For the first time in 14 years, three seats on the Bunnell City Commission were filled uncontested, ahead of what was to be the March 7 municipal election.
Commissioner John Rogers was re-elected for his fifth term, uncontested for the first time. Incumbent Commissioner Tonya Gordon ran in the special election to fill the seat Bob Barnes vacated last year, what will be a two-year term.
And Pete Young finally got his Bunnell commission seat without complications, on his third try in 10 months. Young, a former city commissioner and a just-retired Florida Highway Patrol traffic homicide investigator, ran and lost in the Bunnell city election a year ago. He won appointment in August to the seat Barnes vacated, only to resign two weeks later, after discovering that the Florida Retirement System did not permit him to earn a paycheck from an FRS-related organization, as is Bunnell government, for at least six months past his retirement.
You could now call it the Sawmill Estates commission: four of the five commissioners or commissioner-elect–Rogers, Mayor Catherine Robinson, Tina-Marie Schultz and Young–are almost next-door neighbors in the subdivision. Gordon lives off of Deen Road.
That does not mean that other areas of the city, including fast-growing Grand Reserve, are not represented, Rogers said. “They have five representations, because we represent the whole city,” Rogers said. City Manager Alvin Jackson attends all of the Grand Reserve community development district meetings.
“It all worked out,” Young said this morning, relieved not to have to run again, though he was prepared for it. “I had my signs and brochures and stuff like that, and I was willing to take the time to go door to door like I did last time and hand out pamphlets and send them off. But no, I’m glad I was able to not have to do that, because that way I can get started.”
One of Young’s priorities is to “straighten up the water system.” He still doesn’t drink the city’s water, having to buy bottled water, though the city proudly opened a brand new, $4.8 million water plant in 2015. Young also wants to ensure the city has enough water wells for its supply, as it continues to grow.
Beyond that, he is looking forward to the city’s construction of a new City Hall and police station on Commerce Boulevard. That building would be ready for occupancy in 2024.
Rogers was especially relieved not to have to run another campaign, having had to compete four straight times until now, squeaking by Bill Baxley (who would win the following year) by three votes in his first run, and being the leading vote-getter only once, in 2014. In 2020, Gordon was ahead of him by almost 60 votes, but placing second, he retained his seat.
“I used to look at Catherine Robinson get in there uncontested and it’s like, Wow, that must be nice,” Rogers said. Robinson was also re-elected unopposed in 2022. She’s won unopposed, with one exception, since she was appointed to the commission in 1994. Asked about winning unopposed this time, Rogers–as he often does–quoted scriptures: “Romans 13:1 says, Let every soul be subject onto the higher powers. For there is no power but from God, the power to be, and ordained by God. And I believe that with all and every fiber in me, that God puts whom he sees fit for the season in public office.”
He was asked if he believed God elected him. “God orders our steps,” Rogers said, before responding to a question about how constituents might see his tenure: “When my phone rings I show up on their doorstep. And I represent the whole city of Bunnell. I have no special interest but doing what’s right for the taxpayers.”
Rogers is looking forward to serving with Young, an old friend, seeing him as “a great addition to our board,” and a man of integrity.
With the election decided, that opens possibilities for commissioners, who have been contending with a vacant seat on their five-member board since Barnes resigned for health reasons in mid-July.
The swearing-in is not until April. The Palm Coast City Council faced a similar situation in 2016, after the resignation of Bill McGuire left a vacant seat. But that August, Bob Cuff won election to the seat in the primary. He was not to be sworn-in until November. The council decided to swear him in two months ahead of time, in early September.
Beyond Bunnell, the electoral calendar still has one municipal elections on March 7: the Flagler Beach City Commission has drawn three candidates for two seats, one of them open (after the decision by Ken Bryan not to run again). Qualifying in Flagler Beach doesn’t end until Friday.
Beverly Beach also had an election for three commission seats and the mayorship. But in that case, too, all incumbents were re-elected without opposition: Mayor Stephen Emmett, and Commissioners Jeffrey Schuitema, Larry Mathies and Mick Krakowski.