Ken Bryan, the former St. Johns County commissioner who rose to prominence in Flagler as an opponent of a planned large development there, won election to the Flagler Beach City Commission today with the most votes in a four-way race, as did Deborah Phillips, the retired banker and shop owner vying for a seat for the second time. Two seats were in play.
Bryan made a little history this evening as well, becoming the first black resident to win election to the Flagler Beach panel, in a city that is nearly 97 percent white.
Marshall Shupe, who had first been elected in 2011 and had won re-election twice since, lost his Flagler Beach commission seat, pulling in the fewest number of votes out of four candidates. Paul Harrington came in third.
The Flagler Beach commission will have two new members, as Commissioner Kim Carney opted not to defend her seat but run for a county commission seat instead.
“I think the two people who won, I’ll be able to work with both of them well,” Flagler Beach Commissioner Jane Mealy, the longest-serving on the panel, said this evening. “Unless I didn’t get to know them the way I thought I did. But given what I heard at the two candidates nights, and just in talking with them, I think we’ll be fine.” She said she would miss Shupe. “He didn’t have personal agenda, he was a good asset and I will miss working with him.”
In Bunnell, John Rogers won re-election for the third time to his fourth city commission term but not with the largest number of votes. That honor goes to Tonya Gordon, who won a third of all votes. Gordon is the office assistant at the Bunnell insurance agency of Elbert Tucker, who had served for a decade on the commission before opting not to run a year ago.
“I’m happy, I’m shocked in a way, I’m excited and excited to get in there and start learning stuff, and see where we can go from there,” Gordon said this evening. “Any time I’ve had questions about some stuff I’ll ask him, but a lot of people think me and Elbert talk about politics, and actually we do not. There is some things Elbert and I don;t agree on, and we agree to disagree on them, especially at work.” But Gordon said she will ask him about legal questions such as issues relating to statutes and other technical issues he’s familiar with. “I’m excited to see if I can make a difference.”
Incumbent Jan Reeger, who had won a special election a year ago to fill the seat vacated by John Sowell but was required to run again for the full three-year term, failed to defend the seat, drawing just over 20 percent of the vote, with Tina-Marie Schultz coming in fourth.
Rogers could hardly speak–not because he was overcome by the victory (it would take more than that for him to be overcome) but because he was called to the job: “I had a million-dollar boat fall off a trailer,” he said, at I-95 and County Road 206. Rogers owns John’s Towing, one of Bunnell’s three towing companies. He had been at the old Bunnell City Hall watching the returns before he was called out.
To Bryan, it was a matter of experience and clear messaging, he said this evening as he was celebrating with his wife, two cats and a good glass of wine. “Always straight, upfront, and tell people exactly what I plan to do and always be honest about it,” Bryan said, citing his ideas as well–his strategic plan and how to improve communications between the city and its residents. “That seemed to resonate with a lot of people when I was going door to door,” he said.
Unquestionably, his prominent role in the leadership of a group called Preserve Flagler Beach and Bulow Creek, established specifically to counter the planned Gardens development along John Anderson Highway, was a propelling force. But, Bryan said this evening, as he has in forums, “I’m not against development at all, I am for responsible development. I would hope that we can continue to work with the developer of The Gardens to come up with something that’s mutually agreeable” to the citizens, he said. “If we can work with them and come up with something that’s beneficial to everyone, then I think we’ll be fine. I think it’s going to come,” he said of the development, “there’s no doubt about that, it’s juts a matter of how it’s going to come.”
Bryan pulled 31 percent of the vote, with Phillips at 25 percent. Phillips–whose email handle was “promoteflaglerbeach”–could not be reached this evening.
Three minor charter amendments also passed in Flagler Beach
The two cities’ elections were held in tandem with the presidential primary, which was anti-climactic: in the Democratic primary, Joe Biden took Flagler with nearly 70 percent of the vote, to Bernie Sanders’s 16 percent. Sanders got exactly half the 32 percent of the vote he’d won in the 2016 Democratic primary in Flagler, when Hillary Clinton won with 65 percent of the vote–an indication of the lack of enthusiasm for Clinton then, and the more pronounced enthusiasm for Biden now. Biden also won Florida handily today. President Trump had some nominal opposition from former Gov. Bill Weld, who pulled in 2 percent of the vote, to Trump’s 96 percent.
Turnout was 33 percent, according to the Flagler County Supervisor of Elections. A breakdown of the full results is below.