Steve Schield, who's been working with the town for almost three decades, is leaving town staff this month.
Steve Schield needed insurance.
It was just before Christmas 1988, and his first child had been born prematurely — an emergency Cesarean section five weeks before the due date. The insurance company that covered him went bankrupt earlier that year, and money was getting tight.
That’s when he found a job in Longboat Key.
“I said 'I’ll take the job for a couple years for the insurance, the stabilization,' ” Schield said.
And now, 29½ years later, Schield, 63, is retiring from the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning department as one of the most senior members of the town’s staff.
Schield started working for the town in March 1989 as a planner, , where he enforced the tree code and helped residents and soon-to-be islanders design their building projects to meet town codes.
Back then, there were a lot more young families on the island, Schield said, but traffic was very much the same as it is now. When he coached Longboat Key’s Little League baseball team, Schield said he’d sometimes send his kids to the Anna Maria Island field by boat rather than fight the traffic to get there.
After five years with the Planning and Zoning Department, Schield said he moved to the Public Works Department to work as the town’s environmental officer. It was in this position that Schield worked to transform many of the town’s open spaces into parks for public use.
There was the Joan M. Durante Park, for which Schield designed the master plan; the original Bayfront Park; preservation of the Quick Point nature preserve on the south end of the island and development of the Lions Lane restoration project.
“At that point, most of the open space was developed,” Schield said. ”So I decided to come back to Planning.”
Schield said he came back to the planning department because he liked working with island residents and business people to help solve their problems in designing new buildings for Longboat Key.
In the years he worked with the planning department, he helped get off the ground such projects as the Positano, Publix, Aria and a lot of projects behind gates, including Marina Bay, L’ambiance and The Sanctuary at Longboat Key Club.
Schield was also the town’s first recycling coordinator — a role in which he helped the town establish its infrastructure for reusing plastics and papers. In sync with this job, Schield also helped the town plant thousands of native trees and remove just as many invasive plants.
“It’s greener, more aesthetically pleasing,” Schield said of the island now compared to when he moved here. “You look at even the commercial projects, we're big on buffers, I don’t know if that's a result of having a landscape architect as a planner for 30 years, but that was a lot of what the community demanded.”
A retirement celebration for Schield is scheduled from 1-4 p.m. Aug. 15 in Town Hall antechambers — members of the public are welcome.