Last Updated: 4:32 p.m.
Steven Nobile today announced his resignation by email to fellow-Palm Coast City Council members and the city administration, writing late this morning that family health issues are precipitating a decision he’d made months ago to move to the Tampa area.
“I want to tell each of you that it has been a pleasure and an honor to serve this great city with you,” Nobile wrote council members. “Regardless of the words and the tones, I see each of you as heroes who stepped up to the challenge of doing what most people will not even consider.”
The reference to words and tone alluded to what had become a more caustic, less collegial relationship between council members in the last year and a half–since the last election–with Nobile frequently in conflict with Mayor Milissa Holland and Council member Nick Klufas, and in dissent over such matters as the handling of the charter review and, more intensely, the hiring of a manager to replace Jim Landon: twice Nobile tried to have Landon fired, and twice he failed. Nobile has ridiculed the rest of the council’s decision to stretch out the replacement of Landon over two years.
In an interview this afternoon, Nobile–always the insurgent–was more blunt about the council’s dynamics in the last two years, contrasting them sharply with those pre-dating the election of Holland, Klufas and Bob Cuff to say outright that the current council made it easier for him to move on, “because honestly I’m not enjoying it right now, that made the decision a little easier.”
Klufas spoke only of his concerns for Nobile and his family. “It’s interest,” he said of the resignation. “I certainly hope that this isn’t his health related or they’re fighting something that isn’t a life-concerning issue. I don’t wish him any harm and I hope everything is OK.”
Nobile in the interview clarified that his decision to leave had nothing to do with his own health nor with anyone’s illness, specifically: no one is dying. It was strictly a matter of deciding how to best care for Nobile’s mother-in-law, whose health has been frail. “She’s going to be 91, She fell and hit her eye and she lost sight in that eye,” Nobile said, “had a couple of operations, then she fell and broke her leg, so she can’t be alone anymore.” The family thought about moving her to Palm Coast and renovating the house here, but that proved unfeasible, with a two-level house. So the decision was made to move to Tampa.
“It was a bittersweet, because on the one hand I get to be with my kids and grandbaby,” Nobile said, “on the other hand I have to leave where I basically grew up. I mean, this is what I call home now. I’ve been here since I was 21, 22, and I’m 57 now. So this is home. This was hard. We’ve got a lot of friends here. But it’s interesting because most of our friends are moving away. I don’t know why. They’re downsizing for one, and looking at different areas–DeLand, north. It’s strange. But it was difficult. We pondered this for months, and it just got to the level where we had to do something.”
The resignation leaves the council facing a decision on filling his seat before the next election. The May 16 date, when the resignation is effective, is almost six months from the November election, thus repeating, with a couple of additional months, the scenario the council faced with the resignation of Bill McGuire in July 2016. The city charter requires that the council within 30 days appoint an individual to any seat vacated due to a resignation, death or illness, as long as the seat is vacated less than two years from the next election. (That may change if voters approve an amendment to the charter come November, which would require an election if a seat is vacated six months or more before an election. But even if that amendment had been in place, it would not have affected Nobile’s seat: he is resigning inside the six-month window.)
McGuire’s resignation put the council in a difficult position as it did not wish to appoint one of the individuals already running for the seat, nor was it eager to appoint someone for just a few weeks–a sacrificial lamb, or someone who might play a key role on policy decisions only to be gone soon after. Bob Cuff essentially came to the rescue: he was one of the candidates running for McGuire’s seat. He happened to win an outright majority in the August primary, eliminating the need for a run-off in November. That made it easy for the council to simply appoint Cuff a few weeks ahead of time. He’s been on the council since.
The council may and may not have the same luck this time around. One candidate has declared for Nobile’s seat so far–John Tipton. The council could drag its feet the way it did in 2016, hoping for an outcome that would resolve the issue in the August primary. But because the resignation is happening sooner, it is likelier to discuss a replacement for what amounts to an eighth of a term. The council is likely to discuss the issue at its workshop Tuesday morning.
Holland could not immediately be reached, citing by text a series of meetings until late afternoon. Speaking after the article posted, Holland said “it will be more likely” this time that the council will make an appointment, given the timeline. “We need to discuss it as a council on what the best approach will be. I don’t want to make certain assumptions without hearing from each and every one of my colleagues. I certainly watched their approach when Bill McGuire had to move and vacate his seat. I watched the discussion as they debated with it being so close to the election, I think they approached it wisely.”
If Holland cheered at all when she first got word of Nobile’s resignation this morning, she did not let on when interviewed this afternoon, sticking to a more formal reaction: “I would never wish anyone off an election body I serve with, I respect each and every person that I serve with,” Holland said. “We certainly had lively debates but I never took it personally.”
“I have never enjoyed being verbally abused and praised so much.”
“In order to stay in line with the charter I can’t imagine them not appointing somebody at this point,” Nobile said. He doesn’t see himself getting involved in the discussions. “I’m not even going to tell them what to do they have to figure out how they want to deal with this, if they want to take the hassle to wait until August and at that point seat him if he remains the only candidate,”
Asked what he was going to miss most on the council, he said it would have to be the sort of conversations and debates that would take place–but before the 2016 election, when Jason DeLorenzo, McGuire and Jon Netts were still there. He made a pointed distinction with the sort of conversations and debates that have taken place since. With DeLorenzo and McGuire, he said, “you could sit around and have a conversation, you could agree and disagree but you could feel everybody was trying to solve a problem or come to a solution. I don’t feel that anymore today.” He describes current debates as more chaotic and with less clear directions. (The memory of pre-Holland days may be a more rosy than Nobile lets on: he had recurring battles with the departed trio as well, though the clashes were more overt and candid than they have become since.)
Of the current council, he said: “The world is not as shiny as they make it seem. Especially with the city. The city is doing good, we’re doing fine, but we’re not superior, we’re not overly excellent, we do many things that need to be fixed, modified, altered. But if you don’t believe that, if you believe everything is perfect, you’ll never get there, it’ll always be mediocre.”
Nevertheless, in Nobile’s email to media, he’d written: “Aside from family time, the last three and half years have been my favorite in Palm Coast. Running for and winning an election for City Council District 4 was an exciting and edifying experience as has been serving in that position for the same period. I have had the privilege to meet and interact with the best of Palm Coast, which technically is a lot of people from the North East, so I feel like I never really left. […] I want you to know that I consider this position as one of my most honored. I have never enjoyed being verbally abused and praised so much. When it happened, I knew they were listening and that was a great pleasure.”
He ended with a quote attributed to Winnie the Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” (The quote is actually from a 1975 movie, “The Other Side of the Mountain.”)