The Palm Coast City Council this morning appointed John Fanelli, a dynamic school district administrator a council member compared to former Superintendent Jacob Oliva, to fill for the next seven months the District 2 council seat abruptly vacated by Victor Barbosa less than a month ago.
Fanelli was one of eight candidates, each of whom was interviewed publicly by the council this morning in roughly 20-minute segments. The council was fortunate to have drawn a batch of solid candidates, but it came down to two finalists: Fanelli and builder Tony Amaral Jr. The tipping point was Mayor David Alfin giving Fanelli the third vote he needed as Alfin looked at the immediate short term and the benefits Fanelli and his ties to the school district would bring to the council.
The six other candidates were Bob Coffman, Larry Gross, Hung Hilton, Carl Jones Sr., Perry Mitrano and William Schreiber. (See brief sketches on their backgrounds here.)
“I don’t think we have a bad choice amongst them,” Council member Nick Klufas said. Alfin spoke of his pride to know that “we have neighbors of this caliber in our community.” He was dismayed, however, by the “imbalance” of a city attracting eight candidates of this caliber for an appointed seat, but just three for the coming election.
“They are so genuine. They were so direct. They were so precise,” Council member Eddie Branquinho said. “I would say some of them, most of them are standing ready to start here with us. And once I just like to say I’m glad that all my colleagues here stayed out of politics with this one, which was beautiful. I think that’s the whole idea.” Branquinho later said: “Unfortunately, we have to pick one.” Meaning: only one.
Fanelli was attractive to the council members because of the conduit he would represent with the school district. Amaral, who had interviewed flawlessly, with a strong command on the city’s history and its current issues. Fanelli took the oath immediately after the vote, which took place at 12:30 p.m., three hours into the special meeting. Fanelli immediately had his first conflict: he was due to make a presentation at a 1 p.m. school board workshop, on a major realignment of the district’s dress code (it is to be loosened). But the council still had what looked like many hours’ worth of workshopping ahead.
Fanelli introduced himself to the council as a “husband, father, leader, parishioner and 35-year resident of Palm Coast” educated in Flagler County schools, and 2016 Principal of the Year, when he was at Wadsworth Elementary. He is currently in charge of the district’s student services, including mental health and disciplinary issues. He’s administered large grants, including a $1.2 million grant that encompassed five local agencies. “I feel that with a common mission and vision and the love that our council has for our great city, that I can be the fifth member of a strong team that will work together in the best interest of our citizens,” Fanelli told the council. “I know that at times we will have disagreements, debates, and robust dialogue of what that looks like and the best way to achieve our goals. But that is how the best decisions are made.”
Fanelli, an educator for the past 21 years, is still in the prime of his school board career, but he does not rule out a deeper political involvement several years from now–and why he was more interested in a temporary, appointed position for now.
“I do bring a diverse background and a different set of eyes to the board,” Fanelliu said. “I have a young family myself, I have three children that go to school here in Flagler County nine, six and four. They are the love of my life. That’s part of the reason why I’m doing this.” As such, Fanelli would be the first council member to have children in the school district since Jason DeLorenzo, who served for five years until 2016, with a daughter just then entering the school system. The council in its 22 years has rarely had parents with children in the district serve.
As for Fanelli’s role in the district administration: “I would not have submitted an application if I felt that I would not be able to give the time that is required to fill this seat in a way that supports the council and the citizens of coast,” he said. “So I have done that. I’ve spoken with my director. I’ve spoken with the superintendent who said that she would work with me to make sure that I had the time necessary to to to hold both positions.” As if to make a point that he was not tunnel-visioned on school issues, he quickly pivoted to address a question on the council’s goals (its “strategic plan”), which he would champion.
But Alfin brought him back to school issues, indicating the mayor’s interest in benefiting from a direct link to the school district. “I think I can bridge those connections between our city and our school district because I do know the intricate workings and details of our school district,” he said, pointing to his role with Oliva in devel;oping flagship programs in all schools, forging students’ early steps toward careers.
Branquinho had narrowed down his list to Amaral and Fanelli. Danko said he was “on board” with Fanelli. Klufas had narrowed his list down to Amaral, Fanelli and Mitrano, “leaning toward” Amaral. Alfin was in line with the Klufas list, with a focus on Amaral and Fanelli.
Council members asked up to three questions each–mostly the same questions they asked each candidate, though because of the candidates’ backgrounds, some got questions more specific to that background or history: Amaral, a builder, was asked about development impact fees, Mitrano, who’d run Bunnell’s solid waste division–and driven its garbage trucks–was asked about a city-run garbage department, and so on. More often, the questions were repeated–such as different council members’ questions about maintenance of the saltwater canals, or Council member Ed Danko’s seemingly superfluous opening question asserting that the candidate will not run for the open seat in November (the city’s request for applications had asked that to be a condition; Danko, a hyper-political member of the council, may have been using the question to gauging the candidates’ intentions beyond 2022), or Klufas’s question about the sort of diversity the candidate would bring to the council.
Klufas meant “diversity” in the broadest sense, including experience and perspective, since the candidate pool didn’t lend itself to too much diversity otherwise: but for one Black candidate and one of Asian descendance, all eight are males, seeking to join an all-male, all-white, all-Republican council.
There was irony in the council’s choice of Fanelli today: while the County Commission on Monday night freely bashed the School Board, mis-characterizing the School Board’s actions on impact fees and directly attacking a school board member, the city council, for its part, embraced the School Board by proxy.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Looks like the mayor,s cry for more money, because we cant get good candidates is all hot air. Jonn is an outstanding person, a leader, someone who brings some civility to the council. Best Wishes, God Bless, and please stop the sprawl in Palm Coast
Gina Weiss says
Mayor Alfin made a good choice and I first of all would like to thank Mayor Alfin and congratulate Mr. Fanelli, I appreciate the fact that Mayor Alfin has the foresight to grant a City council position to someone who has the interest of the teachers, parents and students uppermost in his mind.
Adam Soper says
I know that guy :)
Bob Coffman says
I was one of the applicants. The quality amongst all was great. My congratulations to John, I think Palm Coast will be well-served by his service. I am very proud of each of the applicants from District 2. We got to know each other a bit during our 3 hours of sequestration waiting our individual turn for interview and the resulting decision. There were no party politics, no hysterics, just mutual respect and congeniality. I would be glad to buy and have a drink and friendly conversation with any of them. My motto has always been “belligerence and governance are in different places in the dictionary for a reason!” I think we all shared that them.
Perry Mitrano says
I agree with your comment. As I spent time in the backroom waiting to be called for my interview, I found Mr. Fanelli was engaging and a pleasure to talk to.
My best wishes to you Councilmen Fanelli.
Celia M Pugliese says
Thank you Mr Coffman for replying positive to Councilman Branquinho his excellent question about the Flagler County Airport and your very positive proposed addressing the County FCBOCC for solution vision for the nuisance pilot training school to stop their arrogance and do their practices west of our city residential areas as we been asking often and so far with little success as still we are even woke at wee hours of the night by pilot students and instructors practicing above our homes. We know pilots have to train night flight (even over 10 miles away from airport) but should be restricted west of Rte 1 or over the ocean and let us have our peaceful night sleep and day time aircraft engines noise off. Also you mentioned the FCBOCC done away with the airport Advisory Board we aware aware of that! What a travesty and just because lately with the right board members they were advising for the same solutions about noise abatment and also a better managed takes off and touch downs practice on the airport in the proper runways and scheduled times, to mitigate the mayhem those neighbors have to endure “now” on their homes near the airport something that they never had when they bought their homes. Just the product of arrogance of these schools started at the airport in mid 2,000’s . So please not bashing us with the, “airport was there before we bought…” because we are okay with the airport and the schools, as long as they observe the Fly Friendly policy on it and stop their unbearable arrogance over our city residential areas 24-7. Great suggestion yours as city needs to address this issue with the county to “be resolved” by getting these schools, students and trainers (mostly foreing that also create additional concern over us, as the 9-11 attackers hailed from FL training) to get off their high horse, once and for all. We got to know you better and if you run for office in the future may have a better chance to be elected. Thank you again!
Concerned Citizen says
As a resident West of US1 (I include that since you think so less of us) and as a private pilot with many hours. Where would you prefer we fly? I mean our arrogance of flying around all over seems to upset you greatly. Would you prefer the FAA just grounds air traffic completly? Then all you have to put up with is the constant roar of highway and street traffic. Which is probablly 10 times greater than the occasional single engine aircraft full of terrorists flying over your house arrogantly waking you up at all hours.
I’ve observed many of your comments towards the General Aviation Community. I am sorry you show such animosity with broad generalization. Most students go on to have great commercial careers. Chances are if you’ve flown that Delta pilot got his/her start at one of these arrogant schools. And an even greater chance that someone in that cockpit is a military veteran and not a “foreign terrorist” LOL.
Our own Jack Howell helps with a program called Teens In Flight. Some of the other schools offer orientation flights. But watch out. Once you get up there it gets a little habit forming. Why not spend some time with them. And educate yourself a little. Instead of painting broad pictures of us.
From a US Airforce Veteran. Not a *foreign ;) terrorist
Celia M Pugliese says
To Concerned Citizen: First of all I do have very close friends west of Rte 100 and of course you seem not to be one. My mentioning of that area instead of above our Palm Coast community for students pilots training is due common sense and over less populated agricultural or vacant lands only. Your mentioniong of Jack Howell and Teens in Flight is a very low punch trying to descredit us residents that like myself did and still contribute to their incredible cause and fund raising by Palm Coast residents.
Jack Howell was also a very good city councilman that unfortunately we lost and I know well and he has nothing to do with the “arrogance” shown by some instructors and students mostly of the Phoenix and Dolphin schools ignoring the Flagler Fly Friendly policy towards our residential communities. What an ignorant crass distortion your, “Would you prefer the FAA just grounds air traffic completly?” and also that I attack the Aviation Community! I do agree with you that once up there there is a habit forming as when I was a child had a relative that owned a Cessna and loved to show off flying low for us all kids to watch him doing acrobatics as he enjoy the adrenaline of the open skies.., until one day his good luck run out. I sure know well about the habit up there…Also that someone on those Aiport Schools is “often” a veteran doubt it except for Jack Howell as most our commercial pilot veterans trained in our airforce and you being one like my son then thank you for your service if really so, (because you hide under your Concerned Citizen) maybe one more of those county or city trolls always against us the Palm Coast residents given your special personal interest. Those same residents “now banding together” to protect our quality of life, safety, value of our homes and right to pursue of happines. Individuals like you hiding behind a permanent alias are so detrimental to most of us trying to resolve issues that have to do with not observing the basic rules of peaceful cohexistance over ARROGANCE. So please take off your mask and get off your high horse.! Maybe its you and the arrogant schools that need to instruct yourselves like they do in the New Smyrna Beach Airport to observe respect for the residential neighborhoods, after the residents in the ground raised cane when they brought the schools there in 1999 and installed a huge sign on I-95 welcoming all with a child covering its hears with a disgust face expression given the nuisance….remember that?: https://www.cityofnsb.com/1285/Noise-Abatement-Procedures?fbclid=IwAR0creQ-RaplNBo2KleHKyUYp6S_5raxaCg1ezC0rPnD4UE2XpwBDJOqtb4. Not you, the FAA or the flight schools dictate observing of the Airport Fly Friendly Policies but the five at the county commission and the cities given their affected residents request, like former pilot Mr. Coffman suggested to Councilman Branquinho in the council meeting!
I’m very pleased to see John Fanelli will fill the city council position. He is a wonderful man of intellect and integrity who truly cares about students and families. I have no doubt his presence on the council will elevate the quality of the discussions and work coming forth. The city will do well with this decision.
Gina Weiss says
Concerned Citizen: So sorry that you have the wrong impression of Celia Pugliese. Celia is a person of great integrity and a tireless advocate for everyone, not just in the airport community. I have witnessed Celia speak out openly in public forums whether it be at the PC city council or the FCBOCC council meetings about many quality of life issues for not only the people in PC but also for Flagler Beach residents. Believe it or not we are all connected. She has a great love for this county and I thank her for her openness and appreciate the fact that she is not what we call a keyboard warrior as I have witnessed here especially with those who hide and bully behind false names. I do understand that some people are afraid and intimidated to be identified because of repercussions that can occur but the ones I speak about are the bullies who troll and stalk individuals on here which is why they hide their real names. Celia had mentioned numerous times both on here and other venues that she has nothing against the airport nor the flight schools practicing, the part which becomes messy is the constant battering of too many flight schools not flying friendly or following the voluntary noise abatement policies which are now published along with the owners and instructors of those schools not enforcing our airports policy. We as a viable community need rules that should be respected and abided by, in fact some of these flight schools did get booted out of other communities because they did not follow simple procedures. And yes there are peope who are complaining about the constant traffic noise in certain areas, so what do we say to those individuals, too bad you bought your home near a busy street is not going to go over too well since they bought their home when there was not that much traffic noise and traffic pollution in their area. So what is your solution? Should everyone just start selling their homes and move to other areas. That doesn’t make much sense. Or how about the city and the county coming together to analyze and take a good look at what is going on in this city and start dealing with these issues instead of finger pointing and blaming the residents who moved here. They work for us and this is what they get paid to do, they don’t work for the flight schools, they don’t work for the developers they work for us the taxpayers! They should not be on social media mocking and belittling or laughing at us when we make public comment in meetings, how about inviting us and giving us full transparency to ideas and agendas, those late night meetings passing agendas unknown to the public aren’t going to fly anymore. I remember you yourself voicing some great ideas and standing up for our airport community as well as other issues. I respect the fact that you are a pilot, as I said to Roy once flying is a privilege don’t let those abuse it, and thank you for your service.
Gina Weiss says
PS: It will also be nice if “some” of those commissioners on the FCBOCC and” some” on the PC City council follow the same respectful invite as the Flagler Beach council people do inviting their residents to their meetings encouraging open forums and respecting their citizens comments. Maybe ” those” can learn something about how to treat us taxpayers in a respectable and dignified manner. We also don’t need them to air out individuals dirty laundry at public meetings which is time consuming and unnecessary, this should what should stay behind the closed doors, not hidden, last minute end of the line late night agendas.