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Anna Maria election: No ballot, unclear path

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Voters in Anna Maria won’t cast ballots for city commissioners or mayor in November, and yet the city faces a number of choices — all to be decided at the dais.

Anna Maria Mayor Mike Selby has issued a letter to all staff and commissioners in an attempt to clarify the procedures to elect a mayor once the Nov. 6 general election is concluded.

No candidate qualified to succeed Selby, who decided last month not to seek another term.

Selby’s letter explains the procedures as outlined in the city charter, mostly because the charter brought forth questions on the process and the term lengths required of elected officials. There appears to be some misunderstanding of the charter.

Selby said commission candidates Chuck Webb, an incumbent, and Nancy Yetter, a first-time officeholder, will become commissioners when sworn at the commission’s post-election organizational meeting.

Those procedures are no problem for the city, as the charter states that if only one candidate qualifies for each commission vacancy, “he or she shall be deemed elected without the necessity of having his or her name appear on the ballot.”

The problems come at the commission’s post-election organizational meeting, which apparently will be chaired by Selby.

The charter states that if there is no qualified candidate for mayor, “the office shall be filled until the next general election by the deputy mayor. The commission vacancy thus created shall be filled by appointment and the appointee shall serve until the next regular city election.”

Thus, the commissioner elected as commission chair automatically becomes the deputy mayor and the new mayor of Anna Maria.

Webb said he already has a full-time legal practice and the job of Anna Maria mayor is a “full-time position” that doesn’t pay enough money.

Scratch Webb from the list of candidates for mayor.

Commissioner John Quam, who has one year remaining in his term, said he would not accept the job of commission chair if nominated or elected.

“I would have to decline. It’s a full-time job,” said Quam, who is a retired executive.

Scratch Quam from the list of candidates.

Commissioner-elect Yetter also said she would decline if nominated for commission chair and mayor of the city.

“I have too many family responsibilities in Tampa that require my presence. There’s no way I could ensure I would be at city hall every day, or even every other day,” Yetter said.

Scratch Yetter from the list of potential candidates.

Commissioner Dale Woodland, who has served seven years and has one year remaining in his present term, also said he would decline if nominated or elected.

“I want to keep my vote,” he said.

That leaves Commissioner SueLynn, a former mayor who also has one year remaining in her term, as the only potential candidate for the chair’s position, which then requires serving as mayor.

“I would consider becoming commission chair if nominated,” she said.

SueLynn served as mayor 2002-06, and was elected commissioner in 2011.

While not making her answer decisive, she said it would make sense to select the mayor from among the three commissioners who have only a year remaining in his or her term.

“It makes sense because the interim mayor is only serving one year until the next election,” SueLynn said.

Not exactly, said city attorney Jim Dye at the commission’s June 14 meeting. The next mayor serves until the next general election, which is when state and national elections are held.

That means the next mayor serves a two-year term.

But Selby said in his letter that the next mayor “will serve until the next city election,” which would mean serving until the November 2013 city election.

But electing a mayor in 2013 is a violation of the city charter. It also is not a general election year.

The charter states the mayor and two commissioners are elected in even-numbered years, while three commissioners are elected in odd-numbered years.

The charter further provides that the commission appoint a person from the city electorate to serve a one-year term as commissioner to fill the vacancy created when a seated commissioner is elected as chair and then becomes the mayor.

City attorney Jim Dye said the charter is clear on how a mayor is elected when no candidate qualifies for the city election.

What’s unclear is how long the interim mayor serves, and how long does the interim commissioner serve to get the election schedule back into compliance with the charter?

Dye says the next mayor will serve two years.

SueLynn said she was not asking for the job.

“I’m just considering what I would do if nominated and elected as commission chair,” she said.

After deciding on a mayor, the four remaining commissioners must then appoint the interim commissioner. Once five commissioners have been sworn into office, they must then vote for a new chair and deputy chair. The commission chair serves as the deputy mayor, according to the charter, and the deputy chair becomes the chair if the chair is not in attendance or vacates his or her seat.

Who chairs the meeting where commissioners must elect a chair?

The charter states the mayor — Selby — serves until a new mayor is sworn into office. That means Selby chairs the organizational meeting and remains mayor until the commission elects a chair.

The new commission chair becomes mayor after being sworn. It is apparent that becoming the next commission chair equates to the mayor’s seat.

Dye said at the June 14 commission meeting there are a few more questions for the commission to discuss regarding the election of the next mayor and the appointment of an interim commissioner, but commissioners have more than four months to make any decisions.

A spokesperson for the Florida Supervisor of Elections office said the office does not interfere with interpretation of municipal charters.

“That’s up to the city attorney and the commission, and in some cases the charter review committee that proposed those changes in the charter,” the spokesperson said.

Selby said a charter review is required every five years and it’s time to form the next charter review committee. Former Commissioner Tom Aposporos chaired the 2002 and 2007 charter review committees.

Under the city charter, the mayor appoints the members of the committee subject to commission approval.

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