Longboat’s leader steps down
Editor & Publisher
Dr. Hal Lenobel has resigned his Longboat Key Commission seat effective immediately following 12 years service on the board with three as Mayor.
Lenobel, in a July 5 letter to Town Manager Dave Bullock, cites his wife, Hazel’s, recent death and health issues as “making continuance on the Commission impossible.”
For his fellow commissioners and community and business members, Lenobel stepping down is major loss.
A strong force
Lenobel’s reach is so strong and extended one can speak with a leader in Sarasota or Manatee’s legal, government or business community and you will find universal praise for his character and efforts.
Longboat Key Club General Manager Mike Welly said he remembers when he first arrived to manage the Club.
“Hal was one of the first commissioners to take me under his wing. I am grateful for his continued friendship over the years. It’s really the passing of an era. He was someone who we really looked up to and he set a standard on the Commission bench. It will funny to look up there and not see him. He was always very involved and up to speed with the issues. And he always had a pertinent point to make. Look around and the Longboat you see today has a lot to do with Hal’s influence,” said Welly.
And Lenobel, known for his quick wit and confidence in following his conscience, told Longboat Key News similar words the day of his resignation.
“I always tried to do what I thought was right for our community. Vote your conscience would be my advice to future commissioners,” Lenobel advised.
That steadfastness Lenobel calls “being contrary — a bit of an instigator of thought and ideas.”
Lenobel joined the Commission in 1997 when Griff Roberts was still Town Manager.
“I thought I had something to offer — I thought I could help,” Lenobel said.
And help he did. In fact, Lenobel served longer — 78 months in total with three years as Mayor — than any past commissioner. Lenobel served on the Commission from 1997 to 2005. In fact, he was so respected that after a three-year hiatus off the Commission, he was asked to come back as Mayor and did just that in 2008 and has served ever since.
Lenobel’s collective impact has shaped the Key and the way the Town has positioned itself in the region. Town Manger Dave Bullock spoke of Lenobel’s reach.
“He is an institution; everybody knows Hal. I was talking to former Sarasota County Commissioner Shannon Staub and she spoke of his tenure and what a great guy he is. My observation with Hal is he is very straightforward. What you see is what you get. He was always a Longboat advocate. He makes friends very easily; nobody I have heard say a bad word about him. He is an absolute straight shooter,” said Bullock.
And that steadfastness has always been parcel of Lenobel’s personal life. He was married 62 years to Hazel, whom passed on Dec. 29 of last year. Hal and Hazel bought on Longboat 43 years ago, the same year he joined the Longboat Key Club and stands today as the most senior member.
A retired dentist from Long Island, N.Y., Hal and Hazel bought their unit at Longboat Harbour in 1969 and moved to the island full-time in 1993.
Two of Longboat Key’s newer Commissioners, Jack Duncan and Phil Younger, said his influence has been very important and will be missed.
“I found Hal always diplomatic, a gentleman and even though he often was the outlying vote or alone in his vote, he always stated his opinion and voted and never got petty or personal. He is the antithesis of a flip flopper. I respect him for that. His agenda was maintaining the island as he saw it and keeping it Longboat. I respect that perspective. I did not always agree with him, but I respect his views,” said Duncan.
Younger ran against Lenobel initially and lost before getting on the board later and he said, “I feel fortunate to be on the Commission because it gave me a chance to know him.”
One friend of Lenobel’s over the years is Town Attorney Dave Persson.
“Hal is a Longboat Key icon. What I respect most is he always made what he felt was the right decision regardless of political implications. He took the facts, analyzed them and made the right decision,” said Persson.
Persson also appreciates Lenobel’s disarming charm and wit.
“What is beautiful about Hal is he has a wonderful wit and he could use to disarm discussions that were tense and allow people to regroup and refocus. It was usually self-deprecation. He used it to the benefit of his fellow man. Hal could say something in about three seconds that would make everyone chuckle,” Persson added.
And Persson should know. He has been with the Key as its legal counsel for as long as Hal has been on the Commission.
Persson said, “Hal really is a leader and was not afraid to make decisions. He has the ability to pull that plug if you start to take yourself to seriously or get stuck. He wouldn’t get lost in the weeds. He is a great man in every sense of the word.”
In Lenobel’s resignation letter, he wrote Mayor Jim Brown, “It is with regret that I am forced to inform you that I am resigning from the Longboat Key Town Commission, effective immediately. I have served 12 and one-half years on the Commission, including three years as mayor and Hazel’s recent death and my rather severe sickness has made continuance on the Commission impossible. I have enjoyed working with all the present Commissioners and staff and I am sure that the Commission will solve all the problems facing them and they will prevail over all the problems that the economy has put in their path. I wish you all the best of luck!”
The Commission has 30 days to appoint a replacement for Lenobel. If commissioners don’t make an appointment, a special election must take place within 90 days.
The appointment, which is most likely, will serve until the next Town election in March of 2013. Then the winner of that election will serve until Lenobel’s term would have ended in March of 2014 — essentially that person will serve a one-year term. Because Lenobel held an at-large seat, his replacement can come from anywhere within the Longboat Key town limits.
On Friday, Lenobel told Longboat Key News, “Serving the Town has been a delight. I am very lucky with the friends I have.”