For the first time since last summer’s primary election season, a Flagler County Canvassing Board meeting was held at the Supervisor of Elections’ office and was remarkable for only one thing: it was not newsworthy.
The 90-minute meeting Monday, the first of several canvassing board meetings in light of the special primary election for Florida House and Senate on Jan. 23, featured no accusations, no complaints, no stealth recordings, no surfeit of attorneys, not even a court reporter, as had become the norm under the old regime last fall. The board members went about the business of checking ballot-counting equipment. They were done at 11:30 a.m. They adjourned, and that was that.
The difference today: it was the first post-Kimberle Weeks era meeting. Weeks resigned unexpectedly last week. On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott named Weeks’s long-time aide and deputy, Kaiti Lenhart, interim supervisor of elections. And Monday Lenhart sat where Weeks previously sat in canvassing board meetings, flanked by County Judge Melissa Moore-Stens, who chairs the board, and Nate McLaughlin, the county commissioner named to serve on the board this year.
The atmosphere in the supervisor’s office was radically different from previous such meetings. Supervisor staff, while always accommodating previously, was relaxed, light-hearted and welcoming, smiles were everywhere, and the only task was the job of checking equipment. Citrus County’s Maureen Baird, the operations manager at that county’s supervisor of elections office, lent a hand throughout.
Aside from the obvious absence of Weeks, there were minor, subtle changes: her image has vanished from the home page of the supervisor’s website, but her copious newsletters and their accompanying speeches have not. And her glamour-shot image has appeared, framed and as part of a collection of the last several decades of supervisor of elections, at the entrance to the office, to the left as patrons walk in, replacing a wall previously dedicated to individuals who’d served in the armed forces. That collection has moved to the opposite wall.
Today’s meeting was the first of six scheduled before, during and after the primary election. Such meetings are usually uneventful and routine. They had not been so during Weeks’s tenure as many of the conflicts that shadowed the previous supervisor’s tenure were fueled by issues she would raise during the meetings, often objecting to the presence of County Attorney Al Hadeed or to the service of whoever the county commission had named to the board. Today, Hadeed sat through much of the meeting (at least as it unfolded in the conference room), without issues. Weeks had hired her own attorney, who would sit through many of last year’s meetings. Lenhart, who was focused on today’s tasks, had neither extra attorney nor any other extra contractors, relying on her staff and Baird.
There were perhaps two or three visitors in attendance (canvassing board meetings are public). Lenhart said she’d expected a larger turnout, but that had been a hallmark of Weeks meetings, where routine had turned to spectacle. Today’s indications are that canvassing board meetings appear to have returned to their unremarkable quality, to the relief of many.