Gene Aubry takes the oath of office for Anna Maria commissioner at 9 a.m. Sept. 22, two days after the certification of the Sept. 7 election that recalled Harry Stoltzfus from the office in a 362-331 vote. Aubry will serve the 13-plus months remaining in Stoltzfus’ two-year term that began in November 2009. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
Gene Aubry was sworn in as Anna Maria’s newest commissioner at 9 a.m. Sept. 22.
Aubry won the Sept. 7 recall election by a 363-333 vote to fill the remainder of Harry Stoltzfus’ two-year term, which began when Stoltzfus was elected in November 2009. In the same election for his replacement, Stoltzfus was recalled by the electorate in a 362-331 vote.
The effort to recall Stoltzfus began in March when Bob Carter and several other city residents formed the Recall Commissioner Stoltzfus Committee.
The legal process to recall Stoltzfus resulted in the election, but certification of the results was withheld due to a 12th Judicial Circuit Court order.
Following an appeal to Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal by Citizens for Sunshine Inc., a public watchdog organization, the court agreed there was no reason to continue to withhold certification.
The results were certified Sept. 20 by the Anna Maria election canvassing board of city clerk Alice Baird, George McKay and Sherry Oehler.
Aubry spoke only briefly, saying thank you to the 50-plus supporters who came to witness him taking the oath. Commissioners Jo Ann Mattick, Chuck Webb and Dale Woodland attended and extended congratulations to Aubry.
Aubry said he hoped the divisiveness that has taken place in Anna Maria the past year would end, but he realized many people agree with Stoltzfus’ positions, particularly those relating to Pine Avenue and parking.
“I hope to bring a calming influence to the commission. I have no set agenda, just to listen to people and try to make the best decision for the city,” Aubry said.
Aubry, an architect, indicated he would refrain from voting if an issue involving former client Pine Avenue Restoration LLC came before the commission and he had been paid to work on the plans.
He said he would discuss his work for PAR with city attorney Jim Dye before hearing any PAR issues.
Aubry said his wife, Janet, works on the interior design of completed PAR projects.
But Aubry has no illusions that the next few months will be critical for the city.
“We have to all be reasonable and reach a compromise on the parking issue and what we want for our mixed-use business district,” he said.
A major issue is to get the city’s land-development regulations paired with the 2007 comprehensive plan and have everyone understand the rules and the interpretations.
“Sometimes our rules are not exactly good,” Aubry said, and there is a lot of conflicting language between the LDRs, comp plan and building code.
With more than 40 years experience working with building codes, Aubry wants the planning and zoning board, commission, building department and city administration to sit down and “find out where the conflicts are” and get interpretations settled.
Aubry believes in doing things “by the rules,” but different interpretations of the same ordinance have caused problems for the city.
“Right now, it’s confusing when the LDRs can be interpreted in a number of ways. We have to attack the big picture” and get the correct interpretation for a number of codes, he said.
Included in that picture is the parking safety issue on Pine Avenue. Backing a vehicle out of a parking space, across a sidewalk and onto Pine Avenue is not safe for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, he said.
Aubry said he was asked in the past to design a parking plan for Pine Avenue that would eliminate backing out across a sidewalk and create a safer environment.
Some people believed he was proposing the plan, he said, but he was just responding to a request for assistance by Commission Chair John Quam.
Aubry said the plan he drew provides all the parking the city will ever need on Pine Avenue as there
are only a few lots remaining for development the street.
He’s also going to apply his architectural knowledge to site plans and projects that come before the commission.
“As an architect, I’m not the expert, but I can sit down and work out conflicts. I want to be fair, work within the law, and I’m willing to compromise,” he pledged.
If he has something to say about a project or proposal, Aubry said he would make his comments at a commission meeting.
His first meeting as a commissioner was Sept. 23.
Aubry reported a total of $3,087.75 in contributions as of Sept. 2, with $1,508.47 in expenses.
His campaign’s first contribution was a $100 loan from himself, followed by $150 from Richard York.
Aubry later loaned his campaign $1,000.
A $250 contribution came from Robert Carter, as did $250 from Sato Real Estate.
Those contributing $200 to the campaign were Pat Engman and Richard Thomas.
Dale Powers gave $100, as did John Kolojeski, Albert Pescitelli and John Cagnina.
Campaign expenses reported for Aubry were $48 as the election assessment fee; $60.30 to U.P. Plans for photocopies; and $189 to the U.S. Postal Service for stamped envelopes.
Aubry also reported $47.92 in expenses to The Sign Factory for magnetic signs; $237.75 to the U.S. Post Office for mailing; $555 to The Islander for advertising and $370.50 in advertising expense for another media outlet.
For the same period ending Sept. 2, Stoltzfus reported $1,050 in contributions and $974.94 in expenses.
He started his campaign treasury with $100 from himself and later loaned his campaign $300.
Contributions of $100 came from Linda Kapisak, Terry Schaefer, William Yanger and Anna DeAugustine.
Those contributing $50 were Charles Daniel, Gary Simmons and Karen DiCostanza.
Edward Ice contributed $40, while Eric Davison, Edward Callen and Thomas Turner each gave $20 to the campaign.
Campaign expenses were $48 for the election assessment, $249.61 and $75.40 to Office Depot for supplies, $590.95 to Anna Maria MPO, no purpose given, and $10.98 to the supervisor of elections, no purpose given.
Both candidates must submit a final campaign treasurer’s report to the elections office that will show the disposition of all contributed funds, along with any contributions and expenses incurred between Sept. 2 and Sept. 7, the date of the election.