There’s always been a certain reluctance in Bob Cuff, the attorney who spent years with ITT, in private practice and in numerous community organizations before letting himself be convinced to run for the Palm Coast City Council four years ago.
He ran, he won, but the limelight isn’t his thing. The trappings and ceremony of the office, its presumptions or assumed powers, have never impressed him. He approached the job as he did service on, say, the Flagler Education Foundation board or for Habitat for Humanity–as a civic service, to be accomplished wholeheartedly, pragmatically, with cheer but without fuss. Recognition makes him uncomfortable, as does ideology, as does the increasing sound and fury and lunacy of a political climate hardly reconcilable with his temperament: it’s more Eisenhower than Trump. And for a man born two years before Eisenhower was elected, it’s enough.
“I have decided not to run for re-election. I have really agonized over it,” Cuff said today. “As much as I’d like to continue to serve the city, it just isn’t something I felt personally I could commit to.” He’d been agonizing over it for months, finally talked it over with his wife and his daughter over Memorial Day weekend. Both told him he’d visibly aged over the past four years. Both told him he might do more than visibly age if he stuck with it over the next four, and with memories of his own father dying at 56, “I’m noticing time passing and you start making the calculation of how much you can reasonably have.”
Cuff’s departure will have a pronounced effect on the council regardless. If Mayor Milissa Holland is the council’s at times untrammeled creative force, Cuff effectively grounded her and the council, centering it and giving it a steadier direction anchored in wit and four decades of exhaustive knowledge about Palm Coast since its embryonic origins. Cuff was part of the majority that ended the city’s Ancien Regime, voting to fire Jim Landon, the city manager for 11 years, in September 2018, but in a characteristic move for caution, he’d have hired Landon’s lieutenant, Beau Falgout. When Newcomer Matt Morton won out, Cuff put aside his preference and embraced Morton’s tenure whole. That, too, was characteristic: Cuff isn’t one for grudges or political gamesmanship.
Holland herself recognizes the key role Cuff plays on the council. “Without question Bob’s departure will create a void where his sort of sound approach, a balanced approach, is definitely needed,” Holland said today, “and it’s one that I value tremendously. We all need a Bob.”
Holland hasn’t yet declared a run for re-election, but she said today that she is “100 percent running, there’s no doubt, there’s no question.” Nick Klufas, who ran with Cuff and Holland as a bloc four years ago, is also running again. Holland and Cuff have drawn opposition. Cuff’s departure leaves the Seat 1 field open, with two declared candidates–Ed Danko, a flamboyant Republican closely and financially allied with Joe Mullins, the often controversial county commissioner, and Sims Jones, a Democrat and a pastor with a flair for fiery rhetoric but an inability, despite numerous tries, to win votes enough for a seat. With two weeks left for qualifying, Cuff’s departure will almost certainly produce additional candidates for Seat 1.
Cuff said he’s been urged repeatedly to run again by numerous people. “I take that support very seriously,” he said. “Ultimately after 37 years I came to the conclusion that I have nothing but best wishes for the city and its progress and its continued evolution. I’ve put in enough time at the mill.”
“I wasn’t entirely surprised by Bob’s decision,” Holland said. “However, it would not be fair for me not to state that I’m not disappointed. Bob brings a unique perspective to the city council in regards to not only him being an integral part of the planning that went into the the makeup of the city of Palm Coast, but his knowledge of how it was planned the way it was. So his historical perspective has always been a valued perspective to the decision making process on the council, coupled with the fact that he has a passion for this community and a love for ensuring that residents’ interest are always kept in context, and the needs for the services we provide is also equally as important. I also enjoy his sense of humor. When we’re making tough decisions every day a little bit of levity goes a long way during that process.”