Longboat to soon manage without Dave Bullock

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In six years, Longboat Key Town Manager Dave Bullock has made a strong and lasting impression on residents, the Town Commission and his fellow staff.

The Bullock era will end next January following his announcement he made last week at the end of the Town Commission meeting.

“I agreed to three years, and it ended up being six,” said Bullock who described working with the commission and residents as a privilege. Commissioner Jim Brown jested that he thought he heard Bullock agreed to 10 years when he was hired.


Anatomy of influence

In a one-on-one interview with Longboat Key News, Bullock said, “There is no better place I’ve run across where residents are as smart, rationally informed and care so much about where they live.”

Bullock said that he knew coming to Longboat that the island always supported the protection of environmental lands and school taxes even if they did not directly or immediately benefit their interest. He added that there are some significant differences that make Longboat Key gratifying as his final place of employment following 17 years where he worked for Sarasota County.

Before coming to Longboat Key, Bullock was Deputy Administrator for the County and helped run an operation of 2,300 employees serving the overall population which is now 400,000.

Bullock said the intimacy and attention to detail that is possible on Longboat Key can manifest in a world where he oversees 103 employees serving a population of less than 7,000.

“It was eye-opening when I first met with the Public Works staff and all of them fit in the lunch room. At the County, there were several hundred so it was far more removed on every level,” said Bullock.

Bullock enjoys having the ability to have immediate influence and results and work with commissioners who have a depth of understanding of the issues on the island.

By example, following the installation of the beach groins on the north end of the key, Bullock would visit weekly and photograph from the same vantage point to personally track the erosion and accretion of sand.

This kind of field work never happened in the County, and Bullock has enjoyed the ability to see results of policies directly on every level.


The underground movement 

Bullock said undergrounding is yet another example of how a community, even though divided at times on how to pay for a project, still supported overwhelmingly the goal of advancing their community.

“When a community votes twice to spend tens of millions of dollars it shows how important it was to the majority of voters. It shows the level of real community love and the other part which will be incredibly important is the fiber-optic that as technology and medicine advances, will have great value,” said Bullock.

Longboat Key and the Town of Palm Beach are the only communities that are going to the extent of adding underground to each residence as well as fiber-optic cable.


Staying centered

The idea of evolving a Town Center in tandem with the Ringling College of Art & Design, is what Bullock refers to as another example of preparing the community for its future. That is what Bullock says he likes most about managing – the idea of planning and developing a road map for a municipality.

Bullock says that he believes any experienced manager will be able to step in after he leaves and continue to accomplish the work underway.

“There’s  nothing special about me. The key is relentless focus, no matter what else is happening, to keep the focus on community-building,” said Bullock.


The PUD ordinance

“What you are seeing is Longboat Key trying to figure out its future. It is a recognition that what you have today is of great value but also nothing stays the same,” said Bullock.

Bullock says the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort will figure itself out. He rhetorically asks, “Where else is it possible to go where decision-making was so entangled?” He adds that in light of all the litigation that seems to now be behind us, the Colony is growing clearer. He said that he believes it is likely there will be a shovel in the ground by 2020.


Setting sail

So with all of these future possibilities  within grasp and with all the satisfaction that comes from navigating so many entanglements, why is Bullock making his departure?

The answer is that Bullock is leaving in the same inherent way that he manages – through planning carefully.

Bullock points out that he’ll soon be 67 and he’s worked since the age of 15.

“My wife and I like to do so many things, especially spend time with our grandchildren and time on the boat,” said Bullock.

All three of Bullock’s grandchildren live within a half-mile of his home which is situated on a canal. One of his grandkids lives next door and he remarks that he had two over on the evening he was interviewed.

Likely third on the list of what he loves most in life, following his wife and family, is the time he spends on his 34-foot main ship.

“We’ve gone a couple hundred miles into the Bahamas and once we retire we can go as far as we want to. And the boat doesn’t really ever head north; it loves to go to the Keys and beyond,” said Bullock.

Bullock says his wife his planning a big adventure to navigate the Big Loop. That is an adventure our Town Manager is ready to take on and he remarked that with a range of 500 miles, they can go a long way before they have to look for fuel.

But before he sets sail, Bullock said he looks forward to the 8 months until he departs in a community where he says, “I love because wherever I go on Longboat Key, I’m never the smartest person in the room.”

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