The Bunnell City Commission Monday evening appointed Robert Barnes and Tina-Marie Schultz to the commission for the next eight months to complete the terms of two commissioners, Bill Baxley and Donnie Nobles, who resigned in quick succession earlier this month.
Seven residents had applied: Barnes, Daisy Henry, Nealon Joseph, Gary Masten, Bonita Robinson, Schultz, and David Wilhite. (The links take you to their applications.) County government required Joseph to withdraw his application because he is employed by the county’s emergency management division, a move that disappointed the mayor and at least one of the commissioners, who found his application among the stronger ones.
So six remained by the time the commission considered the applicants. Three of the six live in Grand Reserve, the relatively new and rapidly growing community at the northeast edge of the city, bordering Palm Coast. The community has been showing its clout in the growing tax base. Now it’s beginning to show its political clout, shifting the city’s center of gravity from Sawmill Estates. The two new commissioners are joining a panel that had over the past 18 months become the smoothest-operating local government in Flagler.
Commissioners John Rogers and Tonya Gordon and Mayor Catherine Robinson all interviewed the candidates before the meeting.
“My primary focus on this is the budget, working through the budget process, and working through the strategy planning that we set forward tonight, working towards the land, and the building. And that’s about all we can get done in the next four to five months because this position these two positions will be up for reelection again in March,” Mayor Catherine Robinson said. “We had And let me just say we had a lot of diversity in these candidates and a lot of interests, and a lot of good experience, so this was not so easy to actually do this. ” Robinson said she hoped the candidates who were not picked would get involved in city government on one of its advisory boards, and run again. ”
She short-listed Schultz and Barnes, as did Rogers. Gordon short-listed Barnes and Masten. “Those two really stood out for me,” Gordon said. That seemed to settle it rather quickly as the commission discussed the appointments toward the end of a brief meeting Monday evening.
Robinson called it a tossup between Masten, Barnes and Schultz, describing her knowledge of Masten over two years, as he’s served on the city’s planning and zoning board, Barnes’s service on the city’s community development district covering Grand Reserve, where he lives, and Schultz’s long years of community service. Of Barnes, she said: “There wasn’t a single thing that I asked him about concerns in the city that he has not touched on in his career, which was pretty amazing.”
“So I don’t think we can go wrong here. The good news is this is till March, then the public gets to vote if you’re still motivated to come again and to run,” the mayor said. Only two members of the public spoke, both weighing in in favor of Barnes and Masten. Rogers motioned for Barnes and Schultz, Robinson–passing the gavel–seconded, and the motion passed 2-1.
“I don’t want to say I wish there were three positions,” Robinson said, thanking the applicants and recognizing Masten for his “spirit.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Masten said.
The two new commissioners were immediately sworn in by the city attorney, who urged them to carry out their legally-required ethics training as soon as possible. The commissioners seated, the meeting resumed with City Manager Alvin Jackson’s report–he urged the new commissioners to review his bi-weekly reports to catch up on city business. Commissioners offered up their own reports. Gordon spoke of having a conversation with Baxley on Sunday. Baxley moved to New Hampshire to be closer to his family. “He is enjoying the weather, and he’s enjoying being with his family,” she said, though he’s having a wardrobe rethink because of that weather.
“What I’d like to do is invite people to come to my Coffee with the Commish on the First Fridays of the month,” Schultz said. “It’ll be at a local restaurant and I’ll post that information on the Bunnell live Facebook page.” Schultz has already, in her application’s cover letter, said she would run for the seat in March, as she has on two previous occasions.
Rogers brought up a more immediate issue: “The courthouse needs a red light bad,” he said of the entrance to the courthouse and Government Services Complex off of State Road 100. “I don’t know if you guys tried to get in and out of there, it’s like taking your life in your hands.” The city attorney said there’d been discussions about that in the past. It’s not within Bunnell’s authority. It’s that of the state Department of Transportation, which has turned down the request in the past.
The commission then adjourned.