We could all be sitting in a big, awesome and really expensive park right now if it wasn’t for Rod Senior.

For the benefit of newer residents, back in 2007 the Board of Supervisors of the Gateway Services Community Development District was giving very serious consideration to building a park that would cost over $590,000 just to design. Nevermind that it would have cost another $7,400,000 to actually build the “white elephant at Gateway Commons” as Senior once called it in a letter to the editor of the formerly published Gateway Gazette.

It was a time of deep recession. People were losing their jobs and families were losing their homes. For many residents building a multi-million dollar park in that economic climate was about as popular back then as the parent pick-up line is today.

Senior and a few others organized a “Stop the Park” campaign which attracted over 500 residents to a special GSCDD board meeting on the subject at Trinity Church. The Senior-led group essentially forced the board to indefinitely suspend the building of a Gateway super-park.

Since that time Senior’s name is sprinkled throughout the official minutes of the GSCDD board meetings, expressing his concerns on topics ranging from waste water treatment to extra security guards on Hallowe’en.

Senior’s repeated presence is notable because the reality is that very few concerned residents consistently show up to the GSCDD meetings. Normally fewer than a dozen residents attend.

“I think that is partly due to apathy, but also due to the fact that District meetings are not a particularly rewarding way to spend a Thursday afternoon,” said Senior.

“The District needs to be perceived as a more exciting place to be involved in. Many residents do not realize that GSCDD does much more than send out water bills every two months. Many residents are not aware that their annual GSCDD assessment is buried in the annual property tax bill as a non-ad valorem line item.”

Senior is right. That doesn’t sound very exciting at all.

But to his credit, Senior has done his part to liven up the place. “Over the years I have exposed several expensive oversights and mismanagements which must have embarrassed the GSCDD board at times,” says Senior.

But now the tables have turned and other watchful-eyed Gateway residents will be keeping tabs on Senior’s decisions with the hopes of embarrassing him. That’s because in November 2014 he defeated incumbent Peter Doragh for Seat #5 of the Board of Supervisors of the GSCDD.

At the time of the election Doragh wasn’t just a Supervisor – he was also Chairman of the Board. According to a report on LeeElections.com, Senior secured 1,912 votes compared to Doragh’s 1,446. Perhaps you may recall the seemingly endless stream of political signs that Senior placed around Gateway to help ensure his victory.

Both Doragh and William Guy (Seat #4) were up for election at the time, meaning Senior could choose his opponent. One source familiar with Gateway politics told the Sun that the fact Guy lives in Pelican Preserve could have worked against Senior in a race against Guy. Pelican Preserve is known to have strong turn-out in GSCDD elections and the residents there surely would have shown up in droves if Guy was formally challenged to make sure he got another four year term.

Senior may have seen Doragh as being easier to beat than Guy. In the end Guy ran unopposed, was awarded another four years and has since been named the new Chairman of the Board.

We asked Senior what he believed the priorities for Gateway were for the next 1 to 3 years. He responded, “Building a strategy, structure and Master Plan to restore and improve Gateway’s ponds, landscaping and utility system is the biggest challenge ahead.”

Ponds?

“Substandard lakes and stale landscaping are prime examples of today’s problems that residents should know about because they directly affect Gateway’s property values. The District and its Supervisors have to do a better PR job to showcase GSCDD and encourage the residents to be part of a vibrant future Gateway vision and planning process,” explained the new Supervisor.

Ah, property values. Now you’re talking.

When asked to describe what skills and experience he brings to the residents of Gateway and how he thinks he’s done during his short time on the board Senior answered, “I have always been direct, but business-like from the podium. That is how I have been trained as an MBA Business Consultant. I try to stick to the issues, avoid personality conflicts and listen. Over the first four board meetings, I feel I have made a greater contribution than I anticipated. I think that can be attributed to the fact that I am familiar with the issues, the personalities, and the priorities.”

Continued Senior, “I can offer a wealth of business experience and project management expertise. In the process, I would like to mobilize the help of Gateway’s residents through focused voluntary workgroups. Being entrepreneurial by nature, I am adapting to a different way of setting and achieving goals via the board of a public entity. Not being allowed to even speak with my board colleagues between meetings is foreign to me and counterproductive. However, I do understand the reasons for Florida’s Sunshine Laws and I believe in the transparency and public openness that the Laws are intended to promote.”

Florida law requires that all communication between GSCDD board members be made public. For example, even an accidental and unplanned meeting between two Supervisors at a Boston Red Sox spring training game would likely require full public disclosure to ensure maximum transparency.

Fortunately for Senior, inadvertently meeting a fellow board member at a spring training game is the only thing that could possibly go wrong with the Red Sox being in Gateway. Right, Mr. Senior?

“Gateway has not yet enjoyed the benefits that we were promised from jetBlue Park. The $80 million bed tax investment was supposed to result in a Fenway South village with bars, restaurants, and retail infrastructure. Perhaps that will develop later on. In the meantime, we see 6 weeks of baseball frenzy, lots of sheriff activity, the occasional fairground, circus, RV show, and a permanent 45 mph speed limit along Daniels Parkway which makes no sense to me. I support keeping the Red Sox in Fort Myers, but I feel the County Commissioners could have insisted on some earlier timelines for the promised year-round infrastructure on the prime 20 acres owned by the Red Sox.”

Although he sees no traffic congestion problems at jetBlue today, Senior also said that if the County Commissioners ever come through on building the promised “retail village” at the site a better solution would need to be found to get people in and out of the stadium and the would-be retail area from Daniels Parkway (*SEE NOTE). Doing so would presumably ease traffic congestion for people looking to simply drive by the stadium on Daniels on game days as well.

On the flip side, the Boston Red Sox are a marquee franchise in Major League Baseball and anywhere the team goes their legions of fans (along with their wallets) will follow. Many would sharply disagree with Senior’s complaints and say the fact the entire Red Sox organization prepares for each season in Gateway should be viewed as a point of pride for the community that far outweighs a missing retail complex the area was promised.

The 2013 World Series victory by the Boston Red Sox very much began in Gateway, Florida.

Setting his slight bah-humbug attitude toward the jetBlue Park site aside, Senior clearly cares about our community and, if we may editorialize for one brief instant, he actually seems incredibly qualified for the Supervisor position and Gateway is lucky to have him on the GSCDD board.

In a purely academic exercise we can’t help but wonder what advice “2007 Stop the Park Rod Senior” would give “2015 Politician Rod Senior” about the opportunity he has for the next four years to help shape the future of Gateway. Senior’s term runs from 2014-2018 so we’ll have plenty of time to find out.

As previously mentioned, Guy’s seat was up for re-election this past November and comes up again along with Senior’s in the 2018 elections. Board Vice-Chairman Margaret Fineberg (Seat #1), Gary Neubauer (Seat #2) and Pam Gill (Seat #3) all have their seats come up for re-election in 2016.

For more information about the GSCDD visit gatewaydistrict.org.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story indicated that Senior had an issue with present-day traffic congestion at jetBlue Park on game days, he clarified via email that he was saying there potentially could be problems getting people in and out of the area in the future if a retail complex was built next to the stadium.

Rod Senior profile:

– Rod Senior and his wife Sue have been full-time residents of Gateway Greens since 1998.

– Prior to that they lived in Canada for 15 years (Toronto, Ontario and Newfoundland).

– James, their son, is a Sr. User Experience Designer at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

– Their daughter Lucy works at Trillium Gift of Life Network (organ and tissue donation) in Toronto.

– Rod Senior’s corporate career was with Exxon and Valero in senior marketing management. His main focus was planning, acquiring and managing a national network of gas stations and heating oil distributors.

– Two year MBA program at London Business School (UK)

– First entrepreneurial venture was to create the first universal gift certificate redeemable in major store groups around the world in various currencies. The endeavor made gift sending overseas easy prior to the availability of the Internet.

– Current business venture empowers consumers and businesses to buy gasoline and diesel on the Internet at a locked-in price and fill a “virtual tank”. Customers can pick up their Internet gas at the gas station with a special card and avoid being exposed to volatile pump prices. Two U.S. patents for this invention have been granted.

– Senior is a musician and has played lead guitar and sung in many UK bands in his earlier life. He particularly enjoys performing traditional Celtic music on St. Patrick’s Day in various venues.

– Also created the first Gateway Pub night in 2002 which is a volunteer-based musical extravaganza in Gateway Greens that is still going strong today.

– Is attempting to improve his short game in golf, and looks forward to the day when he can devote more time to the sport.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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