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Five questions with commissioner-elect Gary Coffin

Coffin discusses his decision to seek the role, his leadership style and pressing issues on the island.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. January 2, 2023
Gary Coffin will take his District 1 commission seat in March 2023.
Gary Coffin will take his District 1 commission seat in March 2023.
Photo by Lauren Tronstad
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Gary Coffin is the soon-to-be commissioner-elect for the Longboat Key Town Commission District 1 seat. 

He and his wife Lynn have lived on the barrier island for over 20 years. 

Shortly after moving into his home in Country Club Shores 1 and 2, he was ushered in as the homeowner’s association president. He served his fellow residents in the role for over 14 years. 

He  serves on the town’s Planning and Zoning Board, a stop many have taken in the past before moving up to the commission. 

Longboat Key Observer staff writer Lauren Tronstad sat down with Coffin recently to chat about his decision to run and his hopes for the town’s future. 

What led to your decision to seek a seat on the commission?

I’ve always volunteered in every community I have ever lived in, and it seems like the right thing to do as a citizen of your community. If you have the time and can be involved, I think you should be involved. Serving as the president of the Country Club Shores homeowner’s association thing was a taste, and then the Planning and Zoning Board seat became available and I was approached about that. It has been very rewarding. … I got called by some people on the island that I respect highly (about serving on the commission) and I thought: why not give it a go?

What have you learned from Longboat Key’s past?

When our forefathers made the rule in the ordinances about zoning restrictions to be held at a particular level, that was a critical developmental block in our city. Otherwise, we would likely be building 15, 20 or even 30-story buildings. It’s OK if other people want that, but people don’t move out here for that. I think they move out here for the quaintness, for the small town vibe, which is still good out here. That’s the biggest thing I have learned, how building is restricted, what we can and can’t do.

What is Longboat Key all about?

Before I moved to the island, I lived downtown and the people here on Longboat were called “Longnose” and people said they were stuck-up. Then, I moved out here and was jammed into the HOA presidency and found out that was not the case. That’s not the case at all. It could very well be a place where people have been more fortunate than some other people, but we’re all people on the inside. On top of that, you’ve got your beach in the front yard, your boat in the backyard. You have palm trees, clear water and white sand. There is really nothing else I was after in life.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Participant management style is the style I have always used growing up and in my career. I found that was the way to be most productive. I believe that at the town level of government that people come to our meetings for the zoning board and for the commission; those are the people that we listen to. If we do anything, I think we need to advertise more for people to come out and tell us what they think and tell us what they want. We have rules that can be modified and adjusted based on the public’s input. That is what this is all about. 

What is the most pressing issue for Longboat Key moving forward?

One of the great things about running for the commission was I didn’t do this because I was thinking: this is busted, this is broken, this needs to be fixed. I think the town is moving in a very positive direction. The obvious concerns based on what people want are the traffic. From (Hurricane Ian), we want to make sure we are as safe as we can be from that. Beach nourishment projects are very important. Water quality is another big one, and right now we are in the middle of a terrible red tide. We need to figure out what is wrong and what’s causing it, so that we can work to prevent it from being worse as much as we can. 


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