If they so desire, Longboat Key town commissioners could do nothing.
That is, they could leave ex-Commissioner Gene Jaleski’s seat vacant. And after 90 days, the town would be required to conduct a special election.
That’s not the way Mayor George Spoll wants events to unfold. “With the preponderance of items before the town,” he said this weekend, “we should fill the position and have a full debate.”
Jaleski’s resignation last week ignited a lot of political intrigue and chatter all over the Key. Once Town Hall watchers acknowledged what Jaleski himself acknowledged — that he and the Town Commission were not a fit — in the next breath, many people asked: Who will/should replace him?
Before answering that, however, we imagined various parties (Islandside Property Owners Association, to name one) first calculating whether it would be in their interest to lobby to keep Jaleski’s seat vacant and force the special election 90 days from now.
Without Jaleski, for instance, IPOC has lost one of its commission allies. This gives the Longboat Key Club and Resort a presumptive majority of four in favor of the club’s expansion, with perhaps two commissioners opposed. But assuming the Town Commission will cast its vote on the Key Club plan at the end of June — the new target date, and assuming the commission does not appoint Jaleski’s replacement, all IPOC would need to defeat the plan is one of the four presumptive votes to turn against the Key Club. In a 3-3 deadlock, the plan would fail.
But now turn to the town commissioners. All of them must ask themselves whether it would be right, just and fair to bring to a close two years of intense debate over the Key Club with a partial commission.
The answer should be an unequivocal “no.” It would not be right, nor just or fair to complete the voting on the Key Club project with only six commissioners.
Mayor Spoll is right. The commissioners should fill Jaleski’s seat as soon as they can.
Spoll intends to do this at 9 a.m. Monday, June 7, at a special meeting. He will ask for a motion to take nominations from his fellow commissioners to fill the vacant commission seat.
Which, of course, begs the question: Who should fill the seat?
We’ve heard several names — planning and zoning board member John Wild; former Mayors Ron Johnson and Jeremy Whatmough; Planning and Zoning Board Chairman B.J. Webb; and Phillip Younger, the Town Commission candidate who lost last March to incumbent Commissioner Hal Lenobel.
Of those, Younger is likely to be favored most by IPOC supporters. During the spring election campaign, Younger proposed an alternative plan to the Key Club’s and suggested the club put up several million dollars for a new recreation center building as part of an agreement to be able to build.
There’s no question Younger could serve capably. Likewise voters have seen through his and resident Lenny Landau’s work on the town budget that Younger has strong skills in how to manage a budget and finances.
What’s more, he only lost in the spring election by 90 votes.
And that’s the point. Voters opted for his opponent. Result: No free pass.
Of the other names above, all could and would serve out Jaleski’s 10 remaining months well. Indeed, Webb and Wild have similar credentials to those of Johnson and Whatmough. Wild is a former mayor of Wildwood, Mo., and Webb was mayor of Leesburg, Va.
Generally, it’s not good to go back. Johnson and Whatmough served the town long and well.
Let’s go forward. Town commissioners would do well for taxpayers to appoint either Webb or Wild. But there’s a slight difference.
Wild has been ambivalent about getting back into elected politics, remembering the demands on his family.
Webb, on the other hand, told a few Longboaters last March she was ready to re-enter the political arena.
Given her contributions on the planning board here and her public service in Leesburg (see below), Webb has the credentials to serve fairly and honorably.
The Town Charter on Vacancies
Article II, Section 8a: Vacancies. Vacancies in the Town Commission shall be filled by the Town Commission, with any person so appointed to be a qualified elector from the district of the vacated commissioner, to serve until the next general municipal election. At the next general municipal election, the vacancy shall be filled by election; the person elected in such election to serve the remaining unexpired term of the town commissioner whose vacant office is being filled. If a vacancy is not filled by the Town Commission within thirty (30) days after the vacancy occurs, a special election shall be held within ninety (90) days after such a vacancy occurs; and the person so elected shall serve the remaining unexpired term.
INSIGHTS ON B.J. WEBB’S EXPERIENCE IN LEESBURG, VA.
From the April 2000 Election Guide in Leesburg Today:
Vice Mayor B.J Webb … was elected to the town council in 1996. She served on the town planning commission prior to taking a seat on the town council. She served on the Blue Ribbon Committee for County Government and is a 1996 graduate of the Virginia Institute for Political Leadership, a fellowship program sponsored by the University of Virginia. Webb was a Realtor in Loudoun for more than 12 years.
Webb is a member of the Loudoun Chapter of Mothers against Drunk Driving, the Leesburg Daybreak Rotary Club, the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Advisory Board of Shenandoah Univeristy’s Loudoun Campus as well as the President’s Roundtable of the university. Webb is a member of the board of directors of the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter, serves as vice chair of the Loudoun Bar Foundation and is on the board of directors for the Loudoun Volunteer Rescue Squad in Leesburg.
From the April 21, 2000, edition of the Washington Post:
Vice Mayor Betty Jo “B.J.” Webb and (incumbent Mayor James E.) Clem both campaigned on promises to reduce gridlock, preserve open space and historic sites and maintain services for a growing population.
The town, which had 16,202 residents in 1990, now has an estimated 27,500, according to town officials, who predict that more than 30,900 people will live in Leesburg by 2005.
Webb, 48, who was elected to the council in 1996, said the town has been shortsighted in its efforts to ensure that services and preservation efforts keep pace with growth.
“There has been a lack of leadership involving vision issues,” Webb said. “We tend to react.”
For example, she said, two years ago she supported an unsuccessful effort to create a master plan for parks and recreation. Although the proposal is again before the council — in part to handle the recent purchase of Ball’s Bluff and Izaac Walton parkland — Webb said it would have been smarter to begin considering the town’s open space needs years ago.
… Although their perspectives on the past may be different, the candidates largely agree on the challenges the town faces. Both say Leesburg should continue to buy parkland and increase efforts to court high-tech businesses. They also say the town must reduce traffic by hastening road improvements that would link what are now dead ends to other streets.
In addition, the candidates say they will try to ease the financial burden for town residents who are hit with both county and town property taxes. They said they would seek state legislation to require that the county provide a rebate to town citizens who pay twice for the same services.
… Increased revenue from meals and sales taxes, in part because of the success of Leesburg Premium Outlets and the addition of other business in the town, has helped create a surplus. The council is considering a proposed $69 million budget that is 3% higher than last year’s and does not call for increases in taxes or fees.
Webb said that she supports holding the line on taxes but that a cut would be premature when the town is growing rapidly. The money would be better spent, she said, on maintaining equipment and funding infrastructure needs.
“I think that we would be doing a disservice to the taxpayer if we promised them a tax break and then the market goes south and we have to jack it back up,” Webb said.
… Webb said she would focus on trying to preserve the historic downtown and ask the Economic Development Commission to suggest incentives that could lure retail businesses to vacant storefronts.
Webb also said she would create a citizen task force called the Leesburg First Community Council, which would meet quarterly to discuss residents’ concerns and ensure that the public is aware of the council’s actions.
Both candidates said they would expedite efforts to link the county’s pedestrian trails and work with the county to limit residential development outside the town limits.