HOLMES BEACH – Commissioner Carol Soustek is seeking a third full term in November when she runs for re-election to one of the city’s three available commission seats.
Soustek was first appointed to the city commission in November 2014 to fill the unexpired term of former Commissioner David Zaccagnino.
Including Soustek, there are four commission candidates in Holmes Beach – incumbents Jim Kihm and Rick Hurst, and newcomer Terry Schaefer. To help the voters get to know each one better, The Sun is conducting an interview with each candidate to find out where they stand on the issues. Here are Soustek’s answers.
What should the voters know about you?
“I am very dedicated. I take it seriously and I try my honest best to do what is best for the community.”
What has been your greatest accomplishment for the city?
“The VRC (vacation rental certificate program) and the downsizing of bedrooms, control of the number of bedrooms in the building. By controlling that, you’re kind of giving direction to the development community and we can better direct how we want the community to go.”
What would you hope to accomplish in a new term as commissioner?
“I hope to accomplish the solar conversion, not only for city hall but try to find a company that will offer discounts by gathering a number of residents who would want to do solar together. I think that faced with the threats that we have of the sea rise, we have to do our part. Even though it’s small, it would count toward the overall if we put solar and fossil-fuel-free equipment in the city.”
What is the biggest problem facing Holmes Beach?
“There is more than one. I have three problems that I look at constantly. One is the sea rise because there’ll come a point where I’m not sure we can financially stop it. Second is greed. Neighbors suing neighbors, that upsets me quite a bit. And then I worry about the apathy of the community not paying attention to their government. I was guilty of that way back. That’s why I got into this because my apathy led to the proliferation of all of the vacation houses because I thought everything was fine and it wasn’t, but I wasn’t paying attention and the present commission wasn’t paying attention. The community must monitor their government. They must pay attention to what’s going on and speak up if they’re not happy with what the commissioners are doing. That scares me, that they don’t care.”
How would you fix it?
“By bringing more town hall meetings that are open to the public. By appealing through the paper. By explaining some of the actions that we do, like we tried to explain some of the budget items by each department, making people aware of why we’re doing it. You have to explain it… I would love to be able to broadcast the meetings. People are reluctant to come to city hall. I don’t know why. It’s a nice place… I would like us to be able to go out to them… You have to pay attention to your local government. That’s your control. If you don’t pay attention to what’s going on up there before you know it you’re in a very bad situation and it takes years to get out of it.”
Do you think the residents have enough of a voice in city government?
“They have a voice, but they don’t use it. City hall is open to anybody, all the records, all the people in there, they talk to you, they’ll help you, but you have to come through the front door. A lot of people just don’t want to do it. City hall has to reach out into the community and make contact in any way that we can… I don’t think there’s a commissioner up there that says, ‘Don’t talk to me.’ ”
Some say the city’s budget needs to be cut. Do you agree? How would you address this issue?
“We were trying very hard to keep it at a low rollback rate but when the Bert Harris cases came forward, the city has to protect itself because it only has a limited amount of insurance to protect itself. I feel very confident that we did the right thing and the court will uphold it, but you never know how a judge is going to rule so we have to put money back and that’s what we’ve done. If we win all of the Bert Harris cases, look at the jackpot we have back there. Maybe we’ll hold a town hall and ask everyone ‘How do you want to spend the money?.’ ”
What is the most important part of being a Holmes Beach commissioner?
“There’s a lot of important parts. I guess caring. If you care about how you do your job, if you care about your community and the people in it, you can be a good commissioner. And caring what happens. That’s the most important thing to me.”
Is there anything else you’d like the voters to know?
“I love what I do. I really love directing the way our community is going into the future and safeguarding it. That’s two very important things for me. I love a challenge and this city is certainly a challenge.”