- December 28, 2017
Harmer is the new town manager, Brownman is the new public works director and Parsons is the new Planning, Zoning and Building director.
Maybe they can car pool.
The trio of new (and still relatively new) former Sarasota County managers will spend a lot of 2018 still getting their feet wet performing the business of Longboat Key Town Hall, while handing a series of high-profile projects years in the making.
Before long, questions about beach protection, underground utilities, major construction projects and more minuscule projects too numerous to count will land in their in-boxes.
Public Works Director Isaac Brownman’s time on Longboat Key is the longest, working alongside soon-to-retire Juan Florensa since August, learning not so much the business of public works, but rather how Longboat’s pipes, beaches and people function.
“Technically, Isaac does not need any training," Florensa said. "I saw my job here as not to teach him how to do his job, but the culture of Longboat Key and how we deliver services to our residents.”
Allen Parsons replaced Planning, Zoning and Building Director Alaina Ray and began his new job on the island in November. His department is in the midst of handling an influx of building-permit applications to repair Hurricane Irma damage, and he arrived as redevelopment plans for the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort were being scrutinized in advance of public consideration.
Town Manager Tom Harmer began working in Longboat Key in December, with plans to work alongside Dave Bullock, who is retiring in mid-January.
"I’m going to have to roll up my sleeves, and help make it happen,’’ he said as he was making the transition from County Administrator to Town Manager. “That really excites me, to be able to go back to my roots of rolling up my sleeves, and be able to be in a discussion with the board at a policy level, but the next day also maybe being out in the field looking at a project myself.”
Phillips is the assistant to the town manager, president of the Longboat Key Garden Club and scholarship committee chairwoman for the garden and Kiwanis clubs.
Susan Phillips wears many hats around Longboat Key, which is why she’s one of our people to watch in 2018.
She’s the Garden Club president, the chairwoman of both the Garden and Kiwanis clubs' scholarship committees and she serves on the planning committees for the upcoming Taste of the Keys and Fashion Show and Dinner and a Movie events.
In 2018, Phillips said people can expect more events and fundraisers from the Garden Club. Already, the club is bringing back the Dinner and a Movie event in April.
The club is also continuing its efforts in getting kids outside and immersed in the environment by providing camp-fee scholarships for Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens for local kids.
She is also assistant to the newest town manager.
Harmer is the third town manager Phillips has worked for. She compares the various town managers she’s worked with to former Garden Club presidents and herself -- each one brings a different style.
“They all brought a skill set and made their mark and improved the club,” she said. “You know, I’m different, I hope I bring my own flair, or whatever you want to call it, and that is the same thing with the town managers. Each of them have had a certain skill set and style, management style, and they’ve all done good things for this town.”
Seamon is the vice president for the Longboat Key Turtle Watch.
This year was a big one for turtles, and Longboat Key Turtle Watch Vice President Cyndi Seamon hopes to keep the momentum going.
Seamon is continuing her term next year and is also continuing to educate the public on sea turtle safety, and perhaps even more important, continuing to educate Longboaters on the new turtle-preservation rules and regulations. The stricter rules were implemented at the beginning of the 2017 turtle season to comply with state and federal laws.
While Seamon doesn’t know what will happen with code enforcement in 2018, she’s hopeful people will want to do the right thing.
“Most people will do the right thing if you just tell them what you’re asking them to do,” she said. “People like sea turtles. It’s special that we share the place with them.”
At the end of 2017, the town and Ringling College of Art and Design teamed up to create new posters and flyers for turtle season. As opposed to the slogan that’s been used in the past, “Lights Out for sea turtles,” the new posters feature the saying “Flip a switch, make a move, save our turtles.”
Seamon said she is hoping the new posters grab people’s attention and start a conversation on how to keep sea turtles safe.
“I think for next year, it’s going to be a big effort with the town and us trying to get that message out to everybody as much as possible as we can,” she said.
Simonds is the vice chairman of the Longboat Key Foundation.
As Vice Chairman of the Longboat Key Foundation, Warren Simonds is part of a team that is spearheading the fundraising efforts for the coming Longboat Key Center for the Arts, Culture and Education.
With $5 million coming from the town of Longboat Key, it’s up to the foundation to get the remaining $12 million. The project is expected to come in at $17 million. Representatives of Ringling College of Art and Design, who will manage the center’s programming, have said the school will also make a contribution.
“We’re really more in an educational phase, introducing people on what is going to on, then we’ll write checks,” Simonds said.
Simonds, who has been a Longboat Key resident since 1972, said the foundation’s primary concern right now is the arts, culture and education center, which the town will own, but the group has thought of secondary projects.
“Well, our principal project right now is to get the Arts, Culture and Education Center project off the ground and built with town center near Publix, so we’re working on that,” Simonds said.
Simonds hinted that secondary projects could include ones that are environmentally based or offer lifelong opportunities. Opportunities, he said, that can be a part of the Longboat Key Center for the Arts, Culture and Education.
Drake is president of the Longboat Key Historical Society.
Michael Drake has big plans for 2018: giving the long-wandering Longboat Key Historical Society a permanent home.
Since starting as the society president in June 2017, Drake has saved two of the 12 historic Whitney Cottages from demolition (buildings which were donated to the society), raised money necessary to move them and put them on permanent foundations at 521 Broadway St. and received approval from the Planning and Zoning Board to host the society on the .21-acre, residentially zoned lot on the north end of the island.
But he still has a lot ahead of him.
Drake is campaigning to raise more than $450,000 to purchase the property at 521 Broadway St., where the society is paying $2,500 a month just to keep its properties on the land. Also comes restoring the cottages to provide adequate viewing space, offices and storage for the Society and its artifacts.
By the time he gets all this finished, Drake is hoping this soon-to-be museum will offer an insight into the island’s unique history and stories.
Drake said at a Planning and Zoning Board hearing, where the Board approved his request for a special exception from the zoning code to put the headquarters in a residential area, that he hopes to have the museum open before summer 2018.