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Library board candidates battle for seats

October 31, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

There is competition among three seats for the Fort Myers Beach Public Library District Board of Directors in the general election of the independent special district.

On the Nov. 6 ballot, incumbent Sally Seabury faces Peter Reid in seat #5, while incumbent Lorrie Wolf opposes Jim Stevens in seat #6. Bruce Butcher and Mary "Miffie" Greer square off in seat #7 since Judy Fitzsimons elected not to run for another term.

Here is some background information on each candidate followed by their reasons for running, qualifications possessed and future goals or needed changes if any. Responses were presented via email.

Seabury, who has served on the library board since 2005, when the Governor's Office asked if she would fill a vacant seat, was born in Martinsville, Va. and graduated from Duke University with a BS degree in Nursing. There, she met Jim, her husband of 50 years. They raised three children together.

Before she moved to the Beach in 1997, Seabury volunteered with various organizations in Paducah, Ky., including using her nursing skills as a volunteer nurse with the Red Cross Blood program, a volunteer school nurse and working with a teen pregnancy program in the local high school. She was even appointed to serve on the Board of Adjustment of the Zoning Board by the Mayor of Paducah and served eight years, resigning when moving to Florida.

Reid, who was born in London, England, was a permanent Beach resident from 1996 to 2003 and moved back in 2006 on a full-time basis. He was the owner of a successful manufacturing business in Atlanta for 21 years, which continues to operate under new ownership. While there, he was a director then president of the Atlanta chapter of the Society of Packaging & Material Handling Engineers and a director of the Atlanta Branch of the British American Business Group.

Reid, who resides with his wife, Irene, and has two children and four grandchildren, previously held sales and general management positions including profit and loss responsibility in England, Canada, Japan and the U.S. He stated he has also undertaken consulting assignments for Asian clients in Thailand, Malaysia, China and South Korea.

Wolf, who has served on the library board since 2001, when the Governor's Office asked if she would fill a vacant seat, was born in Philadelphia and received a BS in Education from Cabrini (Pa.) College and a Masters in Education from Temple University.

Wolf, who is a widow with two children and five grandchildren, has an extensive volunteer background in the area. She is a member of the Cultural & Environmental Learning Center Advisory Board, served as a Florida master gardener and volunteer director of the Fragrance Garden of Lee County for five years, served on the board of the Beach Civic Association for five years, served on the Beach Pilot Club board and is a member of the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation. She owns Gifts By The Sea in Santini Marina Plaza, a business that serves as the Beach's postal substation.

Stevens moved to the Beach with wife, Barbara, in 1995. They have six children (five adopted) and 10 grandchildren. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a BS degree in Marketing, which he utilized in a Real Estate career.

Stevens stated he visits the library two to three times a week and attends almost all of the monthly library meetings. He is a member of Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Notre Dame Club of Southwest Florida as well as a board member of Strandview Condominiums and a former member of Library focus group and former vice president of Friends of the Library.

Butcher, who moved to the Beach a year ago but has been a frequent visitor since the 1970s when his parents first bought a Beach condo, is from Evansville, Ind., married to his wife, Diane, and has three children.

A graduate of the University of Cincinnati where he received a degree in Business Administration as well as post-graduate studies at Bowling Green State University and Northwestern, Butcher is on the board of his homeowners' association and serves on the Fort Myers Beach Public Safety Committee. He believes the Beach has a "terrific" library, although an expensive one, but since that money has already been spent, it is now time to manage for the future.

Greer, who originally hails from Ohio but has spent a lot of time in Texas and 30 years overseas, is a single woman with three children and six grandchildren. She received a BA in Education from Miami (Ohio) University and a Masters in Education from the University of Houston.

Greer bought a Beach condo in 1991 and retired in 2010. Her desire to become involved in the community led her to volunteer at the Beach Library, become a CERT member, a Community Resource Advisory Board member and chairperson as well as a board member and now president of her condominium association.

Seabury is seeking re-election to continue the long-range planning and working with a board that "works together to enable close scrutiny and consideration of the resident Focus Group ideas and recommendations."

"The current construction project, which is near completion, is geared to bring the Beach Library full speed into the new century and be responsive to the growing needs of residents and users," she wrote. "Not only is construction 100 percent paid for, but the Beach Library is run at one-third less cost than the Lee County Library System, saving residents' taxes and offering the best in library service at the same time.

"I have seven years of experience on the Library Board. Thus, I am aware of the short and long-term goals of the library, know well the expertise of the Director and staff, and I am actively looking forward to tomorrow for excellence. This makes me an asset for the Board. I have used libraries my entire life and understand that vital libraries are crucial to our quality of life, the maintenance of democracy and the progress and vitality of our community."

Reid said he decided to run when the library board went ahead with its expansion without holding a referendum. He discovered evidence that it has been "duplicitous in its financial reporting concerning the construction" and the "assertion can be confirmed by examining the library's own audited annual financial statements."

"In addition to the library being a cultural attribute to the community, the library must be run using sound and professional business methods and must be responsive to the wishes of its owners who are the taxpayers of Fort Myers Beach," he said. "This professionalism has been conspicuously absent over the last several years and my extensive business experience will help to correct this deficiency at the library.

"An analysis will be made of the personnel, bookkeeping and financial reporting and core operations of the library. Following the analysis, there would likely have to be set-up, staff appraisals, realistically based reserve schedules with accurately based budgeting procedure. The probability is that as a result of the total independence enjoyed by the library, there will be many other needed reforms, plus much needed transparency in governance and communication with the taxpayers."

Wolf is running for re-election because she is anxious to see the expansion project through to completion. She has been involved with it since it's inception and chaired the FMB Library Expansion Committee

"My qualifications for serving on the Fort Myers Beach Library District Board include years of service to the library. I am also a retired educator as well as a current beach business owner," she said. "This background brings sensitivity to the financial responsibilities of public service and the cultural and educational needs of our community.

"The changes I see as needed by the library are the changes we have been making and will continue to make. These changes include expanding the collections, adding cultural and educational activities and continuing to grow into the digital age and meet the needs and challenges of the future."

Stevens is running to give a voice to the many taxpayers that feel they are not represented on the Board. He states most taxpayers and library patrons have learned much about the FMB Independent Library over the past two years.

"Many are shocked at the size of the expansion and that they did not know how much of their taxes went to the building fund. One of my goals is to review the operating costs of the expanded library, which we have been told would be only a nine to 16 percent budget increase," he wrote. "I will be interested in providing my findings to the Library District. Also in the area of the Treasurer's report at meetings, I would like the report expanded to provide more information than the money received and the money spent.

"Another goal is to have the meetings on television. Other government units on the island have felt that this is important to citizens. We should ask the library patrons for their interests and suggestions. The Lee County Library System has a Customer Satisfaction Paper Survey. I believe this would help us improve services and better understand the needs of our community. This would also determine customer trends."

Butcher is running because he "felt taxpayers where slighted" when the library board that was not made up of publicly elected members spent $9 million on the expansion without a taxpayer referendum. His business background as an executive of a major global supplier as well as serving on non-business boards such as the Jamie Farr LPGA and a school board in Venezuela give him experience on setting policy and managing.

"To me, if a district is allowed to raise taxes, then the board should be publicly elected to ensure taxpayer representation on the board," he said. "Additionally, I am running to ensure we have financial transparency and that we are properly budgeted for today and the future. Currently the board does not have a plan for necessary reserves. The operating budget is up 55 percent for the 2013 budget versus the 2011 actual budget. These figures exclude reserves and capital spending.

"Fiscal transparency and sound fiscal management is a significant priority for the new board. Other than the annual budgeting process, the current board meetings announce only how much money was received and how much was spent. Additionally, the board needs to establish metrics and monitoring systems to measure quality, excellence, effectiveness in value and appropriateness of library services for our community and our demographics."

Greer decided to run so she could contribute to the community center as it grows. She sees it as a learning center, a technology center, a children's center, a research center and a teaching center.

"I believe a library is much more than a repository for books. It needs to be center of a community, a place where young and old can get together, talk about not just books, but other things of interest to them," she wrote. "I believe my education experience will assist the library in program growth and development.

"In addition, when I was head of the Association of International Schools in Africa for many years, I managed our budget of nearly a million dollars, planned conferences and worked with teacher training and curriculum development for these schools. I believe both my education background and my business experience will benefit the board. We live in a diverse and unusual community of seniors, young adults, children, permanent residents and snowbirds. The needs of these groups are wide and varied. I am eager to assist in developing programs to meet these needs."



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