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Dirk deWerff to fill vacant seat on Planning Commission

By Staff | May 10, 2017

Dirk deWerff will fill the vacant seat on the Planning Commission left open by Jason Maughan after he was elected to City Council.

Maughan’s term on the Planning Commission was to expire on Jan. 14, 2019. He provided his resignation after winning the election for City Council.

deWerff was an employee of State Farm Insurance for 42 years before retiring. More than 20 of those years were spent as a personal and commercial lines underwriting section manager for a division of approximately 70 people servicing policyholders and agents in Illinois, Michigan and Indiana.

He relocated to Florida in 2011 and completed analytics work for State Farm Insurance by using technical models to study hurricane and storm surge exposures along Florida’s gulf coast.

deWerff served on the Planning Commission in the City of Portage, Michigan from 1999 to 2003 and for the Town of Normal, Illinois from 2005 to 2011.

While on the Planning Commission in Michigan, he focused on environmental and wetland issues and its overall impact with development in a specific area. While he was the chairman, the focus turned to the city’s 10 year capital improvement program, which focused on city zoning and changes that needed to be made to be less dependent on the auto industry.

In Illinois, deWerff spent time redesigning and redeveloping the downtown area that had not been updated since the 1950s while serving on the Planning Commission. An accomplishment when on that board included the commissioners designing and developing the Normal Multimodal Transportation Center.

deWerff’s Planning Commission term will expire on Jan. 14, 2019.

Mayor Kevin Ruane said the Planning Commission continues to receive a record number of applications, which continues to amaze him with the number of people who apply for the seat.

“It’s really a difficult process. I have certainly interviewed everybody at least once, or had some type of conversation with them,” he said. “I always indicate to them I found it easier to get on City Council than it was on the Planning Commission.”

The first vote did not receive a majority for one person. Two votes were given for deWerff and one were given for Thomas Foley, Timothy Garmager and Larry Schopp.

“I know it’s always difficult to look at this, but you might need to consider your second choice as your first choice,” Ruane said. “It’s a tough vote, but we are pleased with the pedigree of people who come here.”

The second vote was four for deWerff and one for Foley.

Councilman Chauncey Goss and Ruane voted for deWerff.

Goss said he earned his vote because he has been a planning commissioner and the head of the Planning Commission in other cities. Although he is newer to Sanibel, only living on the island for a couple of years, he said he would be great member of the city’s Planning Commission.

Councilman Jason Maughan said he voted for Garmager because he has known him for years working on various boards on the island. He said he believes he is a gentleman that is greatly concerned about the welfare of others.

“The Planning Commission was a super experience and it was a really happy and effective board that works together. I intend to a certain degree to maintain the same balance that we enjoyed for the years that I was there,” Maughan said. “I thought he was a good person to replace myself.”

Councilman Jim Jennings said Tuesday morning that the vote was the hardest he has had to do in really long time. He voted for Foley because he was amazed by him.

“He seems to have a good eye and seems to understand the idea of give and take in certain situations,” Jennings said.

Councilman Mick Denham voted for Schopp because he thought he would be a great candidate.

Goss said he hopes those who were not chosen for the Planning Commission will put their names in the hat for the Charter Review Committee.

A Charter Review Committee was discussed at last month’s meeting of the City Council after Maughan brought up the issue of establishing term limits for City Council members. It was discovered that the charter is supposed to be reviewed every 10 years, which it had not.

The mayor said he believes the Charter Review Committee should have seven people because he likes an odd number of people in case any type of vote has to take place. He said he believes the review would be a six to nine month process.

With an agreement of the City Council members, the city manager was instructed to start advertising for the committee. Ruane said the committee, he hopes, will look at the charter holistically and give council their recommendations.

Maughan asked if there was wisdom, or merit to have a founding citizen on the committee. He said that person could provide advice, or council, of what they were thinking of the time the charter was established.

Ruane thought it was a great suggestion, which turned into changing his motion to include making the appointments in July for the committee members, as well as having a nonvoting individual from one of the founding fathers.

He said he hopes to get a comprehensive package together for the committee for their first meeting, hopefully by August.

Ruane will be the liaison for the committee, as will City Manager Judie Zimomra.