Town Commission candidate qualifies for at-large seat campaign.
This week, the Longboat Observer launches its series of Five Questions with candidates for Town Commission. BJ Bishop has qualified to run for an at-large Town Commission seat in the March 2020 elections.
She has been a member of the town's Planning & Zoning Board since 2006 and has served as its chair from 2008-14 and from 2015 to the present. She's been held elected office (mayor and commission member in Leesburg, Va. and was a member of that town's planning board.
Her professional career included real estate and in legislative affairs for the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Bishop came to Longboat as a part-time resident in 2002 and moved here full-time in 2006. She sat down with Managing Editor Eric Garwood to answer five questions:
What do you want Longboat Key to look like in 10 years? Probably not physically look much different than it does now. I would love for us to have improved cycling lanes. I would love for us to look at the possibility of golf cart access. Anything that gets automobiles off Gulf of Mexico Drive is a great thing. I would love for us to have more efficient and workable public transit right now. People cannot take advantage of it now. I would like the neighborhoods to continue thriving and being successful. Part of that, and we've been addressing some of those issues on Planning & Zoning for the last 15 years that I've served, is recognizing that we are an aging community, and we have to give people the tools and resources to be able to re-create and improve those aging buildings that they're in.
How do you fit in with an organization like Town Commission? What's your role? The advantage I have is I have chaired Planning & Zoning for very long time. And I have worked with people that came off P&Z: Jack Daly, Ken Schneier, Mike Haycock, all of us have worked together for a period of years. I've been in public office in the past and in a larger community. But I also believe the most important tool an elected official has is the ability to listen. If you're too busy formulating what you're going to say, you're probably not listening. I think a change in demographics probably would be good for another voice. And another perspective. I have 40 years of experience in land-use issues, and quite honestly, other than the financial issues that the Town Commission looks at, the most important second things that you look at our land-use issues and health, welfare and safety issues. So, I think that those are some key components, but at the top of the list is the ability to listen.
What's one thing the Town Commission could improve upon? I think all elected bodies can always do a better job of reaching out to the community and finding out what people think. I'm totally off Longboat Key, but I think a great example is the fiasco and drama going on with Sarasota County schools. I mean clearly, they have not been listening in the community to what constituents think. I see different groups of people on a regular basis, and I'm not so anxious to tell them what I think about something, but I'm really anxious to hear what they think.
Why serve? I grew up in a community where everyone served. Either you were part of the volunteer fire department, rescue squad, you were in Rotary, you were in Kiwanis. You were involved in your church, you always gave back. I was raised in that environment and have always believed on that. I think here, it becomes more important because so many people move here after having busy, successful professional lives and they say, I'm done. We can't afford to be done now if we want a quality community to continue to thrive.
What's the best way to engage and hear what the town thinks? When we were doing the vision plan back in 2006-7, and I was involved in some of that process and we physically went out and met with different associations and the (Federation of Longboat Key Communities) and physically engaged all the time. Some of the commission members regularly attend the HOA meetings or the condo federation board. But I think it's great if you make a point of going in and saying to the different HOAs "Hey, you mind if I just come sit down and if you have any questions, we're here." I think it is incumbent on elected officials to constantly be reaching out and to be reaching outside their comfort zone. And, and the only way you do that is, is to physically get out in the neighborhoods.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.