JK: Currently, Marathon’s Planning Commission and Code Board members are selected by a majority council vote after an application process. The council is now considering filling these positions through individual appointments. After three years of service on the Planning Commission, are you worried about losing your non-paying job?
LS: Oh yeah! The attempt to make the Code Board and the Planning Commission political appointments is reason for major concern. Those groups are supposed to follow city code, the Comprehensive Plan, and LDRs with no political affiliation. If appointed by a councilmember, they will feel obligated to vote in accordance with their views.
JK: But isn’t it pretty hard for a politician to sneak something through for personal/political gain? You can’t exactly put a ten-story casino on Boot Key.
LS: Yes, the council is self-regulating on its good days. Still, items that appear to be minor not affecting many can go through. Is that because of sneaky politicians? Maybe, but I like to think better of our five councilmembers. And a casino on Boot Key sounds great, not!
JK: Terms for both the Planning Commission and Code Board are three years. Changing the seats to political appointments would limit them to two years. How would this change the group’s decision-making abilities?
LS: If the appointees’ terms are shortened, experience will mean less and less. Appointees would be afraid to make decisions for fear of being un-appointed by his or her councilmember. Appointees normally have plenty of time to mature into these important positions. They should be able to abide by the code and not be affected by the ever-changing political winds. This is a step back from the intent of the original city charter.
JK: Let’s be realistic – do we really need a Planning Commission?
LS: Initially, I was not in favor of a Planning Commission. When the city first incorporated the Council served as the Commission. After serving on the Commission, I realized how wrong I was. The whole idea behind the Planning Commission is to provide an entry method to get information to the Council. We take public input, disseminate it, and make recommendations, so they do not have to spend the entire meeting sorting through the fine details. The Council is policy makers, not a judge and jury.
Plus, the State says you have to have one. So there is no choice – like wastewater.
JK: I know you are living fat off your Navy retirement, and you do not seem to have underlying political motivations. Why in the hell would you want to do this thankless job?
LS: I just love Marathon. Plain and simple. Plus, the job suits my personality. I was a Chief Warrant Officer in the Navy, so I am very detail orientated. After three years on the Commission, I feel like I have found my place in Marathon politics, and I like it. I have found a cure for my desire to become an elected official. I was made Chairman last year and that is an honorable position to hold.