In 1984, using a politically expedient move that was perfectly legal and decided by the members of the St Augustine City Commission in a majority vote during a regularly called and noticed meeting; Ramelle Petroglou’s appointment as “mayor” was rescinded — and a new mayor was appointed to serve the remainder of her term. She of course retained her vote and the seat to which she was elected — that of city commissioner.
The St Johns County Commission decides among themselves, who will serve in the ministerial position of chairman, the commissioners of the City of St Augustine Beach decide among themselves who will be mayor, as does the St Johns County town of Hastings. How simple is that? The people elect their representatives, someone is selected to chair, they each have one vote, are paid the same amount of money, and, each year, the appointment rotates.
EXCEPT in the City of St Augustine. After Mayor Petroglou was “defrocked”, as it were, pressure from her supporters in the community came to bear. A convoluted election process was put in place that stood for the next 22-years. One where you had to run, in a separate contest; first for commissioner, and also for mayor. You could have been elected commissioner but failed to be elected mayor, or you could have won the mayoral election, but not the seat, in which case you lost. Isn’t charter government delightful? (That is me being enormously sarcastic, BTW)
Then, in 2006, by referendum, the people voted to make Seat 3 the “mayor’s seat” (or throne, if you will). This was just as stupid as the 1984 plan, only for different reasons.
Oddly, during the same city commission meeting, as our benevolent monarch was just setting out on his first stint as “Mayor”, on Monday night, August 14, 2006, when the commission voted to put the measure on the ballot, a second, alternative ordinance was also on the agenda that ended the process of electing mayors, altogether. It set up a process by which the commissioners decide the mayor among themselves — an appointed mayor. Imagine that. (That is me being enormously sarcastic, again) Of course, it was far too logical and failed.
Since the voters approved the referendum that November, until today, we have the every-two-year coronation of mayor while the other elected officials carry on their responsibilities, in their work-a-day worlds, serving ordinary four-year terms. In a side note, creating the two-year mayor position came with a new perk for the luck guy to catch the brass ring — instead of suffering through on a $15,668.37 salary, his honor picks up a little bonus, earning $20,891.16 each year for his trouble.
As editor of this publication, I hear from a lot of folks who have a lot of opinions and offer a lot of advice. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t, but, I always listen. I have been a St Johns County voter since I turned 18 and I have seen my share of screwball elections. The silence of the majority in St Augustine is what caused the mess we have today.
My hope is that there will be a new energy in city hall and the St Johns County administration building after this year’s elections. I think it’s high time we cleaned up our mess — the mess we’ve created, collectively as a community, because we didn’t demand more from our elected politicians.
Take advantage of the opportunity to set right a process gone wrong. I will be embarrassed to have it known that we made our next two generations correct these poorly thought-out screw-ups.