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Rotary, Police & Fire: They are what makes a community great!

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Saturdays are frenetic in my home.

Each weekend, 10,000 copies of Longboat Key News — a small effort of deforestization — must be spread from Anna Maria Island across Longboat to Downtown Sarasota. Not to mention keeping a flock of children entertained.

So when I knew I had to attend the first-ever Longboat Key Rotary Club picnic at the Bay Isles Beach Club I had that manic ‘I’m-going-to-take-a-few-photos-gladhand-and-get-out’ attitude. But that was impossible.

And I say that because the event was one of the most heartfelt, upbeat and energized community events I have been to in a long time.

The Rotary Club and Longboat residents came up with the idea to hold a barbecue event to honor the Longboat Police and Fire Department as well as award prizes for essays written by our first responder’s children.

The genesis of the idea was twofold: to show appreciation for the departments and additionally to foster camaraderie and allow the employees to see each other in a different context with loved ones and relaxed.

The event featured a tug of war and a volleyball game pitting the two departments against each other.

It was refreshing to meet the families of our small departments. Usually the context we get to know our firefighters and police is either in emergency events or the horrible Longboat tradition of draconian pension negotiations.

In emergencies, our responders are universally praised. They are referred to as knowledgeable, professional, going above and beyond.

One senses the enthusiasm our employees have to take care of their roles and residents on Longboat Key. One sees that in Fire Chief Paul Dezzi and his energetic manner and in the equanimity shown by Police Chief Pete Cumming.

Sadly, our Fire and Police departments spent the past few years beleaguered by pension cuts and salaries that rendered them sub-par in the marketplace — hardly the message we want our departments to endure.

The most recent round of negotiations did a lot to change that and the morale is vastly improved.

Most importantly, through good pensions and bad, through hostile commissioners and others showing support, the Police and Fire departments have never ceased to bring Longboat Key a level of service that is the envy of any community.

And as an added note, the Rotary Club truly lived up to its adage of Service Above Self. The Club members seemed to do what is rare in the Commission Chambers and in general on Longboat Key — they left their egos at home and focused on the Fire and Police departments and provided a supportive attitude and backdrop to allow others to shine.  Well Done! All three organizations add to our quality of life.

The afternoon was like good lovemaking — an event you thought might last 15 minutes stretched for an hour and a half and everyone left with a smile.

For that I thank the Rotary Club, the Fire Department and our Police Department.

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