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Muench appointed to city council seat

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Dec 8, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Jerry Muench

As the city heads into an election in March, the Sanibel City Council filled a second and final vacancy on the dais at its monthly meeting, selecting the candidate from a field of over a dozen applicants.

On Dec. 1, the council voted 3-1 to appoint Jerry Muench to the vacant seat. A 56-year resident, he currently serves on the Sanibel Fire and Rescue District’s commission and previously served on the city council for eight years and on the planning commission for four years, according to his application.

Also during the meeting, the council unanimously approved Vice Mayor Mick Denham to serve as mayor until next year’s election — he is not running to retain his seat — and Councilmember Holly Smith as vice mayor. In March, the two recent appointees’ seats will be on the ballot, plus Denham’s seat.

Prior to Muench’s appointment, the council shared its thoughts and recommendations.

Councilmember Richard Johnson explained that one applicant’s name stuck out for him as he has worked with the individual previously. He added that the person understands government operations, has worked with massive budgets and has worked the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PHOTO PROVIDED The Sanibel City Council with its two, newly-seated interim appointees.

He suggested that the council consider John Henshaw for the appointment.

Smith reiterated her position that the appointee should be an applicant not planning to run for a permanent seat in March, which will allow voters to make the choice and not give any applicant an advantage. She noted that a majority of the applicants plan to run, and Henshaw is one of them.

“I do believe the interim seat should be an interim seat,” Smith said.

She floated Muench’s name for the appointment.

Councilmember Chauncey Goss voiced agreement with Smith. At last month’s meeting, he was appointed 3-1 to fill the first open seat under the same premise that it would be an interim position.

PHOTO PROVIDED Vice Mayor Mick Denham is sworn in as mayor.

Goss explained that in addition to picking an applicant who has no intention to run in March, the appointee should have experience on and knowledge about the council. He also suggested Muench.

Denham echoed the sentiment of Smith and Goss and recommended Muench as well.

“I’m looking forward to a very spirited process,” he said of the coming election.

A motion to appoint Muench to the vacant seat passed, with Johnson dissenting.

Upon taking the oath of office and being sworn in, Muench joined the rest of council on the dais.

The council next turned its attention to picking a mayor and vice mayor.

Smith nominated Denham to serve as mayor.

The motion passed in a 5-0 vote.

Denham opened the discussion on the vice mayor nomination by explaining that he believed the council made a wise decision on appointing Goss and Muench as interim placeholders and that the same should be applied to nominating a vice mayor. He suggested considering Goss for the role.

Muench agreed, adding that he would not know who to choose between Smith and Johnson.

“They’ve both worked so hard. I believe I’m in the same boat,” he said, adding that both will continue to serve the city after March and that hopefully they will be selected to serve in the leadership roles.

“So my choice would be Chauncey,” Muench said.

Smith shared that she had hoped Johnson or herself would be nominated.

“But I will respect your decision moving forward,” she added.

Denham responded that it would have been “a very difficult decision to make” to choose between Johnson and herself, so he felt it was in the best interest and harmony of the council to offer up Goss.

“It was a surprise, but I respect your decision,” Smith said, adding that she also will support Goss.

Johnson explained he was the minority on the council appointment vote and he would be the minority on this also. He put forward Smith’s name for consideration, noting that the role is an interim one.

“Holly, it was fully my intention to nominate you as vice mayor and I’m going to stand behind that,” Johnson said.

Goss reported that if Smith intended to vote for herself then she was going to have three votes total because he would join Johnson in supporting her — instead of himself — to serve as vice mayor.

With the growing support for Smith, Denham and Muench added their votes to the tally.

“Holly, I’m changing my mind with Richard’s talk,” Muench said.

“I would be happy to be considered,” Smith said of serving as vice mayor.

“I did not come into this looking for that position,” she added.

The council voted 5-0 for Smith to serve as vice mayor.

IN OTHER NEWS

– The council voted 5-0 to approve an ordinance amending the Sanibel Code that prohibits the consumption of alcohol or possession of an open alcoholic container at any city-operated beaches and associated parking or picnic areas with paid public parking — Bowman’s Beach, Blind Pass, Gulfside City Park/Algiers, Lighthouse Beach and the Trost parking lot — as well as the beach area at the northern terminus of Bailey Road and Dixie Beach Boulevard and the Sanibel Boat Ramp picnic areas, by groups of 10 or more individuals without a special events permit issued by the city.

– The council voted 5-0 to approve a pilot program from Jan. 4 through April 4 that that establishes a $20 fee for general parking or boat ramp use at the public facility, at 888 Sextant Drive, Sanibel.

– The council voted 4-0 to direct staff to bring back in January a proposal that increases the cost of beach parking permits for non-residents to: $400 for “B” stickers and $500 for “B/C” and “C” stickers.

– Receiving a request from the Island Seniors to delay the January reopening of the Center 4 Life by one month, council directed staff to provide an update at its January meeting before it decides anything.

– The council voted 4-0 to allow adult pick-up softball to resume at the Sanibel Recreation Center.

– The council voted 3-0 to extend the entertainment license for the Tipsy Turtle Restaurant, at 1223 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, for six months. Once the six months is over, it will undergo a review.

– The council approved its goals for the year, including financial sustainability and community development, as well as approved its legislative action agenda for the March-April session and the city’s legislative goals, which includes requesting $750,000 for phase 4 of the sewer expansion.

– The council voted 3-0 to: extend the terms of two Sanibel Planning Commission members, Michael Hullihan and Paul Nichols, through Jan. 19; and open applications for those seats and a third seat, recently vacated by Chuck Ketteman when he resigned, through noon on Jan. 4. The council will make appointments at its January meeting to the three seats.

– The council voted 5-0 to permit Denham to work with city staff on a friendly pro-mask message to be displayed on an electronic billboard placed at the foot of the Sanibel Causeway for arriving motorists.

– Community Services Director Keith Williams reported that the city secured grant funding in the amount of $712,500 for the new backup generator proposed with the Donax WWRF Process Improvements project. In addition, the project has been delayed about 108 days from the original completion date of March 1 due to a basin issue; the new tentative completion date is June 16.

– The council presented a proclamation to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the museum’s establishment.