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Sea Change With Immediate Notes of Assertiveness as New Mayor and Palm Coast Council Are Seated

| November 15, 2016

On the Palm Coast City Council, a new era begins with Mayor Milissa Holland as the Jon Netts reign walks away. (© FlaglerLive)

On the Palm Coast City Council, a new era begins with Mayor Milissa Holland as the Jon Netts reign walks away. (© FlaglerLive)

There was plenty of ceremony garlanded in the flashbulbs and pride and smiles of big occasions at this morning’s swearing in of the most sweepingly new Palm Coast Council in the city’s history: A new mayor—and, for the first time in that seat, a woman—in Milissa Holland, new council members in Bob Cuff and Nick Klufas, and a new majority joining two council members who’ve only been there two years.

There was poignancy, too, as when Jon Netts, speaking as a mayor for the last time, urged the new council not to forget his era: “As you make decisions about the city of Palm Coast, don’t forget to look back once in a while,” he said at the end of a four-minute sum-up of his 15 years on the council. He thanked the community (“not your support for me, but your support for your community”) and credited voters for electing people “who understood what this city is supposed to be,” going back to the first mayor and council who articulated a vision of the city as “a premier city in which to “live, work and play.”

The summary was a subtle exhortation to his successors not to change course, though at least certain changes afoot were made even more evident when George Hanns, the county commissioner for 24 years, included his own fate in what he called the “historic event” that changed the council: he was voted out (as opposed to Netts, who was term-limited). “I became 70 years old and I am finally unemployed,” Hanns told the council after specifically addressing Holland, his former colleague of six years on the county commission: “I know you’re just pretending to be a little nervous. I can picture you a month from now saying OK let’s get this show on the road.”

It didn’t take a month. It took a few minutes as ceremony and poignancy gave way to business. After the swearing in Holland wasted no time asserting herself when the council parceled out its advisory committee assignments. She immediately said she was requesting to replace Netts on the Tourist Development Council, the county advisory board that recommends how to spend millions of dollars in tourist-tax revenue. The council has been an unsettled body in the last few years as it’s been absorbed by county government and taken a more aggressive but less transparent route to deal-making to bring various sports and other events to the county.

Nick Klufas takes the oath. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Nick Klufas takes the oath. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Holland had herself led the tourism council for several years when she served on the county commission, reshaping the way it operated so that it would be more transparent and accountable, with relatively strict measures of the payoffs of grant awards. The tourism council has been moving away from those standards in the past two years. Holland’s return to the TDC sets up a clash of visions there between her more accountability-driven approach and the county’s preferred laissez-faire approach.

That same approach is expected to define her mayorship from that of Netts, who was also mostly hands-off. Perhaps sensing the change, council member Steven Nobile, too, was quick to assert himself as the now senior member of the council, with Heidi Shipley. “We lost a great council, some great members, but I think they were replaced justly, and we’re going to do some great things, I hope,” Nobile said. He immediately made two agenda-setting proposals:  what he called “a more detailed, focused vision and planning for Town Center.” And more worrisomely for City Manager Jim Landon, more involvement by council members in city business: “I believe we can find a way for city council to become more involved in the day to day of city operations without interfering with the city managers and the directors in their day to day processes, purposely for allowing the city council to be a little bit ahead of the decisions that are being made. Instead of being the last part of the decision, I’d like us to be a little bit more part of the earlier decision processes.”

Nobile, who had been the first to get up and lead the ovation as Netts walked off his seat and the podium, was touching on a recurrent complaint about past councils—that they yield too much to the city manager and his administration, while serving only as a ratifying, rather than a guiding, board.

Landon did not seem to be paying attention, or at least gave the appearance of not paying attention, looking at paperwork or an electronic device instead, and did not refer to Nobile’s proposals when his turn came to speak. He spoke glowingly of Netts, placing him “on the top shelf” of elected officials he’s worked with over the years. He spoke more paternalistically, if not patronizingly, of Jason DeLorenzo, who decided to run for the county commission rather than hold on to his council seat, a bid that fell short in an election that swept off or blocked every local Democrat from office but one. He was one of them.

“Mr. DeLorenzo, I’ll give you most improved,” Landon said to the now-ex-council member, using words more appropriate from a high school wrestling coach than from a manager referring to his employer. “Young, coming in, four years ago”—five, actually—“and then wow, to watch you grow in this position, to watch you be able to actually get some of the things you’re passionate approved, and really know how to work with your fellow-council members, work with staff, I enjoyed watching you grow and enjoyed working with you.”

The new council. From left, Heidi Shipley, Nick Klufas, Milissa Holland, Steven Nobile and Bob Cuff. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The new council. From left, Heidi Shipley, Nick Klufas, Milissa Holland, Steven Nobile and Bob Cuff. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Such a radical change of an elected body is always unsettling for its chief executive, who serves at its pleasure and can be fired at any meeting. Landon, who’s been on the job in Palm Coast for a decade, a few years more than the average 6.9 years for city managers in the 2000s, kept up his wrestling-coach approach even with the new council: He called it “new and fresh” and added: “I like what I’m hearing and believe we will work very well together.”

Klufas and Cuff refrained themselves to the wit and humility of new council members, with Cuff nevertheless pointing out his eight weeks of “seniority” (he’d been appointed early, after winning his election, to fill the remaining term of councilman Bill McGuire, who resigned to go back to St. Louis to get married): “I’ll take what I can get,” Cuff said, recognizing that the day’s main attraction had been Holland’s swearing in.

There was a surprise for Holland and the new council (and a tribute to Netts and the out-going council): a burst of a performance of “God Bless America” by the Coastal Florida Police and Fire Pipes and Drums. Several people from a sizeable audience welcomed the new council members, among them Tori Holland, the mayor’s daughter, who was out of her seat and back at close to the speed of sound after offering her prideful congratulations.

Holland herself looked not a bit rusty from four years away from a gavel as she handled her portion of the meeting. She offered complimentary words to each of her colleagues, past and present, underscored Palm Coast’s “culturally diverse community, one we should honor and celebrate,” and got to work on what, she said, had been “an amazing journey thus far.”

The Coastal Florida Police and Fire Pipes and Drums prepare. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The Coastal Florida Police and Fire Pipes and Drums prepare. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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9 Responses for “Sea Change With Immediate Notes of Assertiveness as New Mayor and Palm Coast Council Are Seated”

  1. John dolan says:

    Since the role of a mayor has become just a ceremonial position, she will be doing lots of parades and political fund raisers. Mayors have no power anymore. We should eliminate Palm Coast politics and power struggle and unite with the County.

  2. woodchuck says:

    You can get your name printed on a fire truck.

  3. Robjr says:

    @John dolan
    That is too much like making economic sense, so it won’t happen.

    I just want my trash picked up on schedule.

    At first the excuse for missing pickups was the hurricane. I called Waste Pro about another miss last week and the excuse was the hurricane.

    Yet the town council extends the contract and gives an increase. And places fines for missed collections. However I and others have to pay in full each month. So who makes out and where does the money go?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Landon needs to be “dethroned” to the point of coming back to earth long enough to realize that he is not a power unto himself in Palm Coast.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Go Nick!

  6. Oldseadog says:

    Trash Pick UP
    Waste Pro gets a raise and now just skips picking up yard trash for weeks. Wonder who in City Management watches them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Shark says:

    Is she still a republican ??????????????

  8. Percy's mother says:

    Just after H. Matthew, Waste Pro specifically stated/notified/posted that they would be picking up ONLY BAGGED yard trash Oldseadog. You need to keep informed . . . its that simple. This was to aid in and speed up yard waste pickup.

    If you follow instructions you don’t have to complain.

  9. I am with Mr. Tristam says:

    Once again Flaglerlive has been the ULTIMATE conduit in keeping up with the MOST important news Flagler’s citizens should be watching. what is your government doing for YOU? Whether you feel victorious or defeated in this most recent of elections; you should be asking yourself, what made me feel vindicated or what made me feel railroaded?? There is a process in place.

    Process does not change, per se, it is amended as necessary.

    Process is: the Bill of Rights the Constitution, the checks and balances. If you feel you “won” or “lost” something in this election cycle, your civic duty as an American implores you to above all else, continue to take action! You either won or list this “round” how do we as citizens ensure we continue to win, or not lose?

    Pay attention! Learn how local government works, and with that knowledge learn how it either worked in your favor or failed you. Our founding forefathers had the wisdom to leave plenty of space for citizens of this country to adapt and overcome.

    They had a vision. They knew what would follow after them was greater than what even they could imagine. They ensured there were mechanisms in place to supersede the greatest of thinkers of their time. They ensured, to the best of their abilities, that government, so far as history had shown so many examples of success and failure up until that point, that they had done their best to make room for adjustments when and if necessary.

    They gave Americans the gift of correcting the course or staying the course so we always remain a United Nation.

    Whatever you did that got you to this point, be it a successful grassroots effort or a total lack thereof, there is POWER in the people. Adapt and overcome.
    #never forget

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