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Longboat Key Monday, Mar. 22, 2021 4 weeks ago

Penny Gold, Debra Williams sworn in as Longboat commissioners

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For the first time ever, the Longboat Key Town Commission is comprised of a majority of women.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The Longboat Key Town Commission just got younger and more female.

After Monday morning’s swearing-in ceremony of District 2 Commissioner Penny Gold and the District 4 Commissioner Debra Williams, the commission is now a majority of women for the first time ever.

“While your commission is changing, I have every confidence that what brought you to Longboat Key will not change,” Mayor Ken Schneier said.

The average age of the new commission is now about 66.5 years old with the departures of George Spoll, Ed Zunz and Jack Daly. The previous average age was about 75.

“It’s the diversity of thought, and we had today a lot of institutional knowledge and history of elected officials step down,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said. “We’ll miss that as well.”

Each of the outgoing commissioners received a commemorative plaque on Monday for their service to the town.

Gold takes over for George Spoll, who first began his public service with the town in 2003.

“We almost needed a longer plaque,” Schneier joked.

Williams replaces Jack Daly.

District 5 Commissioner Ed Zunz’s resignation officially took effect Monday. The commission voted unanimously to fill Zunz’s position by appointment in the next 30 days.

The Town Commission will operate with six commissioners until then. Anyone who lives in District 5 interested in filling the vacancy on the Town Commission can submit the necessary paperwork to the town by 4 p.m. Friday, April 9. The commission is expected to appoint a District 5 candidate during its April 19 workshop meeting, Harmer said.

The appointee would serve until the next election in March 2022, and serve what remains of Zunz's term until March 2023. 

Harmer spoke about the different backgrounds of expertise that Gold and Williams bring to the commission.

“We now have a majority of females, but if you look at their backgrounds, it’s exciting to me because we continued to have diversity in that experience of their lives, I think will also create diversity of discussion, which helps get to good decision making,” Harmer said.

At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop said while Gold and Williams are new to the commission, there is familiarity because five of the six current commissioners served on the town’s Planning and Zoning Board.

“I personally am thrilled,” Bishop said. “They both served with me on the Planning and Zoning Board, and were excellent Planning and Zoning Board members.

“I know they’re going to be terrific commissioners.”

District 1 Commissioner Sherry Dominick is the only commissioner without prior experience on the town’s P&Z Board.

“One of the things I know about both of them is they are terrific listeners, and listening is one of the most critical needs in public office,” Bishop said.

Gold and Williams’ tenures run through March 2024. Mike Haycock’s tenure as at-large commissioner runs through March 2022.

On Monday, commissioners also voted unanimously to keep Schneier as mayor of the town and Haycock as vice mayor for the next year.

Schneier and Harmer mentioned the importance of continuing the projects and addressing issues that the town still faces.

“This does not mean we will stand still,” Schneier said. “We have major improvements to complete.”

It includes the underground utilities project, beach renourishment project, Town Center project, traffic, sea-level rise and transitioning of older properties.

“We also have a safety net. If we youngsters waver or stumble, I have no doubt the three wise men whose services we lose today will tap us on the shoulder or smack us on the head and set us straight,” Schneier said. “After all, they’re not going anywhere. Now they get to enjoy the fruits of their labors in the gardens they helped build.”

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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