District 5 Commissioner Pat Zunz is ready to step down from her seat — and her husband, Ed Zunz, is stepping up to run.
Ed Zunz spent the last three months trying to persuade his wife to run for her final two-year Longboat Key Town Commission term in March. But as a man who’s been married to his wife for 52 years, he knows when to quit.
So when District 5 Commissioner Pat Zunz, 78, told him that “13 years of service to the town is enough for now,” Ed decided he was going to finish what she started.
On Oct. 7, Ed took out papers for his wife’s commission seat and announced he will run.
“I tried for months to get Pat to do another term,” Ed said. “But she kept putting me off, and I realized it wasn’t going to happen. She’s contributed a lot to the town, and it’s time for her to take a break.”
Ed, 79, said he’s excited about the possibility of becoming a commissioner in March.
“I’ve gotten more interested in some of the things going on at Town Hall,” Ed said. “I would like to jump in here for her last two years and help finish some initiatives my wife has been working on.”
Most recently, Ed has come out against the Longboat Key Town Commission’s decision to hold a Nov. 3 referendum to bury Gulf of Mexico Drive’s above-ground power poles and utility lines.
“The whole island should be undergrounded at once,” said Ed, who worries the GMD referendum could be voted down because of the commission’s decision. “We should have one referendum question, and we shouldn’t be pitting neighborhood against neighborhood.”
Ed also doesn’t think the commission vetted the referendum process thoroughly in public meetings that could have given residents more opportunities to provide input on how the island’s utilities should be buried and funded.
“We’ve been discussing the burial of utilities for years and then with one quick decision, we decide to split projects up,” Ed said. “There wasn’t enough input or discussion, and we moved too fast. Now, if the GMD referendum passes, the chances of any second referendum for neighborhoods passing are close to zero.”
Although the Zunzes agree on the undergrounding issue (Pat voted against a GDM referendum because she also wanted one islandwide vote), their views don’t always align.
“While Ed has a lot of the same concerns and views as I do, we don’t agree on everything,” Pat said.
Zunz vs. Zunz
Cases in point:
Ed thinks not enough is being done to attract people to Bayfront Park despite new amenities that will be constructed early next year.
“I don’t think it’s going to be terribly utilized anymore than it is now,” Ed said.
“I think the kayak launch will be an attraction for an island with only one public boat dock on the north end,” Pat said.
Pat says a future town center in the Bay Isles will evolve from a cultural center agreement that Town Manager Dave Bullock is working out with Ringling College of Art and Design officials.
“I’m not sure there’s room or more demand for it (a town center) there,” Ed said. “But I’m warming up to it.”
Still, they agree more than they disagree.
Both want a roundabout at Gulf of Mexico Drive and Broadway as soon as possible. They both think it was a mistake to put all of the town’s BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement money — approximately $968,000 — into pension funds.
“We could have used some of that money to get that roundabout moving, and it’s important we work toward a grand entrance on the north end that’s safe for pedestrians and motorists,” Ed said. “The north end gets left behind, and I want to keep things moving there.”
The couple also supports a town plan to cull the Longbeach Village peacock population to 10 males to prevent mating.
Ed also plans to continue his wife’s mission of reminding school district officials in Manatee and Sarasota counties about the approximately $30 million the town sends schools each year.
By the end of this year or early next year, due in part to Pat’s persistence, the superintendents have agreed to meet tentatively with the commission at a workshop to discuss a list of 10 questions the town has for them. They include reasons why first grade reading levels aren’t up to state standards and where future school building growth plans are being pinpointed.
“It’s important they’re put on notice our taxpayer dollars fund a large portion of what they do,” Pat said. “We have to hold them accountable.”
Although Pat looks forward to supporting her husband if he obtains her commission seat in March, she’s looking forward to a civic duty break.
Sunday afternoon dinners are a family tradition for the Zunzes, their sons and grandchildren. Pat looks forward to enjoying the family time without worrying about cramming for Monday night commission meetings and workshops.
In all, she has spent five years as a Longboat Key commissioner, two years on the Planning and Zoning Board and six years on the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
“I had never planned to do it for this long,” Pat said. “It’s just time.”
Words of wisdom
Pat’s first tidbit of advice for her husband if he obtains her commission seat?
“Government doesn’t move fast,” Pat said. “Ed was a senior partner in a very large New Jersey law firm, and when he wanted something done, it happened. I just don’t know what kind of patience he will have. But I’ve warned him.”
Ed counters: “I was easy to work with.”
“I recognize nothing happens quickly, and I would be one of seven,” Ed said. “There will be some impatience, but Pat can help me with that.”
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