Commissioners Reject First 3 Applicants for Temporary Appointment
Replacement for Suspended Commissioner will be Discussed Again Aug. 3
Last updated 7/23/2021 at 9:34am
Despite a gathering of supporters, a contingent speaking on his behalf, and the endorsement of the mayor, deputy mayor and a number of Republican elected officials, Al Goldstein on July 20 lost his bid to return to his former seat to fill the vacancy created by the suspension of newly elected Lake Wales City Commissioner Kris Fitzgerald.
After Fitzgerald defeated him April 6 by just 32 votes, Goldstein lashed out in a media interview, citing racism as a factor, suggesting the city was on the "cusp of destruction" and saying he hoped the city could survive.
Commissioners Terrye Howell indicated she could not get past Goldstein's remarks. Howell read and commented on various Goldstein quotes saying they were a "slap in the face" and that "people have not forgotten." The full news story can be found at https://www.lakewalesnews.net/story/2021/04/07/news/defeated-commissioner-blames-racism-says-city-on-cusp-of-r/2209.html
"I have a problem with those words – maybe because of disappointment or anger it was said, but I believe his true feelings came out at that moment," Howell said.
Williams said he took the remarks personally, noting his "father said you can tell who a man is based upon how he responds when you lose the battle." Williams said it's important to "respond with dignity and grace when you lose."
Neither of the other two applicants for the vacancy, rental property owner and longtime youth sports coordinator Richard DeLoach and child care worker and coach James "Peanut" Loydd, could garner the three votes necessary to obtain the appointment.
Now the commissioners will consider appointees at their Aug. 3 meeting, which is just three days before their deadline to make the appointment. After she was arrested on felony charges in June, Gov. Ron DeSantis on July 7 suspended Fitzgerald pending the outcome of her case. The City Charter calls for the commission to fill any vacancy within 30 days.
Responding to a question from Howell about what would happen if the commission could not agree on an appointee City Attorney Chuck Galloway said he would do the research but he was fairly certain the governor would not be allowed to intervene.
People interested in being appointed must be a city resident for at least one year and live in Fitzgerald's district, which is roughly most of the city north of Mountain Lake Cutoff Road. Applicants should submit a resume to City Clerk Jennifer Nanek, who can be contacted at [email protected] or by calling the city at 863-678-4182.
Mayor Eugene Fultz said he didn't like Goldstein's remarks, but still thought his two years on the commission and his track record of service made him the best candidate for the job. Fultz and Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson said experience is important, especially since the city is entering its annual budget process.
But Williams, who strongly supported Loydd for the appointment, reminded commissioners that every new commissioner, including himself, lacks experience when they begin and he's just interested in finding someone who is intelligent, thoughtful and creative. While he appreciated the "abundance of wisdom" provided by the current commissioners, Willliams pointed out that Loydd offers diversity since he is much younger and closer in age to the two commissioners who citizens elected April 6; Fitzgerald is 41; Williams, 47; and Loydd, 48; DeLoach, 68. Goldstein is 79. Others currently serving are Gibson, 84; Fultz, 71; Howell, 63.
Gibson said while some people believe the large Lake Ashton community, which provides a "good piece" of the city's tax base, should be able to choose its own commissioner, he opposes "ward politics." But Gibson said he believes Goldstein could well represent the entire city, not just the gated community.
While current applicants could be reconsidered, commissioners indicated they would be talking to people in the coming week and encouraging interested citizens to submit their resumes.
The new commissioner will serve until Fitzgerald is cleared or the citizens in the April 2022 municipal election choose someone to complete the final two years of her term.