DUNEDIN — City Commissioner Maureen "Moe" Freaney is passionate about public service, having served as assistant city manager, assistant county administrator, director of county animal services, chair of a police study task force and in many other roles.
Freaney expects to continue being involved in Dunedin government and the community when she finishes her second four-year term on the commission in 2024. In fact, she plans to run for mayor.
"I am a public servant at heart and always will be,” she said. “I term out as a Dunedin commissioner next year. Coincidentally (Julie Ward Bujalski) terms out as mayor. It is my intention to run for mayor. There is still much to do to protect our charm and our vibe in Dunedin.”
Asked what give her the most satisfaction of being a city commissioner, Freaney said meeting Dunedin residents and visitors, learning about what matters to them and dealing with "problem solving" issues.
"When I first ran for City Commission, I walked near thousands of home in Dunedin. It was such an enriching experience. I met so many wonderful citizens and heard first-hand about the things they cared about. It’s so rewarding to help citizens connect with their government and solve real life problems," Freaney said.
Freaney, a management consultant, has lived in Dunedin since 1984. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice studies and a master of business administration degree. She has more than 31 years of professional and government experience and was part of a city staff that drove the revitalization of downtown Dunedin.
The toughest job she ever had was being director of Pinellas County Animal Service.
"Just because you feel the pressure of saving every animal," she said. "Those animals keep coming in. You can't stop them."
The native of western New York, who has had a gay partner for 28 years, was asked about how being a member of the LGBTQ community has affected her involvement in Dunedin government and community matters.
She believes that significant strides have been made in the community and jobs she had held to embrace the LGBTQ community.
"First of all, I have always felt that Dunedin has been ahead of the curve. Along with others, many gay business owners in the 1980s brought their creativity to Dunedin to help develop our downtown and special events," she said.
The city has continued to evolve on LGBTQ matters, she added.
"As individuals put a face on the LGBTQ community, they learn that they are all just people that want to love, care, contribute and be respected like everyone else," Freaney said.
As far as her hobbies, Freaney is avid walker and reader and is committed to her fitness regime.
"I enjoy music. Over the years I have played guitar, sung in a rock and roll band, sung at many community events and sung at Our Lady of Lourdes Church for 22 years, including many weddings and funerals," she said.
She's also a puppeteer, enjoys meeting with residents and visitors, traveling and spending time with her family.
Freaney has two main civic heroes: the late John Lawrence, the longest serving city manager in Dunedin's history, and the late John Hubbard, a former city attorney.
Lawrence visited European cities and brought ideas back to create Dunedin as a walkable city, Freaney said.
"He had an early vision of what Dunedin could become. He embraced diversity in ways that were way ahead of his time. He was a man of high ethics and believed deeply in public service and citizen participation,” Freaney said.
Hubbard spearheaded ordinances forbidding billboards in the city, protecting trees and was instrumental in requiring developers to contribute money into a fund to purchase greenspace and paying impact fees, she said.
"Both Johns were huge advocates of greenspace. They always taught me that no one will look back on your decisions to preserve greenspace. People will look back and thank you for having the vision to look to future generations," Freaney said.
She thought of both of them many times as city officials worked hard with the entire community to purchase the Gladys Douglas Preserve, consisting of 125 acres, and save it forever for future generations.
"That's so exciting because people look back and never regret green space decisions," Freaney said. "They can criticize for you for a lot of things, but you will almost never hear anyone say that was stupid to do that. That gives me a lot of satisfaction."
Asked what she believes is the biggest challenge facing Dunedin, Freaney said affordable housing in particular.
"One of the things that has always been nice about Dunedin is its economic diversity, but today we face huge challenges to this. We certainly want our front-line workers in the service industry, government, nursing, teaching, public safety, etc. to be able to afford to live here," she said.
Freaney said maintaining the special charm of Dunedin has always been one of her top concerns.
"Slow, incremental balanced growth is the key to this. The current City Commission has put in place many additional City code changes as well as an Architectural Review Board to help protect our charm," Freaney said.
She also mentioned the environment and sea level rise as other challenges.
"Although experts disagree on how much the sea will rise, everyone agrees it is happening. We must prepare. Ensuring the City creates a resilient community for the future is much more complex than just our waterways," Freaney said.
Traffic continues to be a concern. Along those lines, is the challenge of ensuring that all types of transportation in Dunedin can safely integrate together — walkers, cyclists, golf cars, cars.
"No matter what, the pedestrian must come first. We are a walkable city," she said.
Asked what Freaney has brought to the city commission, City Manager Jennifer Bramley said, "leadership with a big heart."
"She understands the soul of the community and character and she respects and supports it in everything she does," Bramley said.
Freaney has been a strong leader in her administrative roles and now with the commission, former Commissioner Deborah Kynes said.
"She has a great sense of humor; she is really dedicated and really has great strengths behind her," Kynes said.
Former Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers, who is now a county commissioner, said Freaney brings unique characteristics to the community.
"If you talk to her, you know quickly how engaged she is, how much she loves this community" Eggers said. "Obviously being involved in the city as an employee for years and years, she understands that aspect. Now as a policy maker she can really see things from a lot of perspectives. She and I don't always agree but we certainly have a platform to talk. She has always been receptive and open minded."
Freaney always has believed the best city commissioners were those who don't have a particular agenda when they ran for office.
"I don't have an agenda, other than I love the city," she said.