5 Questions

By Beau Denton November 30, 2010

So Long, Shannon

After nearly 14 years as a Sarasota county commissioner, Shannon Staub is leaving the hectic pace of local government so she can travel, spend more time with family and rearrange her life—and her garage.

Q: What accomplishments make you most proud?

Our financial management. We survived the up-and-down economy without raising taxes and still kept high levels of service, particularly in libraries and parks. I’ve also felt rewarded by the STAR (Students Taking Active Roles in government) program. I was one of three people who helped birth that, and who now we’ve had 500 graduates. After the training they sit on our advisory board with full voting membership, which has brought the perspective of youth to county government. As far as infrastructure, the Legacy Trail is one of the highlights. And the Peace River Water Authority’s reservoir is a great example of four county governments working together. I know this sounds trite, but it really has been an honor to serve the citizens of this county. It’s the pinnacle of my work life. 

Q: How has the commissioner role changed since you were first elected?

We didn’t have e-mail when I started, and now we get 75-100 e-mails a day. And they’re not trash—they’re from somebody asking a question or sharing an opinion, and the commissioners try to answer every one. One Monday I remember opening my first e-mail, and the subject was “I hope you go to jail.” I spent six e-mails going back and forth with him, and at the end he said “I appreciate your time, and I don’t really want you to go to jail.” But being that conscientious adds an inordinate amount of time to our weeks. And if you go on a week’s vacation, bar the door when you get back—you’ve got 500 e-mails sitting there.

Q: Which projects do you hope the commission will continue to focus on?

Our community has an environmental ethic that other counties don’t. We’re among the top five counties in the nation for our value of land preservation, energy efficiency and water conservation. I want that to continue. It’s a financial benefit as well as doing the right thing. I chose my timing so that Gov. Crist would be the one to select my successor, because he understands our efforts in sustainability and energy.

Q: Any advice for your successor?

Work hard, but make sure you allow your family and friends to be a priority. Grow a tough skin. Don’t get upset if things in the media aren’t positive every now and then. Although I have to say, in this county, most of the reporting is 90 to 95 percent accurate. If the quote sounds stupid, I probably said it. Be fair and have an open mind; people want someone to listen. And I want them to know that this job requires 100 percent effort and a lot of hours. Every commissioner has woken up in the middle of the night.

Q: What’s next?

Frankly, I’m burned out. I would never have stopped midterm if I felt like I could still do the job the way I require myself to do it. So I’m going to take two or three months and decompress, clean out the garage, walk the beach and visit my son in Asheville. After that, I know I won’t be happy just cleaning out garages, so I’m going to see what life will throw at me. I won’t run for office again, but I want to stay active in my advocacy of sustainability in whatever way I can.

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