The tradition is broken.
For five years in a row, the Longboat Key Town Commission has selected the most senior member of its seven-person group to become the town’s mayor.
But at its Monday, March 21 statutory meeting, the commission voted 5-2 to select Jim Brown as the mayor of Longboat Key over Commissioner Robert Siekmann. Siekmann is in his third term and final year as a commissioner, while Brown is entering his second term as a commissioner.
Once he was sworn in and after taking his new seat at the center of the dais, Brown expressed his gratitude.
“I would like to thank my fellow commissioners for their support,” Brown said. “I will do my best and hopefully be as good as the mayor we just lost (outgoing Mayor George Spoll).”
Commissioner Phillip Younger nominated Brown.
Brown, Younger, Commissioner David Brenner, Commissioner Lynn Larson and newly sworn-in District 1 Commissioner Jack Duncan voted for Brown.
Siekmann and Commissioner Hal Lenobel, who nominated Siekmann as mayor, voted for Siekmann.
Lenobel made a brief speech during his nomination and urged the commission to honor Siekmann with the position, to no avail.
Larson nominated Brenner as the town’s vice mayor, and Brenner was voted to the position by a 7-0 vote — on his birthday — after no one else was nominated.
The town’s new mayor and vice mayor will serve one-year terms.
The mayoral vote irked Siekmann, who told the Longboat Observer after the meeting he was “clearly disappointed.”
Siekmann, whose Land’s End house is for sale and will move to the Pacific Northwest with his wife whenever it sells, isn’t disappointed, though, that he wasn’t voted mayor.
“It would have been nice to be given the opportunity to decline the mayor’s chair heading into my final year as a commissioner,” said Siekmann. Siekmann doesn’t feel it’s appropriate for a Key resident who’s eventually planning a move away from the Key to be mayor; he said he would have declined the position.
Siekmann, who carried on the seniority tradition last year by nominating Spoll as mayor, said he is considering stepping down before his final term expires next March.
But Siekmann said he wouldn’t resign because of the mayoral vote and would only do so if he feels it’s appropriate for both him and the Town Commission to move on.
Siekmann and Lenobel have been the minority on the commission for the past year, and the mayoral vote exemplified that.
“I don’t know what happens going forward in the next year,” Siekmann said. “It’s a big unknown — exactly what role I am expected to fill in my last year. I have a sense of being put out to pasture and that’s not the way I want to go out.”
Siekmann said he would take some time to decide whether it’s appropriate to step down from his District 5 seat to allow the commission to move on with a replacement that would be involved in decisions for the entire year.
At the meeting, Brown and Younger were also sworn in for new, two-year terms.
Meanwhile, former Mayor and District 1 Commissioner Spoll’s farewell speech was met with applause and a standing ovation for his more than six years of service as a commissioner.
Said Spoll: “It’s gratifying to see so many good friends in the room. The articles, notes and calls I have received have been overwhelming. I am deeply touched.”
Spoll thanked his friends, family and wife, Madelyn, for their support and promised he would not retreat from Town Hall. He again expressed his wish to be a part of an economic revitalization committee he proposed just last month.
“This Key means too much to me and all of you to just walk away,” Spoll said.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org