HOLMES BEACH – Political newcomer Terry Schaefer is no stranger to the city’s government.
Prior to running for what would be his first term on the dais, if elected, Schaefer served on the commission-appointed ad-hoc form of government recommending committee. He’s been a full-time Holmes Beach resident for 13 years.
Schaefer joins incumbent Commissioners Rick Hurst, Jim Kihm and Carol Soustek in running for three available Holmes Beach commission seats. 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 Schaefer’s answers.
What should the voters know about you?
“Number one, we’ve been on and around the Island since 1996. We (Schaefer and his wife) have lived here full time for 13 years and have gotten a pretty good grasp of the community, certainly not from being a native but from absorbing the lifestyle and getting to know the culture of the Island and Holmes Beach in particular. Our first property and our current property are in Holmes Beach.
My background was in banking. I was in banking for 35 years. Through the course of that career I was heavily involved in the community… The banking business lends itself well to being involved in the community and I had that opportunity and I enjoyed the community service end of it, the volunteerism, and consequently bringing that experience with me from my career I had an interest in learning more in time, learning about the community and government. The experience serving on the ad-hoc committee was very decisive in my knowledge, expanded knowledge of the city and its governance, and was really instrumental in my decision to run for commissioner.”
What has been your greatest accomplishment for the city?
“I think helping conduct a very fair, objective and fair investigation of that issue (city manager). Ad-hoc committees are only advisory. I think the greatest achievement, I can’t say it’s mine personally, it’s the collective achievement of the eight of us, finding common ground and unanimity in the issue that we were chartered and responsible for investigating. I feel good about the process and the work that was completed by the ad-hoc.”
hat would you hope to accomplish in a new term as commissioner?
“I think representing our constituents is number one. In all of my material, what I’m committing in the material that I’m distributing pre-election is that I would be an open and inclusive commissioner, stressing the point that I want to hear back. Every time the subject comes up, I try to encourage more and more people to attend the commission meetings. The press does a very good job of covering what has happened but once you read the articles, it’s important to stay abreast but it doesn’t give you, as the citizen, an opportunity to address it at the time of the discussion.
Number one, an open dialogue with our community. I’m also focused on the quality of life issues that exist. Obviously, the issue of short-term rentals will continue to be an issue in the minds of those folks who are living in the midst of a real build-up of tourists. Although everyone has property rights and equal rights, whatever the issue is I think we need to seek common ground and a balance, an equilibrium of enjoyment of those who are visiting our community and protection of rights for those who live here and have chosen to be fulltime residents.”
What is the biggest problem facing Holmes Beach?
“I think the biggest problem as far as financial risk is Bert Harris. There are no other challenges presently, currently that create any more financial risk than the continuation of resolution of the Bert Harris cases. Beyond that, and concurrent now and tomorrow, is going to be environmental issues and sea rise. I’m getting a lot of comments about sea rise and what can our city do.”
How would you fix it?
“Number one, you can’t think that as an Island we and we alone have all the answers and can create all the barriers (to sea level rise). It has to be a coordinated effort through the state of Florida and most importantly through Manatee County to coordinate efforts so that we’re not independently speaking, we’re collectively studying and determining what can be done.
I don’t want to mislead. I don’t have the answers. I have a desire to seek the answers and I think it has to be a collective effort, not an individual city effort.”
Do you think the residents have enough of a voice in city government?
“They have a vote. That’s the loudest voice citizens have, coupled with physically and narratively appearing in meetings. If you think there’s an issue, if you believe that a city is not addressing an issue properly, in my opinion, the single most impactful way of addressing it is appearing.”
Some say the city’s budget needs to be cut. Do you agree? How would you address this issue?
“The test of reasonableness and that’s how I intend to look at every line item to evaluate whether we’re spending it properly, whether we’re overspending, underspending and what is reasonable. Test of reasonableness is an accounting term where you look at something and say, ‘This is the objective. This is where we’re trying to get. Are we doing so most effectively and most efficiently?’ If we’re not, that’s an issue and the commissioners have the control. It’s up to the treasurer and it’s up to the mayor to offer the budget. It’s up to the commissioners to evaluate it.”
What is the most important part of being a Holmes Beach commissioner?
“Representing the people fairly, openly, objectively and with candor. Honesty is what it gets down to and responsibility. Conducting ourselves in a responsible and responsive manner.”
Is there anything else you’d like the voters to know?
“I’m very fair-minded. I am a positive thinker. I’m a half-full glass person, not a half-empty glass person. I believe that through honest endeavor problems can be solved even with people who have a different opinion.”