The week’s votes are in: Dave Sullivan is the new chairman of the Flagler County Commission. Janet McDonald retains the chairmanship of the Flagler County School Board for a second year, while Nick Klufas will retain the vice-mayor’s title on the Palm Coast City Council for a second year. Flagler Beach doesn’t re-organize until after its March election.
Commissioners picked Joe Mullins as vice-chairman, and school board members picked Colleen Conklin in that position, placing the two in line to chair their respective boards starting in November 2020. Klufas has been pulling extra duty as vice-mayor for months, chairing meeting after meeting, as Mayor Milissa Holland contended with her daughter’s grave illness and recovery in Miami.
Local governments’ elected boards reorganize every year in mid-November. The board chairs are chosen by elected board members themselves. The titles don’t necessarily mean as much as they imply. No chairman or vice-chairman has more power than he or she would have had without the title, though some try to use more heft than they have. The job entails more visibility, more papers to sign, a heavier schedule of public appearances, and in some cases a bit more emphasis on certain initiatives.
For example, those who’ve chaired the school board have used the position to put more focus on certain things. Trevor Tucker reorganized the way the school board does business, streamlining meeting schedules and turning workshops into more systematic examinations of agendas and district issues.
McDonald was re-nominated on the same day that, ironically, she suffered a significant setback to an initiative she’d attempted–bringing back prayers at the beginning of board meetings, as had been the custom, on and off, until the early 1970s. On the county commission, Donald O’Brien, the chairman until Monday, kept the peace on a board and in a government that underwent the most consequential changes and dislocations in over a decade, with the replacement of the county administrator and several top directors, and the arrival on the commission of Mullins, who’s disrupted the norms of the panel.
“I want to really thank commissioner O’Brien, Donnie, for doing a great job as chairman over the past year,” Sullivan said at the time of the gavel-passing.
Mullins nominated Sullivan Monday evening, and Sullivan was installed “by acclamation,” in the words of County Attorney Al Hadeed: the vote was unanimous. There were no other nominations. Nor were there any other nominations than O’Brien’s, of Mullins, for the vice-chairmanship.
Joe Mullins nominated Sullivan. There were no other nominations. “You have it by acclamation,” Hadeed told him.
“In this particular time Charlie Ericksen could have become chairman but he didn’t want to do it, either this year or last year,” Sullivan said. Ericksen is entering his final year as commissioner. He is not running again in 2020. Sullivan will be chairman during his own bid for re-election. He sought to dispel any appearance of politicking through the chairmanship. “We run for office politically,” he said, “but when we have the job of being a commissioner we are serving all the people of the county, all 120,000, as far as we can go apolitically, we try to look at the facts and make our decision.”
In an interview today, Sullivan, who tends to be both affable and direct–he was pivotal in a series of key, controversial decisions over the past year–said that he would “run a tight ship” but with a light hand. “Im firm on obeying the rules but I think I try to do it with a little bit of softness, without overstepping or raising my voice more than I have to. I do know the rules, I had experience doing that in the Navy, I was chairman of the Republican Party here for instance.”
His first decision as chairman: rather than conduct all the commissioners’ committee assignments at a regular meeting, he asked for a Dec. 1 special meeting where those assignments will be discussed at length before appointments are made. He wants to see some changes. Committees include the Tourist Development Council, the economic development board, the Public Safety Coordinating Council, the library board, and others.
“We kind of get set in our ways like everything else. There may be some changes, we’ll see,” Sullivan said.
At the Palm Coast council meeting Tuesday, Councilman Eddie Branquinho nominated Councilman Klufas, and Jack Howell seconded. “I just met you a little over a year ago and unfortunately we don’t talk much because we can’t, especially if it has to do with city business,” Branquinho said, somewhat inaccurately: council members can talk to each other as much as they want as long as it’s not about city business, and they can still talk to each other as much as they want about city business, as long as they do so in the context of their public meetings, which they hold four times a month–more frequent by far than most family get togethers. “But watching you taking over the reins, over the last few months, I’m in agreeance that we should have you prolong – if you don’t mind – have you prolong, once again it’s my opinion, have you prolong your job another year.”