by Steve Lundin
This is the fourth interview conducted with candidates for the Sanibel Island, FL City Council elections, scheduled for March 7th. There are five seats on the city council and two are being challenged. These seats are currently held by Holly Smith, the council appointed Mayor of Sanibel, and Richard Johnson, Vice Mayor.
Jude Sincoskie has been visiting Sanibel since 2006. She moved down with her family from Maryland and became a Sanibel resident in September 2020. She has a background in human resources and real estate and is very involved with raising her children who attend the Sanibel School. This is her first foray into local government.
What motivated you to get into public service?
When we moved here, we became involved with the community and the Sanibel School and I’ve met some incredible people on the island. I joined the PTA and the Sanibel School Fund. Transparency is very important to me and after the hurricane I felt, as did many parents, that there was a lack of information on the Sanibel School. We formed a committee called the Parent District Liaison Committee and I was nominated Chair. We meet on a regular basis with the Superintendent to pass along information on the School because we were very concerned in the beginning – we wanted our children to stay together with teachers and became very involved with the School. We went straight to the district for information.
How do you feel that Ian was handled in terms of emergency operations prior to and after the event?
Prior to the hurricane I don’t understand why the city didn’t put a plan into action. I’ve heard from some people that they do have a plan, and others that they don’t have a plan. We evacuated on Tuesday morning, and when we came back, I spoke with many people who stayed on the island. I spoke with a former city employee who told me that there is FEMA training employees need to take to prepare for a hurricane. Once the mandatory evacuation is issued, they’re supposed to go into action, knock on doors, find out who is staying on the island, advise everyone to leave and if they don’t, they know whose there. That didn’t occur. That’s one major issue.
No one expected the storm surge to occur, but we also know that surges have occurred before. After the hurricane I feel like there were a lot of barriers put in place. Residents should have as much help as possible to facilitate recovery without barriers. For example, people had working cars on the island, and they were forced off the road and not allowed to use them. So, you have businesses trying to save inventory and their livelihood and they had no way to transport it to safety. I’ve just been very disappointed, if there was indeed a plan it should have been put into action immediately.
We lost four people during the storm; how do you think we could save those lives in the future?
There are always going to be people who stay on the island. You’re never going to force everyone to leave. I think the first step is to find out why people stayed and once you have that information then you can address that. But I don’t know if anyone’s been asking these questions. Open the lines of communication, let’s talk about what happened. Community members, business owners, let’s bring everyone together and start a task force to gather ideas. There are so many people on this island who have great ideas, but I don’t think they’re being listened to.
What do you think we learned as a result of the hurricane?
I think we learned about the power of nature and how we can’t control it. And I hope that we will learn how to recover in situations such as this. I hope that we learn about communication. I think there as a distinct lack of communication between the city, police, fire department and the citizens. A lot of people didn’t know or realize that the hurricane was going to be so bad.
Why are you seeking this position – and what you like to see happen in the next four years?
It all comes down to communication and transparency. I have been attending many city meetings over the last year and have been sharing information through social networks. I have friended many, many residents, some who have been here for 40 years and more. Retirees, people with kids and without kids and what I do is communicate what the city is doing. I want to open things up. I feel like I’m a politician sometimes but I’m not. I’m a mom and all I want to do is help this island recover.
Another issue I want to work on is financial planning. Sanibel may hit some hard times. Tax revenue is going to plummet with no hotels open, and properties going on the market. People are getting relief from property taxes, so revenues are going down. We are also losing tourism dollars which leads to budget shortfalls, so we may need to make some hard decisions. I’ve started looking into that – and I think we need to create a five-year budget plan with a budgeting committee. I think they had that in the past and we need to look at that very soon.
Any interest in public service outside of Sanibel?
I have no political aspirations beyond the island.
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