Lakewood Ranch supervisor bids farewell during final district meeting

nwilliams@bradenton.comNovember 16, 2012 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Lakewood Ranch community development district supervisors said goodbye to a prominent figure in the community Thursday, and also welcomed a familiar face to a vacant district seat.

Thursday's district meetings at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall marked the final meeting for District 2 Supervisor and Chairman Bob Stepleman. Stepleman announced in May he would not run for re-election to honor a pledge he made last year.

Meanwhile, District 1 supervisors, who serve the Summerfield and Riverclub neighborhoods, voted 3-1 to appoint longtime resident and community supporter

Gilbert Pearce to the district seat vacated by Gary Berns in October.

Stepleman made the pledge during a public forum in 2011 while addressing the proposed incorporation of Lakewood Ranch as a city last year. Stepleman said publicly that if incorporation were defeated, he would not run for re-election. A straw poll revealed a majority of residents were not in favor of Lakewood Ranch becoming a city

On Thursday, Stepleman received a plaque and applause from his peers for service to the community.

"On behalf of the board, thank you for everything you've done over the last 10 years," said Tom Green, a District 2 supervisor.

District 2 serves the Country Club and Edgewater neighborhoods of Lakewood Ranch. Prior to serving on the District 2 board, Stepleman was director of the Country Club/Edgewater Village Homeowner Association. In total, he has contributed to Lakewood Ranch for 13 years.

"I want to thank the community for giving me the privilege to serve on this board for 10 years," Stepleman said.

Stepleman will officially be replaced by Mike Finney in December. Finney defeated Jerry Twiggs in the special district elections weeks ago.

"I enjoyed playing a role in serving the community and seeing it grow," Stepleman said.

Pearce, who has lived in Lakewood Ranch for 12 years, has served on Summerfield/Riverwalk Village Homeowner Association for two years and also served on the community's landscape committee. He also attends district meetings regularly.

"I'm always here anyway," Pearce said.

Pearce was chosen over Bob Swiatek, who also serves on the neighborhood HOA. Pearce said he will resign from his position on the neighborhood HOA to avoid a conflict of interest.

In other action Thursday, district supervisors and the Inter-District Authority approved an amendment to the community's interlocal agreement to include the financing of the soon-to-be-constructed maintenance facility. The agreement covers services and maintenance for all districts the IDA manages. Manatee County approved a site plan for the $2.4 million maintenance facility on Wednesday. With the approval, the IDA's legal counsel will move forward with purchasing the property for the facility from Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the developer of Lakewood Ranch.

The IDA and District 2 will have public hearings on Nov. 29 at Town Hall to discuss bond settlements for the maintenance facility. District 2 is the lead agency on financing the facility.

Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7049. Twitter: @_1NickWilliams

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