Duncan, Younger seek second term

Commissioner Jack Duncan and his wife, Debbie, and Commissioner Phill Younger (right).

Editor & Publisher

The Longboat Key political season is stirring with District 2 Commissioner Jack Duncan taking out re-election papers and At-Large Commissioner Phill Younger doing the same.

In fact, Younger has completed his application pending approval of the collected signatures by Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent.

So far, both are unopposed and both seek another term as a continuum of the work they feel is underway and they wish to further.


In the beginning…

Younger was nominated by the Commission to fill the seat vacated when former At-Large Commissioner Gene Jaleski left the board in 2010 in the midst of the Key Club proceedings.

Subsequently, in 2011, Younger retained his seat and ran unopposed.

Duncan joined the Commission in March 2011 and ran opposed until a resident withdrew and Duncan gained his seat on the board.

Younger was hospitalized with a critical heart condition in early February of this year and has made a comeback in health and vitality. Younger says he wants to address the pension issue as one of his chief priorities.

“Obviously, we finally have a Commission that is addressing the pension issue. I have been one of the vanguards active in addressing that issue and the board is now in the midst of addressing a long–running issue that has been deteriorating since the early part of the decade with unfunded liabilities climbing from about $500,000 to about $25 million. We are in the Fire Department paying about 60 percent of payroll to pensions. It needs to be addressed,” said Younger.


Duncan also immediately talks about the pensions when he talks town priorities.

“I think the fact that you have a $27 million deficit that needs to be resolved is critical, and it is hemorrhaging at $1.7 million added cost per year if it is not addressed,” said Duncan.

Duncan said the town studied the issue and its recommendation is to go to a defined contribution model. He added that the town must also come up with a way to pay off the existing obligations. Duncan said there might be an opportunity to reduce that deficit. “How we structure that is critical,” Duncan added.

Many studies show the average pension program in the private sector is about 30 percent of payroll. “Ours is at 60 percent of payroll and is unsustainable,” said Duncan. “The risk has to be transferred.”

Duncan said it is the planning going forward that will resolve the deficit problem.

“We are halfway through the process. If I can continue to play an active role in taking a near $30 million deficit and getting it under control, I can walk way from the Commission knowing this board has tackled a problem prior Commissions simply ignored. I am also encouraged that we are working as a team to get this resolved and making significant progress in our negotiations,” Duncan said.


On the Beach

For Duncan, forming an ongoing beach strategy is something he wants to continue to be part of.

“I am encouraged we have shifted the beach maintenance from one of heading toward lockstep $40 million plus renourishments to a model of addressing the hotspots of severe erosion in a scientifically targeted approach,” said Duncan.

Duncan added that instead of using one beach engineering firm, we are now interfacing with different engineering firms to change that lockstep attitude. “I am proud of that and want to continue to be part of that process.”

For Younger, the beach is also a big one.

“We were heading down the path to a $46 million referendum.” Younger said. He added that his push and data and presenting of another option helped take that $46 million voter referendum for beach bonds off the table. What Younger suggested and was adopted was to address the groins on the north end to deal with that severe hotspot along with other areas of severe erosion on the key at a cost closer to $16 million in total.

Younger was the first to suggest adding sand to the north end in an emergency renourishment and position the town for the possibility of a $5 million commitment from Port Dolphin, which may or may not materialize depending on the market decision of a planned natural gas pipeline project.

Younger’s ultimate initiative regarding the beach was to stop what he saw as following an eight-year cycle of renourishments and instead to use objective data to determine where and when the beach gets attention in a targeted manner.


Cell Tower policy

Duncan, who played in integral role in pushing for an objective telecommunications study, said by bringing in independent outside expertise, the Commission now has a rational basis for its decisions going forward.

Younger says the town still needs to resolve the telecommunication issue.

“I am definitely for enhanced communication,” says Younger.

Younger said that when he came on the Commission, the push was solely toward a cell tower, but Younger says he is looking at the various other options emerged during and especially after the town commissioned a telecommunications study, which Younger said is proving valuable.


Getting centered

Younger says the concept of a community center is good for the community.

“We have many organizations wherein if we had a community center it would enhance their capabilities,” said Younger. “To me it is a matter of getting an appropriately-sized center.”

Younger said if the process is done correctly it could be done without adding a single mill to the tax bill. Younger says the park needs to be developed regardless.

“The funds are available to develop the park, ” said Duncan,  “It is now sitting fallow. It has beautiful potential. We can do it at a relatively low cost.”

Duncan said the need for a community center is evident.

“The current Bayfront Park building is not presentable; It is run down.  But we cannot continue to impose any more financial burdens on taxpayers. I think the taxpayers of Longboat Key will not accept that. I think the only way to accomplish this goal is with private sector funding. I want to be part of that and help make that happen,” said Duncan.

Duncan said he was not involved in politics in the past, but he was involved in volunteer professional organizations. Duncan ran a multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical company and his background in personnel and resource management has been an asset in how he approaches town issues and policy. “You gather your information, study the issue and make the best decision as possible for the community,“ Duncan said.

“In the past,” said Duncan, “when I watched town politics, it seemed like everything was managed from crisis situations. I am proud that we are now undertaking planning. We stopped doing crisis management and started doing long-term planning.“

And that goes to the core of Duncan’s approach.

“If you do not know where you are going as a community or in a particular issue such as the community center, any answer, any road appears as a solution,“ said Duncan. “That is why I emphasize the need in most every issue and decision-making process to determine your objectives and direction must be predicated on objective long-range planning. Then our direction and how we get there grows clearer. You have to do the homework at a very deep level so we do not simply react to the loudest voice in the room. “

For Younger, the joy is this: “I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction when I get a result that I feel makes things better without taking money out of taxpayers.”

Both Duncan and Younger praised Town Manager Dave Bullock.

“Bullock is amazing for Longboat,” said Younger. “He is action oriented; has an open mind. We were fortunate to end up with Dave Bullock. The budget situation is a prime example. Bullock did not drag us through line_item-by-line_item and fighting tooth and nail. Bullock knows we do not want to increase millage; he comes back with a budget that achieves the goals.”

Duncan echoed: “Bullock is a great town manager with a strong background and incredible connections and I want the work we are doing to continue.”

Duncan also said he enjoys his colleagues on the Commission.

“I love the team of people working on these issues together. You have Hal Lenobel; a gentleman with a historical perspective. We have an architect in Jim Brown. Phill Younger is the most detail-oriented guy I have ever met. He brings so much to the party. It is a great group of people. If there were only one seat, I would walk away and give my seat to Phill Younger. His homework and research on the beaches saved our town millions. He led us to a $16 million beach plan instead of a $40 plus million burden,” said Duncan.

Younger lives with his wife, Fannie, in the Bayou in Bay Isles. Younger has been a Longboat Key property owner since 1987 and moved permanently to the Key in 2004 from Atlanta.

Duncan bought property on Longboat Key in 2002 and now resides in Marina Bay with his wife, Debbie.





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1 Response for “Duncan, Younger seek second term”

  1. Norma Brown says:

    My greatest concern is the traffic on the island; the more it sells itself to tourists, the heavier the traffic and the less convenient it is for the long-term residents. Anna Maria is a mess during season. Do we have to go the same route? Given all the other inconveniences of living on the island, that would be the last straw.

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