Charter amendments, not candidates, highlight Super Tuesday ballots

By Nick Blank
Posted 4/3/19

CLAY COUNTY – This year’s Super Tuesday election will feature nine charter amendments for two municipalities and seven officials with uncontested elections automatically taking city council …

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Charter amendments, not candidates, highlight Super Tuesday ballots

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – This year’s Super Tuesday election will feature nine charter amendments for two municipalities and seven officials with uncontested elections automatically taking city council seats.

Residents of Green Cove Springs and Keystone Heights can head to the polls at their respective city halls next Tuesday from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

In Orange Park, Town Council Member Connie Thomas will retain her position, and U.S. Navy Veteran Randy Anderson will replace term-limited Mayor Gary Meeks. In Keystone Heights, Marion Kelly will enter her second three-year term without opposition, and former Mayor Tony Brown will replace Steve Brown on the council. Steve Brown announced he wouldn’t run for a second term because of work and family commitments.

The mayor and two council members remain in office in Green Cove Springs. Mayor Connie Butler and Council Member Steven Kelley will enter their second terms, while Van Royal will begin his final term.

Clay County Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless said there were two ways to look at the lack of candidates.

“If citizens feel that their representation is doing a good job, then of course they would like to keep them in office,” Chambless said. “On the contrary, there is a lot of effort that goes into it whether you're a city council member or a county commissioner. With little free time in this day and age to commit to that is a rather large ask.”

Last year’s Super Tuesday election drew 1,040 of 7,275 registered voters for a single race in Orange Park and Keystone Heights.

Chambless said it was unfortunate candidates and issues were what drove voter participation. He said it was a mistake to only vote during a presidential election.

“Apathy is a serious problem in America. The message I continue to preach is that the effort on our end is the same regardless of the type of election,” Chambless said. “Whether one person shows up or 100 people show up, the effort is the same because that’s what the process demands.”

Local government has the most direct impact on residents, Chambless said, and these charter amendment changes should interest all the residents in the municipalities.

Two Keystone Heights amendments concern council vacancies, one amendment changes an election formality and Charter Amendment No. 4 would rebrand the Keystone Airpark as the Keystone Heights Airport.

Charter Amendment No. 1, if passed, would require appointees to that city council must meet residency requirements if a vacancy occurs, which is living one year within city limits. Charter Amendment No. 3 is tied to council vacancies would allow the temporary transfer of duties to the vice mayor if the mayor’s seat was vacant until the next general election.

Charter Amendment No. 2 would allow voters to file absentee ballots at the Supervisor of Elections office in Green Cove Springs, where votes are counted. The potential change would give city staff flexibility Keystone Heights City Attorney Rich Komando said at a previous meeting.

Green Cove Springs’ Charter Review Committee forwarded five amendments that the city council unanimously approved for the ballot in November.

Charter Amendment No. 1 would acknowledge and tighten state and federal nondiscrimination laws in the charter.

To increase efficiency of city staff, Charter Amendment No. 2 would propose to increase the Green Cove Springs’ city manager’s spending authority from $15,000 to $25,000. The council is not removing the requirement that money spent must be a budgeted item.

Charter Amendment No. 3 would define the scope of city manager’s emergency powers and spending for specific situations such as operational disasters, public health and safety disasters. It stipulates the city council would review emergency expenses, “within a reasonable time thereafter.”

The city clerk is appointed by council members. Charter Amendment No. 4 would see the city manager conduct the city clerk’s annual review instead of the city council.

And Charter Amendment No. 5 would delete the requirement that the city attorney live or maintain an office within Green Cove Springs’ city limits.

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