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Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010 8 years ago

Lenobel runs on his record

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

At-large Commissioner Hal Lenobel takes offense to the District 1 candidates who recently suggested that Mayor Lee Rothenberg’s age should be considered when deciding for whom to vote.

Lenobel, the senior member of the commission at 85, said age should not be a topic of discussion.

“I may be the most senior member of the commission, but I think I have the keenest wit,” Lenobel said.

Those who have seen Lenobel crack a joke on the dais, which makes his fellow commissioners and the audience laugh, or nudge the commission forward with a vote after a lengthy discussion wouldn’t disagree.
“Experience counts up there,” Lenobel said. “I truly believe that.”

If a deep sense of Longboat Key history counts, Lenobel has plenty of it.

In 1969, he bought a place at Longboat Harbour after his brother convinced him to take a look at a condominium unit on which he had placed a $100 deposit.

The Brooklyn native says he only had two questions for his brother.

“I asked him what a condominium was and where this Longboat Key was located,” Lenobel said.

Lenobel, who then made his first trip to Florida to see the condominium, bought the unit on the spot and furnished it within five hours.

He still lives in that same condo today with his wife of 60 years, Hazel.

Lenobel remembers an island that had nothing except fences and signs that read: “Property of Arvida.”

“There was nothing here, except a Kentucky Fried Chicken in the middle of the island,” Lenobel says

laughing. “Imagine what today’s residents would do if the chicken place tried to come back on the island.”

But Lenobel isn’t running again to dwell on the past.

He’s concerned about this island’s future and thinks he can help shape the problems that face it today.

“I just attended my sixth beach-renourishment conference and want to help deal with the beach issues, among other things,” Lenobel said.

In response to the notion that his unwillingness to actively campaign or debate the issues with his opponent might be perceived as a lack of drive, Lenobel calls it nonsense.

“I am running on my record, which is good,” Lenobel said. “I think I have been and can continue to be a very good commissioner.”

In this economy, Lenobel doesn’t think it’s right to solicit contributions from a mostly retired community of residents.

“There’s no other reason for that decision, and I have the drive to continue to do this job,” Lenobel said.


Hal Lenobel
Age: 85
Born: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Former occupation: Dentist
Hometown: Long Island, N.Y.
Passion: Lenobel’s passion is golf, and he has 13 holes-in-one to prove it, the most on record with the Florida State Golf Association. Lenobel still plays golf three times a week.
His 60-year marriage to his wife, Hazel, he says, is also his passion. “You have to have a passion to be married to the same woman for 60 years,” Lenobel said.
Interesting fact: Lenobel has served three terms as town mayor and was elected to five previous terms in office without opposition. He was also chosen as Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key Citizen of the Year in 2001.

Q&A with Hal Lenobel, at-large commission candidate

Editor’s note:
This is the first of an ongoing series of question-and-answer interviews allowing Town Commission candidates the opportunity to explain their position on key issues before the Tuesday, March 16 election. Subsequent issues of The Longboat Observer will include question-and-answer interviews for the other contested races. 

If elected, what issues will be your three to five top priorities to address and resolve?
We have to do something about the north-end, beach-erosion problem first. Overall, beach renourishment island-wide is my second priority. Third are budget issues. Fourth is overseeing the Key Club’s Islandside project. Fifth is dealing with the town’s issues with the three pension plans.

The budget is expected to be cut again this summer to offset decreases in the town’s ad valorem tax revenue and appraised values. Where specifically would you recommend cuts in the budget?
I don’t want to cut the fire-and-police services at all. Perhaps there are other places to cut, and I will rely on the town manager’s ability to come back with any cuts. 

Where do you stand on town employee pay raises in light of more expected budget cuts?
We will have to hold the line on pay. Nobody should be in line for a pay raise again this year.

What changes, if any, will you recommend to the town employees’ pension plans and how the town reduces the $26 million in unfunded liabilities?

We have to do a total study of the pension plans and rely more on our actuaries to provide us with the necessary means to solve the problem.
Would you sign a pledge agreeing not to raise taxes?
No. I would have to see what the budget shows us to be able to maintain services on the Key the way they have been. I would hate to reduce services on Longboat Key.
Many of Longboat Key’s commercial properties are aging and in need of redevelopment. Landlords don’t have any economic incentive to redevelop their properties because they cannot recover their investments. What would you propose, if anything, to create incentives for redevelopment?  
I believe Longboat Key is a bedroom community. I think the commercial properties on the Key are all we can support. I am not sure how to resolve this issue. We should also encourage businesses to come here. But all we need basically is a pharmacy, a market and restaurants. We already have all of those things.

Would you have voted yes or no to the zoning change of Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant from commercial to residential?
As a commissioner, I voted for the zoning change. I think that the commission has to have some compassion. We are elected by these people. We need to support them whenever possible. It’s our job to support and help our electorate.

What should the town be doing to stop sand loss on the north end of the island?

We have to do something. We are moving in the right direction by putting in either some breakwaters or some groins there, while working to put some more sand there.

What’s your position on beach renourishment or beach maintenance?
We have to study it. Beach renourishment is an important factor. Our beach is our greatest asset — we can’t lose it. I’m open to any options that work.

Does the town need a cell-phone tower on the north end of the island?

We have to examine every possibility, whether it’s a tower or some other way to increase reception. I personally receive good reception, but I know it’s a problem for many people.

The last time voters were asked to fund a new community center, its projected cost was $6 million. Would you support a bond issue for that amount or larger?

No. I support a new center. If the Key Club plan is approved, that might be one method of getting (some funds) for a new center.

Should the town have spent $25,000 for a consultant to combat the city of Sarasota’s roundabout plan?

I was hesitant about spending that money and still am. I am opposed to roundabout construction. I think it would hurt traffic. Although I voted to spend this money, I would not vote to spend any more money for that effort.
What are your thoughts on the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation-and-expansion project?

I’m not supposed to talk about that.

You said at a recent Key Club hearing that the town’s Comprehensive Plan was incoherent, confusing and incomprehensible. If elected, what steps, if any, would you propose to address the plan?
I’m not sure, specifically. We have to make the plan a little less vague. Those changes shouldn’t be made, however, until after the Key Club’s plan is approved or not approved.

What’s your opinion on the commission’s decision to eliminate reviews for the town manager?

I would like to see the town manager review process be reinstituted. We need to find a better way to do it, though.
What do you think about the commission’s decision to not hold early voting on the island for the upcoming election?

We, as incumbents, have very little time to get out and be among the voters for early voting, whereas our opponents don’t have to sit at the club hearings for hours on end. We have put aside 10 dates for these hearings. I think it’s only fair.

What’s your vision for the town?
I think the town is a wonderful place to live. It’s great for residents. We have everything here we could possibly want. My vision is to maintain it. I am willing to improve it if need be, but the overall quality of life on Longboat Key is strong right now.

What makes you a better candidate for the taxpayers than your opponent?
Experience, knowledge of the issues and my deep involvement with the legislative action of the town for the last 13 years.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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