As New Commission Chairman, Nate McLaughlin Quickly Flexes Unyielding Muscle
FlaglerLive | December 5, 2012
Every year around this time the Flagler County Commission parcels out committee assignments to its members. There are 24 such committees or councils, some clearly more weighty, and more sought after, than others: everyone wants to sit on the Tourist Development Council or the Public Safety Coordinating Council because money, power or influence is involved. Most don’t know what the “Management Advisory Group for GTMNERR” is, let alone what the acronym stands for, until they have to serve on it, and the Artificial Reef Technical Advisory Committee has never had a waiting list of interested commissioner. (See the full assignment list below.)
On Monday, Nate McLaughlin, in his first full business meeting as chairman of the commission, wasted no time asserting his powers and signaling that he would use the chairmanship to do so: He took the chairmanship of the Tourist Development Council and the Public Safety Coordinating Council, saying it was his prerogative as chairman to do so. It is: it’s in state law. But it’s also the chairman’s prerogative to yield to another interested commissioner. As Chairman in 2011, Alan Peterson had done just that, yielding the TDC chairmanship to Milissa Holland, and that of the Public Safety Coordinating Council to Barbara Revels, as both women were immersed in hands-on work on both councils. Revels, as chairman until November, had yielded the TDC to Holland again, and kept hold of the coordinating council.
But McLaughlin said all seats that may go to the commission chairman—that is, to him—will do so.
Revels wanted to keep serving on the Public Safety Coordinating Council, which has been far more active in the last two years than it had been in the past. And it has been the policy somewhat, unspoken policy of this commission for the last five or six years, that everybody shares in the workload regardless of the requirements,” Revels said, raising an objection to McLaughlin’s move.
There was a tense moment during the 20-minute discussion and parceling out of assignments, with McLaughlin saying he’d stick with his decision.
“I would like to respectfully ask that you reconsider,” Revels persisted, “and my point on this is, along with department of Juvenile Justice, Carver Center and the fact that we have two new judges that are going to be sitting on that body, a new sheriff, probably other new sheriff’s representatives, other representatives from other agencies, I’m kind of like the lone person standing that’s going to be returning to that to get some things done, and would like to be able to bridge the gap of that learning curve for those people as they come on board there. We do a lot of good stuff, and I’d like to retain that.”
“I thank you for that narrative. I still would like to bring that to the chair.”
Continuity and what will amount to the Public Safety Coordinating Council’s only institutional memory, Revels had another reason for wanting to stay on: “We’ve just landed the safe haven grant that I’m going for training this week on, and that is out of that committee, to sit on the core committee for the safe haven visitation center.” The commission approved the work of the council, emerging from a $400,000 federal grant that will create Flagler County’s first such safe-haven visitation center for sundered families, when children must see one or the other parent, but when parents must be kept at a distance, and under safe supervision. The center will be located in a section of building adjacent to the Bunnell public library branch.
“ It’s been a really long haul on that, and I certainly want to see that through. So that’s another issue there,” Revels said.
McLaughlin didn’t yield. And Revels got no support from fellow-commissioners: Frank Meeker and Charlie Ericksen are newcomers on the board and are McLaughlin allies. George Hanns had begun the discussion by saying that even though he wanted to serve on the tourism board, “that’s certainly the chairman’s discretion. I’m certainly not offended by him taking that if he chose to do so. I’d just like to say I was looking for something new to do, and emphasize the fact that I’m flexible and available for a number of things.”
But he then asked Ericksen to yield to him so Hanns could stay on the public library board. Ericksen did so. (Ericksen was the biggest yielder of the day: he’d asked to be on the juvenile justice board. He yielded to Hanns on that too. Ericksen had asked to be on the A1A Scenic Pride Committee. He yielded to Meeker on that one. He’d asked to be on the chamber of commerce committee. Hanns took that one, too.)
Hanns got all he wanted, except TDC. When Revels’s turn came to keep the one assignment she wanted most, she was alone, with Hanns going so far as twisting the knife a little as he recalled the time when he himself had surrendered the position to Revels: “Again, when it was my turn to pass it along to Ms. Revels, it was her prerogative as chair, and she chose to have it, and I really had no problem with it, because I know of your dedication, you’re going to do as well or enhance what I’ve done, and I think it’s important that it moves around a little bit.”
Revels asked the county attorney whether McLaughlin could assert himself without appeal. But he could: that’s state law. And he did. McLaughlin, as a real estate broker, had briefly worked for Revels many years ago. That relationship did not work ideally. Echoes of that dynamic may yet be heard in the next 12 months.
The full committee assignments are below.
Flagler County Commission Committee Assignments
|Committee||Who may serve||2012 Assignments||2013 Assignments|
|A1A Scenic Corridor Advocacy Byways Group||Any commissioner||Nate McLaughlin||Frank Meeker|
|A1A Scenic Pride||Any commissioner||Milissa Holland||Frank Meeker|
|Artificial Reef Technical Advisory Committee||Any commissioner||George Hanns||George Hanns|
|Canvassing Board||Commission chair or designee||Nate McLaughlin (alternate), Milissa Holland (alt.)||Nate McLaughlin, George Hanns (alt.)|
|Early Learning Coalition of Flagler & Volusia||Any commissioner||Barbara Revels||Barbara Revels|
|Economic Opportunity Advisory Council||Any commissioner||Barbara Revels||Barbara Revels|
|Affordable Housing Advisory Committee||Any commissioner||Nate McLaughlin||Charlie Ericksen|
|Chamber of Commerce & Affiliates||Any commissioner||Alan Peterson||George Hanns|
|Department of Juvenile Justice Council||Any commissioner||George Hanns||Barbara Revels|
|Carver Center Governing Board||Any commissioner||Barbara Revels||Charlie Ericksen|
|Heritage Corridor Advocacy Group||Any commissioner||George Hanns||George Hanns|
|Land Development Code Advisory Committee||Any commissioner||Nate McLaughlin||Nate McLaughlin|
|Library Board of Trustees||Any commissioner||George Hanns||George Hanns|
|Management Advisory Group for GTM Research Reserve||Any commissioner||George Hanns||Frank Meeker|
|Northeast Florida Regional Council||Any commissioner||Milissa Holland||Frank Meeker|
|Princess Place Preserve Citizen Support Organization||Any commissioner||George Hanns||Charlie Ericksen|
|Public Safety Coordinating Council||Commission chair or designee||Barbara Revels||Nate McLaughlin|
|School Planning Oversight (two members)||Any commissioner||Alan Peterson||Frank Meeker|
|Tourist Development Council||Commission chair or designee||Milissa Holland||Nate McLaughlin|
|Marineland CRA Board||Any commissioner||Nate McLaughlin||Nate McLaughlin|
|Transportation Disadvantaged Local Coordinating Council||Any commissioner||Alan Peterson||Charlie Ericksen|
|Workforce Development Board of Flagler & Volusia||Any commissioner||Alan Peterson||Frank Meeker|
|Value Adjustment Board (two members)||Any commissioner||Alan Peterson, Nate McLaughlin||Nate McLaughlin|
|Volusia Transportation Planning Organization||Any commissioner||None assigned||Barbara Revels|