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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010 10 years ago

District 1 candidate: Lee Pokoik

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

When Longboat Key District 1 Town Commission candidate Lee Pokoik drives up and down the Key, the retired real-estate executive sees an island on the decline that’s ripe for revitalization.

Pokoik, who grew up spending the winter months in Miami, describes Longboat Key as an area that’s in trouble, just like Miami prior to its downtown and South Beach revitalization.

“Miami was seedy before it got revitalized,” Pokoik says. “And I don’t want to see Longboat Key get any worse than it is now.”

Pokoik calls the north end “a disgrace” and sees more buildings than he can count in need of repairs.

“It’s a sight for sore eyes,” Pokoik says.

That’s why he’s running for a commission seat.

“When The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort shut down last year, that was the final straw for me,” Pokoik says. “That’s when I knew I needed to run for office.”

Pokoik says he realizes that the commission is limited to what it can do to encourage revitalization.

“But you have to try and I don’t see that happening with six of the seven commissioners up there,” says Pokoik, who was Commissioner Gene Jaleski’s campaign manager last March. “We need a change on the commission, which, for the most part, is a tired group of men who aren’t getting anything done and spend most of their time talking in circles.”

A New York City native with a degree in history from C.W. Post Campus, Long Island University, Pokoik branched out from the family business, Manhattan-based, real-estate-management firm Steinberg & Pokoik Management, in 1969. Pokoik began renovating brownstones and rented them out, building a business that led to other ventures.

Over the next four decades, Pokoik bought a horse farm in New York, bought a horse-racing business in South Carolina, became the co-owner of a Ford-Lincoln-Mercury car dealership in South Carolina, and owned several New York restaurants and nightclubs.

Pokoik retired in 2006, selling all of his companies and permanently moving to Longboat Key with his wife, Kathie, to a condominium at The Water Club.

Pokoik still spends at least two months in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., but says he spends more and more of his time at his Country Club Shores home, which he bought in 2004. “We love Longboat Key and we feel safe here,” Pokoik says.

But Pokoik, who calls a person’s home the most important asset in most people’s lives, is concerned about the place he calls home.

“People are walking away from their homes, businesses are leaving and the island is decaying,” Pokoik says. “It takes prodding by commissioners to wake people up, and I think I can do that.”

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]

Lee Pokoik
Age: 64
Family: Wife, Kathie;  a son; a daughter; two granddaughters; and a grandchild on the way.
Professional: Retired real-estate management executive,  and former Ford-Lincoln-Mercury car dealership owner;  restaurant and marina owner
Hometown: New York City
Passion: Flying his two airplanes across Florida to eat at restaurants with his wife and friends.
Interesting fact: Pokoik is a thoroughbred horse owner who has traveled the country with his racing horses. Pokoik was also once a theater major in college and has an affinity for acting and the theater.

Q&A with Lee Pokoik
How should the town handle a pension shortfall of more than $26 million?
Whether it’s a defined benefit plan, a 401K or a combination of the two, we need to keep the plans competitive. We have to keep these good people we have. We have the finest firefighter paramedics around. We must offer them benefits comparable to the best communities in the country. We can pay off the debt by cutting costs and spending less on consultants in future budget years.

Should the town spend $25,000 for a consultant to combat the city of Sarasota’s roundabout plan?
No. I am open-minded about roundabouts. The roundabout consultant admitted at a workshop that if the roundabouts are built correctly, they will move traffic more freely. This will allow paramedics to get people to the hospital more quickly.

How should the town move forward with its north-end erosion problems?
Not with a $2.5 million breakwater plan. The  town should own its own dredge and share it with Lido Key, Sarasota and Bradenton Beach. They could maintain all the beach they want and would not have to wait until there is severe erosion to fix (it).

What are your thoughts on The Longboat Key Club’s Islandside renovation and expansion project?
A deal must be reached to keep as much open space as possible. The five-star hotel would help the island’s revitalization tremendously. I just want to see a better layout of what they intend to do.

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