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Longboat Key to appoint new commissioner to fill vacant seat

Commissioner Debbie Murphy’s resignation will go into effect Dec. 24. The town will have 30 days to appoint a replacement.

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With a commission seat opening up soon, the town is looking for someone to fill the vacancy. 

District 5 Commissioner Debbie Murphy submitted her resignation letter to Town Manager Howard Tipton and Mayor Ken Schneier on Nov. 20. Her main reason for resigning was that she's unwilling to submit new financial disclosure forms required by the state legislature. 

In her letter, she said her resignation would take effect on or before Dec. 31. But at the Dec. 4 commission meeting, she said she wanted to amend her resignation to take effect sooner. 

Her first request was to move the date up to Dec. 11 at the conclusion of the commission workshops scheduled for that date.

“I really have enjoyed working with all of y’all. This has been an extreme honor for me to be an elected official, so thank you for this privilege,” Murphy said.

Discussion opened up as to how the commission wanted to handle the vacancy. The two main options for the town were to appoint a candidate within 30 days after the resignation or to schedule a special election. 

If an individual is appointed, then that person will serve a 14-month term until March 2025. At that time, the next general election would be held. That election would be to fill Murphy’s remaining term, which is supposed to last until 2026. 

But the town charter also includes a two-term limit. Town Attorney Maggie Mooney said if an individual were to be appointed and then run for the March 2025 to March 2026 term, that person would be limited to one more term. 

If the commission were to hold a special election, then that election would not be held until August 2024, according to Town Manager Howard Tipton. 

“So you would be flying in a missing person formation for a number of months,” Tipton said. 

Commissioner-At-Large BJ Bishop suggested the appointment process has worked in the past and would work well this time around. The appointment was originally set to take place at the Jan. 8 regular meeting. 

District 4 Commissioner Debra Williams said that it may be too short of a timeframe to solicit applications and properly review them before the Jan. 8 date given the holidays in between. It was then agreed that it would be possible to move the appointment to the Jan. 22 workshop.

The town charter requires the commission to appoint an individual to fill the vacancy within 30 days, a timeline that would be impossible if Murphy moved her resignation up to Dec. 11. She agreed to make Dec. 24 the effective resignation date. 

The Town Commission is set to solicit applications from interested individuals residing within District 5. Application materials should be sent to the Longboat Key Town Clerk. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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