New Planning and Zoning board member says she's coming in without an axe to grind.
Penny Gold, age 67, is not one of those people whose name recognition keeps them in positions of power on Longboat Key – she didn’t bounce from the Town Commission to the Planning and Zoning Board and back again. She doesn’t have a staple issue to cling to, and she isn’t interested in politics beyond the minutiae of P&Z. Instead, she is a technocrat in her field who, even in retirement, can’t stay away from local government, where she started her career.
One of seven new P&Z board members, Gold has an extensive background in government planning in Kentucky, from Program Planning and Development to the governor's staff to the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction and beyond, all of which informed her decision to apply for the job. In our conversation, Gold said she hoped to maintain the charm of Longboat and to make sure the community doesn’t become too transitory.
How long have you been in Longboat?
We bought a place about 14 years ago and decided when we were going to retire that we were going to retire to Longboat. We had been coming down for vacations and winters, but we were working full-time, so it was difficult to get as much time on Longboat as we wanted. I became a full-time resident when I retired December 1 of 2017, and we flew to Longboat Key on the second and closed on a new place on the 4th.
What made you want to return to local government after retiring?
I had a friend who asked me the same thing. It's just what I do, it's who I am. I’ve always made an effort to get involved in the local community where I live. So this was just the right spot at the right time. I'm coming into this without any preconceived notions and no biases or personal agenda. I was around planning and zoning and local issues, gosh, my whole career, and so when I saw that the planning and zoning seat was open, I thought it was the perfect spot for me to give back to the community and put some of my experience and skills to work for Longboat. I didn't make it the first round, but I was appointed the second round, and I was really pleased.
"Between the traffic challenges and the art center and the Colony, we seem to be at a crossroads." – Penny Gold
You were in Longboat for a while before you joined P&Z. Was there something that made you say, “Well, if I was on the board, I would have done it this way”?
Oh, probably daily. I just want to make sure Longboat stays an idyllic place to live for the future. And I have a feeling that we're at a crossroads. We have more development coming and more decisions to make, and I just want to make sure that we're thoughtful about it without destroying our lovely quality of life.
What are your thoughts on redevelopment in Longboat?
Because we're a barrier island, we may have more risk than inland localities, and in the event of a natural disaster, I think we really need to be prepared, not only to rebuild, but to bring Longboat Key back better. One of the things that planning and zoning can do is keep an eye on the codes and make sure that whatever we're doing sets us up for a for a bright future.
Have you been following the Airbnb issue on Longboat?
I've been watching that and saw it was approved to move forward with a lawsuit. I really don't have any strong feelings about it. There's Airbnb going on all over the country, but Longboat’s a unique place. They're always pretty strict about how long rentals are permitted. I'd be concerned if we became a transient community.
What do you think will be your strengths as a board member?
I try to be very diplomatic. Working in government affairs, you have to have to be able to compromise. I don't lose my temper. And I think I bring the right temperament for a collaborative effort, and my past experience, I think, will be helpful. It's always been my job to help analyze complex issues, whether they're legal or tax or administrative.
Do you have any future plans to run for elected office?
Oh, gosh, no, I haven't given any thought to that. No. And I'm sure everybody says the same thing. I want to be helpful to Longboat Key where I can, and I think my background’s a great fit for planning and zoning. I haven't given any thought past that.
Is there anything else that you've been thinking about in relation to P&Z that we haven't touched on?
Between the traffic challenges and the art center and the Colony, we seem to be at a crossroads. I think there's going to be a lot to do in the coming year. It’s a very interesting time to be in planning and zoning.