Jack Howell, the Palm Coast City Council’s blunt and crusty voice, resigned today after less than two years in his District 2 Seat, saying a recurrence of cancer requires his full attention and less stress. He dismissed claims that his resignation was related to other issues such as internal wranglings that have occupied the administration and the council over the last few months.
Howell handed in his resignation through a brief letter he gave City Manager Matt Morton this morning at City Hall.
“I had radiation treatment last summer, and so I’ve got some issues, I don’t need any stress. As you well know, stress is not good with cancer,” Howell said this evening. “I have to deal with it, I’m optimistic, but at my age, 77, these are the things that happen. Some of this is the effects of Agent Orange.” Howell is a decorated Vietnam veteran. Agent Orange was a highly toxic defoliant the U.S. military dumped on Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos between 1961 and 1971. It causes cancer, birth defects, psychological and neurological problems.
“Everything that’s happening to me is related to Agent Orange, and as a former commander of the Purple Heart there, I had to close the chapter because most of my members were dying of Agent Orange issues,” most of them of cancer, Howell said. “This is the time in our lives when this stuff really starts to percolate, so I just don’t need the stress right now of what’s going on. That’s why I decided to hang it up. When I got the news, I said OK.”
Howell said his prognosis was “favorable, but I’ve got to get on it. If I ignore it, then it ain’t good, so I’m not ignoring it.”
Howell’s resignation, falling several months short of the two-year mark of his term, means that the council must appoint a replacement within 30 days, pending an election held for that seat in the next election. The city charter reads: “If, for any reason other than recall, a vacancy occurs in the office of any Council seat within the first two years of a term, the office shall be filled by appointment within 30 days following the occurrence of such vacancy by majority vote of the remaining Council members. Such appointments shall last until the next regularly scheduled election, at which time the seat shall be declared open and an election held for the remaining two years of the original term, thus continuing the original staggering of district seats. ”
That places the city in the position of having to hold a special election in conjunction with the regular election scheduled for August and November, with barely a few weeks left before the August 18 primary. The council is likely to forego an appointment, given the closeness of the election and precedent.
That would mean four seats will be up this year, with at least two new council members joining the panel: Bob Cuff has opted not to run again for his seat.
Howell has been the voice most skeptical or questioning of Mayor Milissa Holland as her job with Coastal Cloud, the Hammock tech company, and Coastal Cloud’s connection to the city through non-paying work has raised recurring questions and internal turmoil. Asked if his resignation had anything to do with that, Howell said: “No, look, I can’t solve that mystery. People are going to have their opinions. I’ve been a critic of what’s going on there, I don’t feel comfortable, but you know, I’ll let whatever happens happen.”
Howell chairs the board of Teens-in-flight, the non-profit that provides flying lessons to children of parents who have died or been injured in recent wars, or are the children of first responders. Howell said his executive director will keep the operation going, and he will remain involved. “I’m going to be back to flying status, that’s my goal. I want to fly the new airplane we got,” Howell said.