Zephyrhills doesn’t waste time when it comes to elections.
Last Monday, less than a week after the election, Alan Knight was installed as the new city councilman following his victory over one-time council president Jodi Wilkeson. And there isn’t even time for Knight to catch his breath.
Moments after the swearing in, Knight was asked to consider two board appointments, donating vehicles to a local college, who should build a new skate park, and, according to the agenda, decide the fate of City Manager Jim Drumm.
Being a council member is not as easy as some make it look, and there’s a steep learning curve that Knight, a former high school principal and football coach, will have to endure, Wilkeson said after the election.
“I know that he’ll do a fine job,” she said. “But there’s still so much to learn once he gets up there.”
Wilkeson was first elected to the council in 2008, and described her loss last week as disappointing.
“I worked as hard as I could, and I can’t imagine another thing I could’ve done to garner more votes,” she said. “I do think I was hurt a little bit by Mr. Knight’s name recognition. He’s impacted the lives of just a tremendous amount of people.”
Yet, it’s the Drumm situation that may be affected the most from the election. Wilkeson essentially delayed the council’s attempt to remove Drumm from the city manager position last month by asking for a third legal opinion on whether the council can do that without a supermajority.
Her perceived support of the embattled city manager may have cost her votes as well, Wilkeson conceded.
“I just feel that it’s imperative that we treat him fairly,” she said. “He didn’t make any really egregious missteps, and he helped get us out of a million-dollar deficit. He had exactly the skills we needed at the time.”
Drumm “did a fine job,” Wilkeson said, but is a bit introverted, which may have worked against him in terms of relationships.
As for Wilkeson’s political future, she’s not sure what might happen next, but she isn’t ruling anything out.
“I never say never,” Wilkeson said. “If a group of concerned citizens came to me and said they wanted me to run again and they would support me, I would consider it. I enjoy being involved in the community and bringing my training and education to the table for the benefit of the city. But I don’t have any aspirations right now.”
Incoming St. Leo commissioner says there’s no interest to dissolve town
Ray Davis says the rumor mill in St. Leo has it all wrong.
Although he’s the third Lake Jovita resident to be elected to the small town’s commission — ousting longtime commissioner Donna DeWitt — he’s focused on making sure his neighborhood is no longer a part of St. Leo, one way or the other. However, Davis says he has no intention of dissolving the Town of St. Leo itself to make that happen.
Yet, how he can help de-annexation along as a commissioner is unclear. The town attorney has cited past legal opinions she says forbids St. Leo from de-annexing the small portion of the Lake Jovita subdivision inside its town limits. Any area that can be annexed by a municipality, based typically on population, cannot be de-annexed, according to the state attorney general’s interpretation of the law.
Because of that, the decision to allow Lake Jovita to de-annex lies with the legislature, in a bill introduced last March by state Rep. Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey. It passed its final committee on Friday, and should soon be heading to the House floor.
“They call me ‘Plan B,’” Davis said following the election. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
Davis did not want to speculate on what would happen if the state didn’t open the door for de-annexation. When asked if he would vote to dissolve the town itself in that instance, Davis was non-committal.
“I think it’s wise not to make a statement based on speculation, and I don’t think that’s the smart thing to do,” Davis said.
DeWitt, who expects to get her job back when Lake Jovita is de-annexed and three positions suddenly open on the commission, prays there’s a town to come back to.
“Hopefully, they won’t do anything drastic until they can get de-annexed out of the town,” she said.
Many projects have been put on hold while the Lake Jovita issue has remained hot in recent months, including a request by the Iafrates family to annex 179 acres of land on St. Leo’s south side. Although it’s not directly related to the Lake Jovita issue, commissioners decided to delay that prospect until the de-annexation question is resolved.
Despite the legal opinion, Davis maintains the commission still has the power to vote a de-annexation. The only reason why it didn’t happen before, he said, was because Lake Jovita didn’t have a majority on the commission until this past election.
DeWitt’s support of the de-annexation did not become known until after he had filed to run, Davis added.
“We didn’t know that, and we had only heard that through hearsay,” he said. “Now we’re just waiting to see what happens.”
Published April 16, 2014