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Meeker Resigning Palm Coast Council to Run for Holland’s County Seat as Jockeying Begins

| May 24, 2012

The musical chair triggering it all. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Commissioner Milissa Holland’s announcement last week that she will be running for the Florida House triggered a fever-pitched scramble for clarity over what happens next: when does Holland make her resignation effective, whether a special election would be held to fill it, whether the governor would appoint a replacement.

The Flagler County Supervisor of Elections and the state Division of Elections have answered those questions. There will be a regular election for Holland’s seat—presumably, a primary and a general—in line with the year’s regular election schedule.

On Tuesday, Holland submitted her letter of resignation to Kimberle Weeks, the Flagler County Supervisor of Elections, and faxed then mailed copies of the letters to the Florida Department of State and the governor’s office. Holland’s resignation is effective Nov. 6. So she will serve out half her term, whatever happens in her run for the House. By law, candidates must resign the elected seat they’re currently holding to run for another office. The only exception applies to candidates for Congress. The resign-to-run law does not apply in those cases.

Two candidates have already announced for that seat: the first is Republican Frank Meeker, who has  been on the Palm Coast City Council for the past five years. “As of today I’m submitting my irrevocable letter of resignation to the city council,” Meeker said this morning. “I’ve been working all the way to the county commission for years. There’s an opportunity, and I intend to run a strong campaign to get it.”

Meeker’s resignation is also effective Nov. 6. (Meeker and Holland were no stranger to each other’s designs, either: they talked their plans—among other issues—over dinner at the Portuguese Club on May 17, the evening Holland first announced her run.)

The second is Dennis McDonald, also a Republican and a member of the local Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies who’s increasingly been making his voice heard at public meetings in recent months, including a berating appearance before the Palm Coast City Council last week, when he compared Mayor Jon Netts to Nancy Pelosi because of a proposed levy’s open-endedness. McDonald was criticizing the council’s approval of a new utility tax (technically called a “fee”) to help replace a stormwater levy the city is eliminating. McDonald is instantly recognizable as the tallest, lankiest man in most rooms. He stands about 6’6’’. He filed his papers with the supervisor’s office this morning.

There is slightly less clarity regarding the future of Meeker’s seat on the council.

By city charter, if there is a vacancy within the first two years of a term, the council makes an appointment effective until the next regularly-scheduled election. If the vacancy occurs within the second two years of the council member’s term, an appointment is made for the balance of the term, until the next regularly scheduled election. In either case, there is no special election.

The wrinkle in Meeker’s case is this: the charter addresses four-year terms, and uses clauses such as “less than half of the term remaining” and “more than half the term remaining,” or “within the first two years of a term” and “the last two years of a term.” That would be clear enough if Meeker’s term was, in fact, a four-year term.

But it isn’t. The council extended it to five years. Meeker was first elected in 2007, when he defeated Jerome Full in an election that was itself finishing out the term of a seat vacated by Netts, when he was elected mayor. Meeker ran unopposed in 2009 (as did Bill Lewis). Meeker’s term was to end in 2013. But voters last year approved changing election schedules in Palm Coast to coincide with general elections on even years. What few voters knew was that they were also extending Meeker’s and Lewis’s terms by a year.

With Meeker’s term now ending in 2014, there’ll be two years left to the term when he leaves the council in November. But there are clearly more than two years left from the moment of his announced resignation. And the city changed its election schedule in order to be in line with the national election schedule–which it now would be, regarding Meeker’s open seat. That would argue for an election rather than an appointment. Netts in an interview this morning said he’ll leave it up to the city attorney to decipher the next steps.

Meeker, 57, described himself as a “staff member” with the St. Johns River Water Management District. He was formerly an ombudsman there, but the position was eliminated, and Meeker successfully lobbied to win a job back. He was surprisingly cagey about his exact title at the district, which he did not provide. A management spokesman did: Meeker is a senior regulatory scientist, at an annual salary of $85,000.

There was some question over the Holland seat being filled by a governor’s appointment, and rumored jockeying on Meeker’s part to lobby for that appointment, but those possibilities were made moot by Division of Elections and local elections officials concurring on the next step.

Citing Florida law (“With regard to an elective office, the resignation creates a vacancy in office to be filled by election. Persons may qualify as candidates for nomination and election as if the public officer’s term were otherwise scheduled to expire”), the supervisor’s office said: “Any interested individual  wanting to run for County Commissioner District 2, may qualify for this office during June 4, 2012, from noon through June 8, 2012 ending at noon. Anyone with questions may contact the Supervisor of Elections Office between 8:30a.m.  – 4:30p.m. Monday through Friday at 313-4170.”

Of course, candidates will not have time to fill out the hundreds of petitions needed to qualify for the election without paying a fee. That fee, absent petitions—the equivalent of 6 percent of the annual salary for that position—is $2,883.66 for Republicans or Democrats or members of other parties. It’s $1,927.44 for non-party affiliated candidates.

Flagler County commissioners are paid an annual salary of $48,061.

Bottom line: four seats are up on the county commission this year: those of incumbents George Hanns, Barbara Revels and Alan Peterson, and that of Holland, leaving Nate McLaughlin the lone lounger. Hanns and Peterson have drawn opponents. Revels has not. But the real race will be for Holland’s District 2 seat: any open seat usually draws droves of candidates.

Democrats—like most Republicans until this week—were not aware that there would be an election. Holland attended the last Flagler County Democratic Club meeting on Tuesday. “Everybody was excited about her candidacy except Doug Courtney,” club President Merrill Shapiro said, but the matter of fielding candidates never came up except in a side discussion, when several members of the club wondered about the mechanics of Holland’s resignation.

Shapiro (who heads the FlaglerLive advisory board) said the open-seat election was news to him, and that he had no notions yet of who Democrats might field. “I don’t feel I’ve been around long enough to know if there are people waiting in the wings or if there are people who have been on the county commission before who might come forward,” Shapiro said. Shapiro recently took over the club’s leadership by default when ex-president Doug Beaven resigned in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan.

Calling back moments later, Shapiro said, “the Democrats will field at least one, and because there might be two and there might be a primary, we’ll stay out of it. The club has to be even handed.”

Dan Parham, who heads the Flagler County Democratic Executive Committee, was also not aware that there would be an election for that seat. He was not prepared to suggest names Democrats might field. “If there is going to be an election, then I will have to get busy,” he said.

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17 Responses for “Meeker Resigning Palm Coast Council to Run for Holland’s County Seat as Jockeying Begins”

  1. Merrill Shapiro says:

    I cannot stand by the “everyone is excited about her candidacy except Doug Courtney” except as it applies to the very few people with whom I spoke at the most recent meeting of the Democratic Club of Flagler County–and that was hardly much of a sample. I think very highly of Doug Courtney. I think very highly of Milissa Holland. I also think very highly of the policy that requires the Club and its officers to refrain from endorsing or supporting anyone involved in a primary. I do not endorse or support anyone in the race to be our state legislator. I wholeheartedly disapprove of the likely Republican nominee who seems to have no visible qualifications other than his wealth and connections.

    • Anonymous says:

      Goodbye Mr. Meeker, not everyone will miss you.

    • The Honest One Says says:

      Merrill, The Republican nominee really does not have to have any visible qualifications as long as he abides by our Constitution and keeps inmind (if voted in) that the people voted him in and he remembers that.

  2. ric says:

    It sounds like the Democratic Club is afraid of this up coming election.. If I were a Democrat I’d be scared too. You may loose your meal ticket..

  3. JimN says:

    Since this is a presidential election year, there is no logical reason to not fill both seats by the election of the people method. The only justification for appointment of a political office is the untimely demise or disqualification of an office holder, and rather than leave the seat vacant it is filled.

    Earlier this past year when Rep. King died, that election cost Flagler County like 8.00 per vote to be held….
    That won’t be the case this time, it is a normal election cycle. Put the offices and candidates on the ballot. Let the voters decide.

  4. Hank Rearden says:

    Mr. Shapiro do not fear your Club has its candidate in Mr. Meeker. Since You referred to “the likely Republican Candidate,” I can only surmise that was a Freudian slip since few local conservative Republicans consider Mr. Meeker a genuine Republican either.

    Who is John Galt?

  5. Think first, act second says:

    I said in a previous post that Meeker showing up was not an accident. For someone who has been invisible for years to suddenly show up making opeds was not an accident. He timely tested the waters with the FL posters even though his mind was made up 6 weeks ago. He was in the SOE office asking when was the last day he could pay the fee and run for a county comm. seat and the only one he qualifies for is Hollands. So to say the decision was made in a May 17 lunch with Holland is attempting to play us for uninformed. He and Holland knew that she was going to run and she waited until they thought no one else would have time to file. Good ole boy politics at its best.

  6. palmcoaster says:

    Like I said before over a week ago…I thought so!

  7. Henry says:

    Doug Courtney, you have our support and votes!!!

  8. Sara Crewe says:

    Palm Coast resident should be glad that Meeker is out. They only have 5 more to go and them Palm Coast can start working to repair the damage this group has done to Palm Coast. So good –by Meeker. Hope that the residents of Flagler County look back to what you did in Palm Coast and do not vote for you.

    • Bill McGuire says:

      Sorry you feel this way. Any damage done by myself to the city is regretted and when you tell me what it is, I’ll try to fix it.

      • JOHN R. says:

        Bill, just stop spending our money freely, especially with the proposed tax increases and with the push again to build a city hall that is not needed but is being pushed to benefit some highly-connected people in Palm Coast.

  9. Anon says:

    Hopefully his replacement in Palm Coast will not be someone who bends over for the town manager and the mayor. Someone whose vote is not a rubber stamp for the status quo.

    One who is not a rubber stamp vote for the status quo.
    Maybe someone new will determine that the town manager is compensated way too much and will seek to make an adjustment.

  10. PJ says:

    Meeker, he listens but really does not make a big stand he stays on the down low.

    So good luck with the campain but do ya think you could stop staying under the radar and speak up if you really want to be a county commissioner?

    Like a Holland who is not afraid to speak up. Both Father and Daughter did a good job. Speak up Meeker if you want the job. ……………

  11. gatorfan1 says:

    a politician is a politician is a politician and meeker fills the bill. hopefully he won’t be elected.

  12. says:

    it’s funny when they say Oh i can do a better job if i run for this office and get in as oppose to their present office and than after a couple of years in the new office they say the same for the next office. it’s all a power grab. i would not be a politician if it was the only job on the face of the earth.

  13. palmcoaster says:

    Frank Meeker’s good Bounty Reward proposal, to be discussed again, tomorrow Tuesday in the City of Palm Coast workshop at at 9 am at the City Cypress Point current location.

    Lets be present to support it! Think how many of us came here invited by a friend, coworker, family member or professional we knew out of state or out of Flagler County. We arrived here and fell in love with Palm Coast as we and many of us did and settle down, open a business, rented a store front, got a license, bought insurance, had phone, Internet, utilities connected and hired our local workers.
    Now a successful retired or working professional or local resident can be rewarded as an incentive by inviting a new small or large business to come and settle in the city …and create new jobs.
    Details have to be ironed. The bounty will be paid out of the new created revenue for the city by the new business, not out of the meager taxes paid by current empty store fronts and unemployment checks of our “out of work residents”.
    Lets remember that this was the successful original idea of ITT. Invite them and they will come and now we have plenty of bargain vacant homes and store fronts available for them.
    We are spending hundreds of thousands in Economic Developments that are not being successful now. Lets give it a try to this new idea, as we have nothing to loose by motivating our local neighbors to help on a different and creative way for ED. Small and large business owners out of Florida don’t know about local paradise where the business owner can go boating or kayaking after work front his backyard or fishing from his/her dock, affordable golf and tennis, bicycling all the way to the beach and gorgeous walking trails and parks.

    Please, aside from politics, lets support this realistic good idea of still seating Councilman Frank Meeker. Lets do not look all thru the partisan prism as there are good ideas in some individuals, no matter the party sometimes. By the way I voted for Jerry Full when Mr. Meeker won…that tells all right there, but I have to concede his proposal is a good one now.

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