published: Sunday, October 27, 2013
Schuler wants more citizen participation
By PHIL ATTINGER
AVON PARK -- After 18 years on the Avon Park City Council, Mayor Sharon Schuler said she has seen council members come and go.
She said many get elected on an agenda, then find themselves stymied when Florida law doesn't allow them to make financial or operational changes they wanted.
"I ran because I love the city," Schuler said. "I see the potential for us to do well."
Many times during the last two decades, she has been tempted not to run because elections and public service are fraught with stress and accusations. Still, she'd do it again.
"I've decided I'm not done yet," Schuler said.
And if she doesn't win again, she'll thank people for the honor to serve, she said.
Schuler was first appointed to the City Council in 1995 to complete the term of Councilman John Wright, who died mid-term.
The city was "wallowing in debt," was plagued by lawsuits and had hangars "falling down" at Avon Park Executive Airport, she said. Slowly, that changed as the city repaired hangars, paid down debts and attracted new business, she said.
Schuler first stepped in as mayor after Tom Macklin resigned the post in 2006. She was elected to the seat in 2007 and re-elected in 2010.
She now faces challenger Greg "Bubba" Warner, city code enforcement officer, on Nov. 5.
From her corner office as manager of the Jacaranda Hotel, she has a clear view of Main Street and city hall, and a front row seat on local tourism.
The Jacaranda has 65 dorm rooms for South Florida State College students, but rents another 30 rooms to paying customers. Being "off the beaten path," the hotel sees mostly repeat customers and visitors to the Avon Park Air Force Range, she said.
The Community Redevelopment Agency Board, on which she serves, is considering streetscaping as a way of drawing more visitors and businesses downtown, which she supports. She also said the last three years is the first time she has seen the city really grow in 18 years, thanks to annexation and water system expansion by City Manager Julian Deleon.
Schuler said City Manager C.B. Shirey lasted 10 years, but most others didn't last long. She also said even Shirey didn't complete as much annexation or staff reduction as Deleon.
"Any time there is a change, people don't like it," Schuler said -- especially in a small town.
"Sometimes it takes a person willing to shoulder that burden of threats. (It) takes a strong person," she said.
Schuler said she'd love to see more citizen participation at city meetings.
"We have the same people come every week and they are not happy," Schuler said.
She said the city council has tried to make discussions orderly by requiring people to fill out cards to speak on agenda items or on general issues. She said residents can fill out more than one card if they have several topics to discuss.
However, Schuler said she won't tolerate "hollering out" in meetings, not even from elected officials or staff.
"It's ridiculous, it's childish (and) it's immature," Schuler said. "We need to be respectful of citizens. They elected us. They didn't elect us to act like children."
She said many residents have told her they feel safer since the Highlands County Sheriff's Office took over law enforcement. While the city has contracted for just two officers and a supervisor in the city each shift, that is close to the maximum of five per shift the police department had, she said.
However, she said that the city has no plans to replace the paid fire department with county volunteers. The city has several large buildings, including the hotel, and needs paid firefighters on call with training and equipment to respond, she said.
"Volunteers (firefighters) are the most wonderful people, but they come as they can," Schuler said.
Overall, she said Avon Park is progressing to become "a grand city, taking our place in the county." She hopes to continue building on that goal.
Schuler was born in Indiana -- she won't divulge when -- studied at Paducah Community College in Kentucky and transferred to Holiday Inn University in Memphis, Tenn., for a degree in hotel management.
She came to Avon Park in 1990 to assist with the local Holiday Inn -- now Highlands Inn.
"When they sold, I stayed," Schuler said.
Schuler said she was hired in 1992 as director of operations for Sun 'N Lake Improvement District and was hired in 2002 as manager of the Jacaranda Hotel.
At roughly the same time "she stayed" -- 21 years ago -- Schuler married her husband, Robert. They each had two children of their own, and from those four now count eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
You go Girl! (by: Peace & Love baby! - 10/29/2013)
Just wanted to let you know that you have the support of all of us from the weekly lunch bunch and the Cookie Cutters Club.
Concerned (by: Frog - 10/29/2013)
Schuler and parke are saying the exact same thing to get votes they say their fire department and their. Not going anywhere they said that about the police dept has soon as they were elected it was gone I'm afraid that our full time firefighters are going to be replaced with public safety our home owners ins will sky rocket then do we want to take that chance not me vote warner and remick
really (by: mowthegrass - 10/28/2013)
but you can only talk for 5 minutes, put i want participation. sound schizophrenic. what a surprise she wants it both ways.
same old (by: delon - 10/27/2013)
It's disheartening that her message could not have been tailored to everyone. The nepetism needs to. be forlorn for the betterment if the citizenry. Shame..
(by: new ap - 10/27/2013)
It time for a change let her go.
Good Work Mayor Schuler (by: Powershot - 10/27/2013)
i have witnessed your efforts for over a decade and appreciate your tirelss commitment to the city. You have been a strong advocate for all the citizens and appreciate the fact that you still stick your neck out and put it all out there for us. You may be small in size, but you have guts lady!
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