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Terry A. Gans
Longboat Key Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 5 years ago

My View: The education of a commissioner

by: Terry A. Gans

There are two questions people ask over and over:

“Is it what you expected?”

“Do you enjoy being a commissioner?”

The answer to the first is easy. Hal Lenobel’s decision to resign after long and iconic service was relatively sudden. B.J. Webb’s decision not to seek the position also came a few days before applications were due, and she had been my choice.

Everything happened so quickly that there were no expectations. Seemingly, in one moment I had applied, and the next I was been sworn in. It was a bit stunning.

I had attended enough meetings and work sessions over the past few years that the fact there was time required and some level of preparation was not a surprise. Now, three-plus months have gone by and the amount of meeting time, homework, time with staff and the town manager, reading and responding to communications from residents is something I learned about only from experiencing it. To do the job properly is a big commitment.

As far as enjoyment, that is a factor — again — of trying to do the job properly, as well as the extreme comfort of knowing that a commissioner is not flying solo. A vote is certainly a solitary action. But the discussion that helps form decisions, the staff work and the town counsel guidance explaining background and options and the testimony from the public, all help provide the basis for the resulting vote and decision. Enjoyment, satisfaction, fulfillment — call it what you will — are results from putting in the effort and deliberating together to come up with what you believe to be the best decision for Longboat Key.

In the interim, between being sworn in in July and the first meeting in September, the town’s department heads were generous in explaining and showing the newbie commissioner how Longboat functions on a daily basis. The commissioners, the town manager, sometimes the town attorney and the planning director get the press coverage, but there are scores of people putting in skill and effort to see that things flow smoothly. They do their job so well that most of the time we have no idea they are doing it.

It’s an obvious example, but when we turn the tap on the faucet, we do not think twice as to whether water will flow or how it gets to us. But a lot of people do, and they provide us the comfort of taking many of the conveniences of daily life for granted.

There are many issues facing Longboat Key. Time doesn’t stand still and the challenges keep coming. To list only a few: The Colony; The Key Club; Whitney Plaza; pensions and the unfunded pension liabilities; cellular service; infrastructure; comprehensive planning and zoning review, beaches; the balance of residential, tourism and commercial. We are not a single-issue town, and each issue must be addressed with full public participation and in accordance with laws and regulations. As a member of the audience, at times “solutions” seemed temptingly simple. Guess again, commissioner, guess again.

Terry Gans was selected to fill outgoing Commissioner Hal Lenobel’s seat in July after Lenobel resigned. Gans is running against Irwin Pastor in the March general election to fill the remainder of Lenobel’s term, which expires in March 2014.

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