Bill McGuire, who five years ago rapidly established himself as the city council’s quickest study, its only wit and its most independent voice until the 2014 election, made it official Tuesday: he will resign his seat effective Aug. 15, or just two weeks before the Aug. 30 primary. He’d put the council on notice a month ago that his resignation was imminent.
McGuire’s wife Sandy died in January. The council aside, she had been his only tether to Palm Coast. With her gone, McGuire, who’ll be 74 three weeks after his resignation, is resettling to St. Louis to be with family, if also not to be closer to the chess capital of the United States: McGuire is a fearsome player.
His resignation does not exactly throw the council into turmoil despite its proximity to the election, and council members already today were positioning themselves to possibly leave the seat vacant until November if necessary, and ignore the city charter’s requirement that the seat be filled within 30 days of being vacant. If they were to abide by that requirement, the appointed council member would take a seat presumably at a meeting in late September, and for just two or three meetings at which council members take votes.
“I fear appointing someone for four or five weeks to affect change in city policy for somebody who’s not elected and is not able to run for the seat,” council member Steven Nobile said. Two former council members have said they would willingly serve out the term: Holsey Moorman, who held that seat before McGuire (who defeated him in the 2011 election), and Alan Peterson, who held it in the mid-2000s.
Four men are running for McGuire’s seat–three, when Arthur McGovern, who has made no appearances at any forums and appears to be conducting an unserious campaign, is excluded: Robert Cuff, Troy DuBose and Sims Jones. Cuff and Jones had previously said that they might apply for McGuire’s position if the city were to take applications. DuBose said he would not. He considers it improper, and too prone to favoritism. It would be “highly not advisable to do that,” City Manager Jim Landon cautioned the council.
It is also possible that one of the three would get the 50 percent margin necessary at the Aug. 30 election to get elected to the position outright. The election non-partisan, and open to all registered voters regardless of party or no-party affiliation. Only if none of the three candidates clears the 50 percent threshold would the race result in a runoff between the top two vote-getters. At that point, the election would be decided on Nov. 8.
When the council opted not to fill the seat after council member Ralph Carter died in mid-July 2005, there were no consequences. The council did, however, go through the exercise of soliciting applicants. But it was defeated by political wrangling.
“I have I think diligently adhered to the oath that I swore when I took this office, that I would do my best for the citizens of Palm Coast.”
“I’m really struggling with 30 days to receive applications and also recommendations and review those and then do interviews and then, you know–that’s 30 days, I’m thinking, wow,” Nobile said.
Moments later, he added to laughter: “We probably need a charter review to fix that. I’m just saying. I’m just saying.” Nobile was at the forefront of a fractious call for a review of the city’s charter earlier this year–a call his colleagues, among them McGuire, defeated. The council will be discussing its options in more detail at its next meeting.
For his part, McGuire limited himself to a brief resignation speech: “Sometimes when you’re a city councilman or I guess any elected official,” he said, “when you think about getting up and being sworn into office and putting your hand on a bible and promising that you’ll fulfill your office to the best of your ability, sometimes having sworn that and taking it seriously, you have to make decisions that you believe are for the best of the citizens that you represent. Sometimes those decisions do not meet with popular support, and in the five years I’ve sat here I’ve made some decisions that caused me to stay up all night and reflect on what I’m doing here. But I have I think diligently adhered to the oath that I swore when I took this office, that I would do my best for the citizens of Palm Coast, and I think that I’ve done that.
“It’s not always easy to do. I mean how to do not vote for a raise for a man that you admire and respect,” he said, referring to the 3-2 vote a short while earlier that had rejected Landon’s request for a raise. “But after reflecting on what’s best for the city, that seemed to me the course of action to take. And that having been said, I wish to inform the public that on August the 15th, I will officially resign my position as city councilman of District Number 1, and pursue the rest of my life in another state. I’ve worked hard to be a good councilman, I’ve done myself, and I can look myself in the mirror with no problem.”
There was little reaction except from Bill Reischmann, the city attorney, when it was his turn to speak.
“I just want Mr. McGuire to hear this at a public meeting,” Reischmann said, “but it’s been my privilege working with him and for him for the period that I’ve been the city attorney and that he’s been on the city council. My experiences with him have been completely professional, and I want to thank him on behalf of my office. I think it’d be a little presumptive but on behalf of the city of Palm Coast for the public service that he’s provided.”
Landon spoke immediately afterward, and was last to speak at today’s meeting. He mentioned Food Truck Tuesday this evening, the upcoming cycling Tour de Palm Coast, and National Recreation Month. “Now is a good time to get out and sweat, I guess, outside,” he said. He did not mention McGuire. He may have still been smarting, or sweating, from the vote denying his raise.