The Palm Coast City Council today elected to interview three of the four candidates who applied to fill the District 2 seat vacated by Jack Howell, who resigned earlier this month for health reasons.
The council will interview Jon Netts, the former mayor, Hung Hilton and William Schreiber. The interviews will take place in a public meeting on Aug. 4.
Howell was just short of the two-year mark in his term, requiring the council to appoint a replacement until the November election, when voters will choose the council member to complete the two years left in the term. Netts attempted a comeback two years ago, running against Howell. Howell defeated him with 56 percent of the vote.
The council is looking for someone who could fill the seat effectively and knowledgeably during budget season, when crucial decisions are made. Council member Eddie Branquinho today attempted to narrow the list of applicants to one (“Can we reduce it to one?” he’d asked), presumably with Netts in mind. The city attorney said nothing in the charter prevented the council from doing so, but he cautioned that the rules set out for the application process also entailed short-listing and interviewing the candidates.
Both Council members Nick Klufas and Bob Cuff were interested in interviewing other candidates. “It’s tempting,” Cuff said, to go along with Branquinho’s proposal and opt for Netts. “I have no doubt he could do the job without missing a beat,” but he said two other candidates as well deserved consideration. He was willing to rule out Norman, whose application had been incomplete and seemed to lack seriousness. “We owe at least a couple of these other applicants at least the courtesy of interviewing,” Cuff said.
The rest of the council agreed and voted unanimously to interview the three candidates on Aug. 4. The candidates will wait in a back room, during the open interviews, which will be conducted the way today’s meeting was, combining in-person and remote participation. The candidates will appear in person at City Hall. They will be afforded three-minute opening and three-minute closing statements, with council questions in between.
Howell announced his resignation on July 9. The council moved quickly to fill the seat as required by its charter, which requires an appointment within 30 days. The council short-listed the candidates in a special meeting this morning–a hybrid Zoom and in-person meeting: City Hall is still closed to the public–following a special workshop on its various non-general-revenue funds.
After moving to Palm Coast in 1992 Netts served six years as a District 2 councilman and nine years as mayor. He’d previously served eight years on a New Jersey planning board and four terms as a councilman there. He is still serving on the board of the Florida Inland Navigation District, from where he says he’s channeled over $3 million in competitive grants to Flagler County and its cities.
Hilton is an information technology specialist, employed since February 2014 by Gerber Life Insurance as a “senior solutions architect”
(a designation he shares with Klufas) as he describes the position on his resume. He moved to Palm Coast from Michigan in December 2015. “Most importantly,” he wrote in his application, “I would love to see Palm Coast continue to be an awesome city that uses technology to engage our citizens, encourage local growth and continue preserving the natural beauty around us.”
Schreiber, a retired research scientist with a mathematics and physics degree, has “held upper management positions in the commercial world with responsibilities for planning, budget and operations,” he writes in his application, citing work in “underwater acoustics.” He last worked in the commercial world in the mid-1980s, when he was employed by Planning Systems Incorporated in Hawaii. He then moved to Florida and started teaching physics, calculus and physical sciences at St. Augustine High School. He retired from teaching when he was at Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine, in 2007. He’s lived in the city since 1995–and notes that he voted against Palm Coast’s incorporation in 1999, but “now personally feel that the incorporation was a good thing.”
Norman is a retired pastor and corrections officer, last working in corrections in 2001 when he was with the Noble County Sheriff’s Department in Indiana. He was a sheriff’s deputy and police officer in West Virginia between 1984 and 1991. Concurrently he was with the Ohio-based Scioto Valley Christian Conference between 1987 and 2017 (he lists that association on his resume as with the Scioto Valley Church Conference).
The Howell resignation and special election in November means that an unprecedented four seats are up for election this year, with at least two seats certain to have new members: incumbent Bob Cuff has decided not to run again for his District 1 seat. The mayor’s seat and District 3 seat, currently held by Nick Klufas, are also up. Three people have already filed to run for the Howell seat in the November election: David Alfin, Victor Barbosa and Jarrod Maxwell.