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Kiwanis and me

PETER O’CONNOR
Guest Columnist
opinion@lbknews.com

This Thursday morning early I was treated to breakfast at the Longboat Key Club. My friend Vince DiLisi had invited me to address the Longboat Key Kiwanis Club at its weekly breakfast gathering. Vince and I served together on the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, so I was delighted with the opportunity to speak to and with these local leaders. I took the opportunity to combine my presentation with my preparation for this weekly column.

As this was to be an audience of some friends, some acquaintances and some new friends, I thought an introduction was in order. I gave them the short version. Those who were treated to my campaign will please forgive any repetition.

I’m a native New Yorker, educated there at the high school level by the Christian Brothers of Ireland. I’m proud of that experience. I’m a Notre Dame trained Civil Engineer, registered in two states, and a career Navy Civil Engineer Corps officer. I’m a Vietnam veteran who actually worked on several dredges near the city of Hue in the I Corps. I recall that we paid roughly “a buck a metre ” for the sand we moved.

I served in facilities acquisition and maintenance in the West Indies, Puerto Rico, Okinawa, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington State and Maryland. After retirement I earned a Harvard MPA, worked for Digital Equipment, for Bechtel in Boston and in Saudi Arabia. Some of you know the drill. I’ve done the usual tours here as condo and homeowner association president, on the Zoning Board of Appeals, on the Code Enforcement Board and for two terms as a town commissioner. The Town Commission is a challenge. More on that…

Since those heady days in local politics I’ve been engaged as a writer at the Longboat Key News. You’ll recognize us; we’re the other paper that appears Saturday. We thank you for your support.

It’s been just about 11 months since I embarked here on my latest avocation; I too thank you for a warm welcome to the world of ink. It really has been great fun. The good sisters back in Saint Bartholomew’s (Dominicans) would I hope be proud of me. I’ve tried to sometimes place a preposition at the end of a sentence, not to use superfluous commas or capitals. Our copyeditor doesn’t like too many capitals. I’m learning. I’ve found my Latin training long ago is helpful.

In my efforts at the News I write columns loosely described as opinion. In this eventful year I have penned 55 pieces, roughly divided between profiles, local issues, travel from a LBK perspective, national issues. I’ve tried to be fair to my subjects, to the topics, to the town. I set out not to hurt anyone. Only when the subject has demanded it have I deviated, if ever so slightly, to this promise to myself. As I say, I’m learning.

I suspect that the more astute junkies around here have picked up on a recurring theme of mine: that there are good and smart people in government — and that we have many of them here. I believe this. As a bonus I try to expose our readers from time to time to tale and even pictures of a contemporary warship at sea in defense of freedom. That is well received, as you would expect.

Someone suggested that I isolate just a few challenges facing our key for you to think about. I’ll do that, suggest one particular idea in more detail, and then open the floor for questions. It’s clearly more important to let you lead the discussion.

Things to think about:

Beaches – effect on my taxes

Unions – do or do not

Tourism – needs beaches!

Beaches – approach to Vision Plan

Pensions – is this the gorilla?

Commission – partisan, paid, supported?

That particular subject: Whom do we trust? I gave my thoughts on this subject here a few weeks ago. It inspired only one comment; that one agreed with me. I liked that.

The questions at the meeting were rather subdued. The crowd was good, a total of 42 at the early morning breakfast. They agreed that pensions were indeed the gorilla. Taxes for beach re-nourishment drew the most interest. All in all, a pleasant experience. I’m glad I was invited.

Thank you to this international service organization for all the good that it does. We are fortunate to have them among us.

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