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Shires VM Ruben Collazo Reelected

Seventy-eight percent of Shires homeowners cast a ballot in their voting member (VM) election at the Shires biannual meeting, held Wednesday, December 12, at 5:30 p.m.

Westchase Community Association Manager Debbie Sainz asked Ruben Collazo, the current Shires VM if he would accept seven proxy votes that did not have the top line filled out. He asked if they appeared valid and Sainz replied, “Yes, they have names and addresses.”

Collazo said he would accept the ballots. Sainz also reported that there were two ballots which could not be counted because they weren’t dated.

Sainz then announced the results of the vote: Collazo was elected voting member (114 votes), Elaine Ragan was elected first alternate (74 votes), Terri Bridges won second alternate (71  votes) and Dan Perez won third alternate (26 votes).

WCA director Keith Heinemann, who was at the meeting acting as the board’s representative, said he wanted to congratulate everyone for being elected and participating. “It is good to see people getting involved,” he said.

Perez asked how the group would work together and Collazo responded, “Generally speaking, we decide as a group. I would like to rotate a seat at the VM meeting. There are some big issues coming up in January and February. We need to decide how we want to vote for guideline changes like white rocks in the landscaping. I don’t think we want those.”

During the open meeting the VMs heard from residents who asked them how they could get the oak trees lining the streets trimmed. Collazo said, “Normally I’ve made the calls to the CDD but I’m going to work with the alternates so that they’ll know how to do the job.”

Collazo indicated he’d like the alternates to get experience. Referring to the end of his next two-year term, he said. “I’d like to retire from this position then.”

Collazo said he was also going to make Ragan an editor on the Shires Facebook page and would share the neighborhood email list with her and talk to her about how and when to send emails.

Trish Blocker asked what issues would be coming up in January/February and after Collazo responded that it was the guideline changes, the conversation turned to how to get information to homeowners. Ragan asked, “How do we communicate to everyone in The Shires so they know about them?” Collazo said, “Generally it is in WOW. I have not duplicated information through Facebook or email if it’s in WOW. When you do that, people complain that the information is already out there.”

Ann Boytim asked if anything could be done about recent flooding in her backyard. “I’ve lived here since 1999. My home backs up to the woods. Supposedly there is a canal back there that is now blocked.”

Collazo said he would talk to the Community Development District (CDD). Boytim said she was also having problems with people cutting through her yard to get to the woods because the nearby fence had a hole in it. Collazo said he had been having a hard time getting any entity to take responsibility for the fence, “Hillsborough County says it is Swiftmud’s fence. Swiftmud says it isn’t. I don’t know who owns the fence.”

Residents then turned back to the discussion of communication with one asking what the best way was to give VMs feedback. When Collazo told them email and that all VM addresses were in the back of WOW and that it was the place to go for information, Blocker said, “I agree it is a good resource but it only comes out once a month.”

Ragan suggested that residents could also respond to posts on the Facebook page including email or whatever was most convenient.

Bridges asked, “How do you get people on your email list? Because I’ve lived here 3 years and I’ve never received an email from you. This is the first time I’ve ever met you. It seems like you should reach out to new residents. That’s why I’m here tonight – to get involved.”

Perez suggested that when a new resident moves in, the WCA should notify him or her who the VM for their neighborhood is. Petriva Mack said, “If you’re new to a community and you’re getting a newsletter, you shouldn’t require a volunteer to reach out. As a homeowner you should take responsibility to get information. I go and meet all the new neighbors on my street and get their information to give to the VM. To expect the VM to take on that responsibility is unfair.”

Bridges responded, “Fair enough. But we find out this year that a VM is going door-to-door for votes. If you have that kind of time, you can go meet new neighbors.”

Ragan added, “Many of our new residents don’t come from communities with VMs or a CDD and don’t know they should contact a VM.”

Collazo asked if they thought he should duplicate information that was already out there and all agreed that it was good to get information to residents in as many ways as possible.

Collazo and Sainz then explained the VM duties before ending the meeting.

By Marcy Sanford

After initial publication, this article has been edited. The challenger's vote tallies were changed by one or two votes based on updated numbers from the VM.

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