oak trees. I convinced them to keep them all, and the fire department agreed they could back up their fire truck to get out after responding to a fire to save the trees.

What was the most complicated project you oversaw?
The new Longboat Key Publix. We had to fight to save some of those oak trees. And the infamous buffer we have on Gulf of Mexico Drive took a lot of behind-the-scenes work.

You’re scheduled to retire in August 2018. What’s left to accomplish?
Finishing the removal of the exotic plants and Australian pines. And watching an island that’s 98% built out become completely built out as we work on applications.

Is traffic really that bad on Longboat Key in season?
No. In the 1990s, it was much worse than it was last year because there were more full-time residents. We’re used to it.

What’s your proudest accomplishment as a planner?
I did the original concept designs for Quick Point, Joan Durante and Bayfront parks and oversaw the design and construction.

What’s different about island life for families with small children?
If there was a traffic jam on the island, we would send the kids up to Anna Maria Island for school or sports on the boat. We came up with the original boat taxi for kids in season traffic.

Where do you want to retire?
I’m not moving anywhere. I boat and fish and loved raising my family here. Where else would I want to be?

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