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Longboat Key Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020 1 year ago

Longboat Key elections 2021: Five questions with Debra Williams

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Debra Williams is only candidate to qualify for District 4 seat.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Debra Williams has submitted qualifying paperwork for the District 4 commissioner seat.

Incumbent District 4 Commissioner Jack Daly has served on the commission since 2015 and will term out in March 2021.

Town commissioners appointed Williams to served on Longboat Key's Planning and Zoning Board in May 2018. She also served for nearly five years on the Planning and Zoning Board in Rumson, New Jersey.

Williams spent her professional career in the technology sector, working for 16 years with AT&T as a consultant. After she left AT&T, Williams worked with technology startups on technology infrastructure, human resources and operations.

Incumbent At-Large Commissioner and Vice Mayor Mike Haycock has qualified for the March 9, 2021, election. Penelope "Penny" Gold has qualified for the District 2 commissioner seat.

Candidates are required to submit petitions to the Supervisor of Elections in either Manatee or Sarasota counties no later than 11 a.m. on Nov. 16. The supervisor then verifies the signatures and districts.

The Longboat Observer caught up with Williams on what she hopes to accomplish if elected to the town commission.

Why are you running for the town commission?

I believe in serving my community. I have served in town governments in Rumson, New Jersey, and Longboat Key, Florida, since 2011. I find it rewarding to be able to use my time and my skills to help the people and the communities where I live.

What topics or issues are most important to you? 


People move to Longboat Key from all over the United States and from foreign countries. Undoubtedly, the beauty of our island and the quality of life draws them here. I believe it is important to remember that when we discuss local issues.

What can the town do better?


From my perspective as a member of the Planning and Zoning Board, I believe that the town commission, town boards and Town employees are doing an excellent job. Increasing community involvement can only improve things. Making it easy for residents to be involved and to stay informed is key to making that happen. Some Longboat Key neighborhoods are extremely involved. It would be great if that level of involvement could expand to other neighborhoods.

How would your previous experience help you in this role?


I have spent the last eight years serving on the Planning and Zoning Boards of coastal communities, first in Rumson, New Jersey (including during Hurricane Sandy) and, for the last two-plus years on Longboat Key. Dealing with planning and zoning issues first-hand is excellent preparation for understanding how our government works.

Why do you like being a resident of Longboat Key?


First of all, the people. When I moved here four years ago, I did not know a single person. However, it did not take long to meet and create friendships with some of the nicest people I have ever known. This is a very welcoming community.

In addition, I enjoy the lifestyle, which enables me to be outdoors and enjoy all that this part of Florida has to offer. It is wonderful to interact with visitors and current residents who came here with very different backgrounds, experiences and thoughts. They enrich our community.

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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