Longboat Key Election 2013: Profile on Terry Gans

Terry Gans

Editor & Publisher

Longboat Key resident Terry Gans was nominated by the Town Commission to replace Hal Lenobel who stepped down last year for health reasons.

Since that time, Gans has had to immerse himself in many of the issues facing the Town. For Gans, his education started much sooner as he spent two years prior attending most every commission and planning and zoning board meeting especially during the Key Club redevelopment hearings.

But Gans’ interests in politics and the workings of government go back to the long hours he spent reading National Geographics and world events and politics.

Gans was born at George Washington University Hospital in Washington D.C. He soon moved to Dayton, Ohio and lived with his father, William Gans, a C.P.A.

After five years of age he moved back to Washington and lived with his mother, Shirley, and her husband, David Sykes.

Gans remembers Washington in the 1950s when there was no Beltway and the only reason to go to Northern Virginia was to catch a plane.

Gans quickly acclimated to the numerous schools, apartments and relocations that he endured until nine years old. He says it made it difficult to form lasting friendships at that time but turned him into a lover of reading and music. In fact Gans, throughout his life, has played guitar as well as writes and records music.

Gans remembered when he became an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts. The medal was presented in the Chamber of the Supreme Court. For 15-year-old Gans, it was quite an experience.

Gans says that he was not what he would call a particularly good student. He said he was “Sometimes clever and disruptive, but generally bored out of my mind.”

Gans attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where his first day he had the unfortunate luck of breaking his wrist playing touch football outside of the dorm rooms.

As for academics, Gans started as a Government major and later switched to earn a degree in History.

Gans recalls part of the cultural neurosis of that era. He said that the existence and backdrop of fallout shelters, the Cold War and kids crouching under desks to avoid a nuclear strike helped create a somewhat paranoid generation.

Gans ended up staying six years and earned a Masters Degree as well with a thesis on Bob Dylan entitled “More than a folk singer; the myth of protest.”

In Ohio Gans met his wife, Diane Meyers, who was an English Major and sat next to Gans for several months in Chemistry class. They started dating in the fall of 1966 and married in 1969 and have been together ever since.

Gans said he planned to go on and get a PhD. But was greatly affected by the shootings at Kent State University.

“It had a profound impact,” said Gans.

Gans said he was considered at that time as semi-faculty because he was teaching with an assistantship and there had been a demonstration prior to Kent State in which there were some “hardcore” Students for a Democratic Society members. Others attending the protest were merely peaceful hippies said Gans.

Gans said then Governor Rhodes was up for re-election and thought it would make good press to take a hard stand against these “so called non-voting commie students”

“We could have been Kent State,” said Gans.

At that point, Gans wanted nothing more to do with Academia.

After a short stint at the Dayton Daily News, Gans started work as a technical writer for Giant Food, a major mid-Atlantic grocery operation with more than 150 stores.

At Giant, one of Gans’ first acts was to spend time reading and digesting all of the company communications from its founders and as much historical material so he could best communicate using the right voice and tone in his technical writing on behalf of the organization.

He said that part of the job was writing press releases every quarter on the financials.

Later, while working at Giant, Gans went on to earn an M.B.A. from Loyola University. Gans said as the years went on he worked closer and closer with the President of the company and would write speeches, reports and subsequently marketing material.

Gans stayed for 30 years and when he left he was in charge of advertising as well as the operation coordinator. Gans ran the marketing department when newspapers were still king and the company spent more than $63 million annually on its grocery advertisements. Gans says they spent $18 million per year alone in the Washington Post.

After he left Giant in 2000, Gans joined a major seafood distributor NEFCO, which sold more than $100 million per year out of its Baltimore wholesale center headquarters.

Gans now was at a point in life with his wife where they wanted to look for a place to vacation and eventually move to Florida.

It was in December 2004 that they first went to Boca, which Gans calls “Detroit West with palm trees – basically a grid with traffic.”

A year later, Gans spent two months on Siesta Key in a rental that his wife’s friend owned.

The Gans couple knew they wanted to move to the area but were not impressed at first with Longboat Key. Gans said at first it had seemed too sterile. Eventually, after dismissing the mainland, the Oaks and Lakewood Ranch, their realtor took them back to Longboat Key by mistake. His wife immediately fell in love with the Grand Bay condominium at Bay Isles. By July 3 they were residents and moving in.

Gans said at first he played golf, which he learned at 54 years old. He also played guitar, wrote and generally acclimated to the area.

But it was his membership in the Longboat Key Club that started a process and a relationship with Manager Michael Welly. Gans said that the operations guy in him compelled him to call Welly all the time with suggestions and improvements.

“I would call Welly about the condition of the cart paths and the fact that there was no coffee in the locker rooms.”

But more fundamentally, he saw the Key Club as not being able to operate the way it was. For Gans, the “status quo ceases to exist the second you say it.”

Gans says he felt the Key Club needed to get better and the proposed redevelopment plan was a way to get there. Gans said when the plan was brought to light he understood where the opposition was coming from and sympathized with it, but said, “I did not see the same demons that they did in the proposal. I understand what IPOC is about, but felt on balance the proposal was good for the Island as a whole.”

Gans said that both the Town Attorney and former Commissioner Hal Lenobel said at the beginning right away that the right way to proceed was to redo the Comp Plan and Codes before considering the application. Gans said the other counsel, the Club’s attorney, said it was a better way, maybe, “But we have the right.”

For Gans the Codes in place were designed in 1984 to say “no” to many things for a good reason. That reason is the allowable density was 75,000 residents. But the outcome, he says, is that you only get to build what you got. Gans says the Codes need to reflect a degree of flexibility – not to overwhelm the Island but the maintain “The balance and spirit of what came before and yet meet today’s needs.”

Gans said to progress properly the Town leaders need to have a feel or respect for the Island as a whole. Gans said that as a Commissioner the great responsibility is to give your time and attention to the entire Island. Whether the issue be hedge height, cell towers, the Key Club or beaches, a commissioner must take the time to grasp what is important to the residents he added.

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