As of Dec. 20, there are nine candidates running for Lanny Howell’s vacant Mexico Beach city council seat. That’s excellent – amazing, in fact - given the apathy that has gripped our town in the last four years. And this upcoming April election is an unexpected second opportunity to change the face of politics in our town in one day. Here’s how: In the last election this past April, three city council seats were up for re-election: Lanny Howell’s; Jack Mullen’s; Al Cathey’s. The first two seats had contests between the incumbents and one opponent each. However, no one challenged Mr. Cathey for the mayor’s position, and, while very close, the incumbents retained control, keeping the current balance of viewpoints and alliances on the city council intact.
However, suddenly there are three, not the expected two seats, up for grabs, and the number of candidates alone promises a free-for-all at the ballot box. It’s also a serendipitous chance to tilt the power of the council in another direction, meaning it is possible to get a new 3-2 majority seated that holds different views than the prevailing “that’s the way it’s always been done” majority. Of course, the election could go either way, just as easily keeping the current philosophies in place - but the opportunity has presented itself, which is more than was expected.
But as we ponder this unexpected opportunity within our governing body, here’s what we have to ask: who’s really serious about running for the Group 2 (Mr. Howell’s) post on the Mexico Beach city council?
One more reason the Jan. 8 special meeting to vote to fill the vacant position should be postponed until the end of January is that the person who is appointed will only serve until May 31 – only four months. That person, if she/he wants to remain in the seat, will have to run for “re-election” in the upcoming April 22 municipal super-Tuesday election, as a regular candidate for a city council post. If the candidates are really serious about wanting to fill the vacancy, they should all file for the April election before the Mexico Beach city council chooses one for four months. That is the only way Mexico Beach residents can ascertain that the candidates are truly serious about serving on the city council. Why would anyone want to sit at that table for just four months?
Now, according to the Bay County Supervisor of Elections office, the deadline for candidate qualifying is noon Feb. 14. Our city council should wait until Jan. 30 to vote on the four-month appointment (they have 30 days from the resignation’s effective date of Jan. 1) to see who has filed for candidacy in the April 22 election, and then choose from among those. And all of you candidates who plan to run for the seat in the April election should have filed by Jan. 30. That’s how we, the residents of Mexico Beach, will know you are serious about serving on the city council.
It’s not at all too much to ask of someone who wants to be an elected official, because it’s not about you, and your possible 15 minutes of fame, it’s about the people who live here, and pay taxes here, and depend on all of our city council members to act in our best interests, now and in the future.
So, prove to us that you are serious, and file by Jan. 30. And current city council members – Jack Mullen, Al Cathey, Tanya Castro, Bobby Pollock – show some common sense, some understanding of what the residents of Mexico Beach want and deserve, some sign that you actually are working for our interests, and postpone your scheduled “vote” of Jan. 8 until a much more reasonable date of Jan. 30. That’s one way to prove you are serious about working for the good of Mexico Beach.
Mexico Beach resident