Note: Application letters and resumes for those interested in an appointment as Bunnell commissioner may be dropped off in person at City Hall at 201 West Moody Boulevard or sent to Kristen Bates, City Clerk, by mail, P.O. Box 756, Bunnell, Fla., 32110, or emailed to Bates at [email protected]. The deadline is noon, July 21.
The Bunnell City Commission will take application letters and resumes from qualified city residents interested in filling two seats that have come vacant on the commission as of this evening. The appointees will fill the eight months left in the terms of the two commissioners who have almost simultaneously resigned. The two seats, along with the mayor’s, are up for election in March 2022.
The commission decided on that course on an evening of farewells and surprises, with Commissioner John Rogers revealing that he had just been battling Covid-19, and had been gravely ill–still was, by all appearances Monday evening–and former County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin, looking fit and conversant, making his first public appearance in a government setting since he suffered a stroke in February. He’d come out to say goodbye to Commissioner Bill Baxley.
Baxley sat on his last meeting this evening and was feted at the end of the session with cake, hugs and brief speeches, for his eight years of service. He describes his resignation as more of a “retirement.” He is moving to New Hampshire to be close to family, a few weeks after the death of his wife in Bunnell, whom he’d cared for through severe illness for the past six years. The city charter does not have a provision for zooming in commissioners from the Granite State. But it is an inspiring place for painters. (See Baxley’s work at the foot of the article.)
Commissioner Donnie Nobles, serving his first term, resigned over the weekend. The resignation was not entirely unexpected: he had a stroke several months ago, seemed to be mending and was attending meetings again, but then had another stroke, which has kept him away from work and the commission.
The night’s other business was handled swiftly in a matter of a few votes before City Attorney Wade Vose briefed the commission on its options regarding the appointments, and on the charter’s provisions. Since the election is only a few months away, no special election is called for. Qualified applicants must have been residents of Bunnell for at least the past 12 months. Applicants must be registered voters. One man who addressed the commission at the beginning did just that, becoming the first applicant.
Mayor Catherine Robinson, referring to herself as 25 percent of the commission’s opinion, said she’d “like people to send us a letter of introduction as this gentleman did and a resume as to why they feel they’re qualified so we have a pool to choose from.”
She said it was “all about public service,” because “we are now two positions short, and we are into budget season, which means we have more meetings and more decisions. It’s the hot time of year to actually be more involved than normally. So I think it’s important and prudent that we push this process along.”
Commissioners Tonya Gordon and John Rogers agreed. No vote was necessary. Robinson turned to Baxley: “You’re 33 and a third” of the commission now, he told her, as he was excluding himself from influencing the commission on the appointment matter. But always deferential, Robinson asked him if he thought it was a good process. He said it was.
Applicants have until July 21 at noon to send in their resumes. Commissioners will then discuss the applicants and possibly vote on their choices at the July 26 meetings. The commissioners did not say anything about interviewing the candidates or short-listing them. The commissioners will have had the applications in hand ahead of time.
That done, the business turned to bidding Baxley farewell. City Manager Alvin Jackson spoke of his fruitful partnership with the commissioner and of the foundations of a legacy ahead. Rogers, speaking in soft voice and almost struggling to speak, thanked Baxley for his dedication and keenness on budget issue, then described his days since his Covid diagnosis on Independence Day: “Last couple of weeks I’ve been battling Covid-19. I thought I was going to pass away a couple times, and it was definitely a struggle. I thank God for the healing and my friends and family for their prayers. I want to encourage everybody to get vaccinated. This thing is no joke.”
“We’re glad that you’re on the other side of that, for sure,” Robinson said, before turning to Baxley.
“I’d like to say how much I’ve enjoyed being a commissioner and even though we’ve had some rough times on the board, sometimes we didn’t agree, but it’s been a good eight and a half years. I really put my heart in it, tried to do what I thought was the best for the people of Bunnell. I just wish Bunnell all of the best in the future as they move forward. There’s so much that still needs to be done. And I still say that I think in my opinion that Mr. Jackson was a very good choice, probably the best choice we’ve made since I’ve been on the board.” He spoke of living in Bunnell for 38 years, describing it as “dormant” for much of that time. “I can see it fixing to bust at the seams,” he said. “I think it’s going to be really nice. It’s a nice community now but I think it’s going to be a lot better off in the future. And I really thank everybody for supporting me. I appreciate it. I guess due to circumstances I just can’t continue, I’m going to have to move on down the road. But yet I thank everyone.”
Robinson read his letter of resignation, finding it a good summary of what he’d meant to the city (see the full letter here.) “I’ve known you a long time, long time before you sat in that seat, 25 years at least, you’ve always been a good buddy and a good friend,” Robinson told Baxley, her voice breaking. They’d known each other through church all those years. “We’ll be OK because you’ll be OK.”
After the meeting, as McLaughlin said of Baxley: “We’re going to miss Bill. A great asset, a great mind. One of the great financial minds on the board here, and he’s going to be greatly missed especially coming into budget season now for everybody. It’s really important that the right person gets the appointment to the board. He’s got a big set of shoes to fill.”