North Palm's Newest Councilmember Ready to Tackle the Future
By GERRY BARKER
North Palm Beach Life
NORTH PALM BEACH_ For the past 24 years, Susan Bickel has taught science to K-5 students at The Benjamin School here. As of March 14, she acquired some additional responsibilities.
On that day, she was elected to the North Palm Beach city council for a two-year term.
Sitting on the pool deck at North Palm Beach Country Club, watching Ellie, her 10-year-old daughter at swimming practice, Ms. Bickel talked about why she made the leap into public office.
"I was born and raised here," she said, "and have spent most of my life here. We have some exciting things coming up, with the Master Plan and the country club renovation, and it was really important to me to be a part of those." Also, "when we make some much-needed changes, we don't want to lose our character and keep our small-town feel, and some of our little quirks I happen to like."
In short, she wants North Palm "to remain neighborly as we get a little fancier."
Her parents were among the original residents, settling here in 1958. At that time, the area looked very different.
"I remember when I was little, there were strawberry fields on Northlake. And where KMart was used to be a dairy. In high school, I had a friend who moved to Jupiter and we thought they were moving to the moon. Jupiter -- why would you go to Jupiter?" she said, laughing.
While this is her first elected office, she does have some politics in her background, working at one time for Florida Congressman Tom Lewis.
Last year was the 60th anniversary of The Village of North Palm Beach founding, and working with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, a comprehensive Master Plan for future growth was developed. It has since been adopted by the North Palm City Council.
"The next step is looking at future land use," said Ms. Bickel, adding that the initial focus will be on the US 1 and Prosperity Farms corridors. On her personal wish list: "Seeing US 1 become more walkable, with more restaurants, shopping and gathering places."
She noted, "the places in the Village that have good food and good prices have overflow business. There is room in the market for more good restaurants."
One project already under way is the renovation of the Country Club. Over the next 18 months, a new clubhouse will be built and a children's "splash-pad" play area added. During that time, residents should be able to utilize the pool, golf course and tennis courts.
"I hope the country club becomes the heart of the city with the renovations," she said. "I grew up coming here and would like my daughter to grow up coming here. So I am really excited and hope it becomes a center where people from every part of the village come. Hang out, have some food, be with their friends."
Mother and daughter share something in common: As a youth, she was coached by Country Club swim coach Dick Cavanah, who is now daughter Ellie's coach. "I think that's fun. I never thought I would be the mom sitting on the pool deck."
Included in the project will be a new restaurant, which will be vendor-operated. "The Village tried their hand (operating the restaurant) in the past ... but it is a very specialized business so we are bringing in somebody to run it."
Ms. Bickel is excited about her role with the city. "We do have things that need updating, but I don't want to lose sight of what we are, which is a small-town feel. We know our neighbors, we walk around places -- I want to keep that."
The Village motto is "The Best Place to Live Under the Sun." And Ms. Bickel concurs:
"As far as I'm concerned, it is."
"We do have things that need updating, but I don't want to lose sight of what we are, which is a small-town feel. We know our neighbors, we walk around places -- I want to keep that."
Related: North Palm Beach Master Plan