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Longboat Key Friday, Nov. 29, 2019 2 years ago

Longboat Key elections 2020: Five questions with Ken Schneier

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Chatting with the candidates.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

Ken Schneier will enter his second term on the Town Commission in the spring. 

He and his wife Cynthia retired here in 2009 after a legal career in the New York area working for firms in Morristown, N.J. and Manhattan before a stint at Bank of America. 

Schneier ascended to partner at Dillon, Bitar & Luther LLC, then joining RD Smith & Co. in New York City in 1989. Schneier worked there for a couple years when an owner left and he became part owner and president of the firm, then renamed BDS Securities Corp. Bank of America made him an offer after a few years at the “small research boutique,” he said, to do the same work internationally. In that job he traveled often to Europe and Asia, business trips he said he supplemented with international vacations with his family.

Longboat Observer Managing Editor Eric Garwood sat down with Schneier to chat recently.

What do you want Longboat to look like  10 years? I don't anticipate Longboat Key will look very much different. In fact, I hope that's the case because it will mean that we've been able to keep the beaches preserved and, hopefully, in better shape than they are now. It will mean that we came up with solutions to some of the high-water problems in the Village and other parts of the north end.  I do hope that we have a successful St. Regis. I hope we have a developed and successful town center, which I hope includes an arts, cultural and education facility with a good partner that's similar to what we had in the works, if not identical.

How do you fit in a commission setting. What’s your role? Well, for a little while, I felt I was the new guy on the block, so I was sort of listening and learning, although I did come in with some baggage of participating in the zoning issues that ultimately got resolved. I felt that my legal background and finance background were going to be helpful. So that's why I'm on the finance oversight committee. I like to get involved in the legal issues we have. So I spend a good deal of time, maybe more than some others, with (town attorney) Maggie (Mooney) talking through approaches to legal issues. And, you know, there's almost nothing these days doesn't have full legal components, financial or both. I got over being the new guy to being a little bit more vocal about some things I feel strongly about. I don't feel like I'm a confrontational person, I wasn't a litigator as a lawyer. I do feel some of my role is to speak up, to get issues fleshed out.

What's one thing that you feel commission could do better?  I have to say that I think the town and the commission function very well. And you look at how Sarasota as a county and as a city function and the amount of animosity that has gone on with some of the issues that they have. And largely, it's part partly partisan. But we have a wonderful island here. We have a great population. We've got so experienced staff members that have come in from the county and other places, they know exactly what they're doing. They do a great job. I mean, (town manager) Tom (Harmer), (public works director) Isaac (Brownman) and (planning, zoning and building director) Allen (Parsons) are true professionals and I think they give us all the information to make the kind of the decisions we need to make. I think everyone on the commission has only the interests of the town at heart. We may differ on opinions and some things, but everyone is pulling in the same direction, the same general direction. I'm not sure what we could do better. We we try to be responsive. Problems come up like with traffic up in the North end, which is a serious problem. It's a tough one. And I think all of us have tried to be very responsive and try to come help with a solution for that. And that's all you can do."

Why serve? So, when we moved down here, we cut the cord from New Jersey. We hadn't lived here before, hadn't rented here before. So we were moving at about 70 miles an hour each in our practices and then it was zero. Both of us are very energetic. I had a lot of travel and we didn't have much time up in New Jersey to do a lot of things other than working and raising children. So when we get down here, our lives were different. We weren't looking at working and we looked around to do things that would, you know, be enjoyable and have an impact. So we've gone our different ways in doing service, you know, and this is the time for it. I'm impressed by the people who say public service is a great thing. I volunteer at Mote and I ran our local alumni club for a few years and I'm still director of that and some other things. And my wife became a guardian ad litem and she's now the head of our homeowners association for our development in Bay Isles. And we're both working with several charities. So that's what our lives are made up of now and it's full and it's fun and it's rewarding.

What's the best way to engage and hear what the town is thinking? I think that the communication flow I think is pretty good. I think to have two newspapers covering an island of this size is pretty remarkable. So there's that. We have at least two open meetings a month at the commission during season. I think the best way for people to engage is to come into those meetings. There's free time to talk about whatever you want to talk about. And then specifically on the things that we're dealing with. Tom Harmer has instituted a great new development with his monthly reports. And he's added the civics course that started last winter and we're going to do it again this year. People loved it and  it's just so enlightening to people to understand what's going on here and they encourage them to get involved. So you can always do more. I think, you know, the other thing is where you have special matters coming up. We did this with a lot of it with the undergrounding well before my time and now with the Town Center. But other, major ones, you have meetings with groups. So you go up to the North end, you go to the condominium association, you sit down with neighborhoods. And I think that's good for all of us to do.  

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