SEBASTIAN — Will city government return to normal when three new council members take office next week?
That’s the question residents are asking Wednesday in light of the stunning recall of Councilman Damien Gilliams, Vice Mayor Charles Mauti and Councilwoman Pamela Parris at a special election yesterday.
With more than 31% of voters turning out for the recall, it’s clear people are ready for government to turn the tide and get back to business.
Previous story: Voters remove 3 from Sebastian City Council
In a statement posted to Facebook, political action committee founder Tracey Cole said the election is a day of celebration for “our piece of paradise.”
“We ran a group with integrity and we changed history,” wrote Cole. “I want you to know that what we did was something that has never been done in the United States. We will go down in history as a city that demanded better and got it. My hope is for other cities and towns to learn they can demand better and then do it.”
Return to civility
Gilliams said he was elected to the council in November to be a disrupter, and he believes he did his job.
“The results of the recall election were really not a surprise,” said Gilliams. “I’m not resentful; I’m excited I got everybody’s attention about the issues. I said we would talk about the annexation and we did. I said we would stop spraying the canals and we did.”
He said he will continue to pursue his lawsuit against the political action committee and founder Tracey Cole, City Clerk Jeanette Williams and Supervisor of Elections Leslie Swan involving the legality of the recall election.
The original case was dismissed by Indian River County Judge Janet Croom and an appeal was filed in the 4th District Court of Appeal on Sept. 11.
“I’m digging in and as long as my attorney thinks there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I’m going to continue,” Gilliams said. “Maybe all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Parris declined to comment about Tuesday’s recall election, but Sept. 10 she told TCPalm she stands firm on her ethical beliefs.
She wants to be remembered by people as a “Realtor-politician who cared about maintaining residents’ home values and healthy lifestyles as opposed to Realtors who would rather invest their efforts in greedy over-development.”
Mauti could not be reached for comment despite attempts by text, email and calls to his city-issued cell phone, which was not accepting messages.
The three new council members who will take the place of Gilliams, Mauti and Parris are Christopher Nunn, one of the early founders of the recall group; Bob McPartlan, the former eight-year city councilman who was defeated in his re-election bid last November; and newcomer Frederick Jones, a retired Florida Highway Patrol trooper.
All three newly elected council members have pledged to have civility return to the council so the city can heal from the last 10 months of in-fighting, name-calling and overall discourse.
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Christopher Nunn, who received the most votes for a seat on the council, said the recall was the first step in returning normalcy to city government.
“Just to be able to have a civil conversation will be good,” said Nunn. “We can disagree, but in the end, we have to talk the issues through with one another.”
Nunn said the city has important issues to deal with almost immediately, including a new city budget that could raise taxes in the community.
He also cited the importance of treating canals and ditches to get rid of weeds as one of the issues he wants to tackle quickly because it is a quality-of-life issue.
Former City Councilman Bob McPartlan said he, too, is anxious to get back to conducting the city’s business in a more civil manner.
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“I think it will work out because there are a lot of important issues coming up,” said McPartlan. “First, we’re going to have to deal with the budget so we can move the city forward. The unknown is the litigation the city is involved in and where it all goes. And with two new council members, I’m sure there will be a learning curve, but we’ll get through it.”
Jones said he wants to work with other city council members and staff, not against them.
“I will listen to what our citizens and business owners have to say,” Jones said, in a text to TCPalm. “I will be the voice of reason and respect the opinion of others.”