In December, Mexico Beach councilman Lanny Howell announced that he would be resigning his Group 2 position effective Jan. 1.
During a special meeting last week, the council appointed Gary Woodham to fill the vacant seat for the remainder of Howell’s term.
Woodham, a previous council member who served on the council from May 2005 through June 2012, has five months in the chair until the seat is up for re-election and a one-year term.
In 2015, the seat will be back on the ballot for its normal two-year term.
Other applicants for the position included Bill McGlothlin, Tom Bailey, Diana Epple, Al Wilson and Jim McKenna.
Also in consideration were Jeff Tendler, who ran against Howell in April’s municipal election, and Mary Blackburn, who ran against Group 3 councilman Jack Mullen.
To streamline the voting process last week, Mayor Al Cathey suggested that each council member share their number one choice for the position, but allowed the public to speak prior voicing their selections.
Some citizens showed support for certain candidates, other asked the council to give preference to applicants who have served the community, and others said they’d prefer a temporary councilmember who didn’t want to change things.
Cathey shared the criteria he used for his own selection and said he picked someone with experience who was current with the city, had shown interest and could get up to speed with a short learning curve.
“We’ve had ample time to decide,” said Cathey before casting his vote for Woodham. “I wasn’t trying to make or break anyone’s political career.”
Councilwoman Tanya Castro said that her first choices were Blackburn or Bailey.
“I’d like someone who is not only representing the people, but can come in and make a difference,” said Castro. “They should be willing to run to keep the seat.
“Look at not only the voice of the people, also look at who can come in and hit the ground running.”
Councilman Jack Mullen cast his vote for Woodham while Councilman Bobby Pollock’s first choice went to Epple for her involvement in the city as former EMS director, with Woodham second.
“I think this is the best group of people I’ve seen,” said Pollock, addressing the applicants in the crowd. “You’re great candidates and I hope you all run for office.
“All of you can do it.”
Mullen made the motion to officially appoint Woodham which passed 3-1 (Castro dissenting). As the meeting adjourned, several members of the audience voiced their disapproval as they filed out the door.
During the council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Woodham addressed both the council and the audience during council comments.
“I’m proud to say that I live in Mexico Beach,” said Woodham. “I hope and pray that the council can work together.”
Several members of the public also took to the podium and begged the council to work together in the New Year and be respectful toward one another as well as the members of the community.
During the pre-agenda meeting, Castro requested that the Parker House be addressed at each meeting until a resolution had been reached with the insurance company and also so that the public knew that it was a priority with the council.
The group has been awaiting a decision on receiving an additional $90,000 in insurance monies for more than two years.
“We need to make a decision based on what we know today,” said Castro. “This could go on forever, waiting on insurance money.”
Mullen, who has been the point of contact with the insurance company, gave an update at Tuesday’s meeting and said that the council may have a final answer by next week.
Woodham, eager to move the process along, suggested that the group meet with builders Cathey construction by the beginning of Feb. to finalize plans for building the new city hall on the Parker House property.
“We need a new city hall,” Woodham said. “Let’s start moving on this particular project. We can’t procrastinate and sit around so long.
“I’d like to see ground broken in 15 days.”
For the past two years, the city has continued to pay the monthly rent of $2,600 on the property, spending approximately one-third of the monies they’d previously received in their initial insurance claim after the Parker House caught fire in 2011.