ANNA MARIA — City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus has qualified to run in an election that could recall him from office.
The rare election will be held Sept. 7 if a judge decides later this month that the recall process has been followed properly.
If that happens, Stoltzfus will be running against local architect Gene Aubry, with the winner serving out the remainder of the commissioner’s term, which runs through the first Tuesday of November, 2011.
The unusual situation of a candidate running in an election to recall him is not without precedent. A commissioner in Naples was recalled a few years ago, and then was elected again by the voters to fill his own seat.
Aubry said he wants to use his experience “to help bring some common sense to the commission.”
“We need to follow our codes,” he said. “If a development is in compliance with the rules, then we have to pass it. If we don’t like the rules, then we need to write new ones. It’s that simple.”
Stoltzfus said he’s ready to fulfill his term of office.
“Regarding policy issues, I intend to keep on doing what I’ve been doing: ask the commission to closely examine our land development regulations and where ambiguity exists, change the language to align it with the obvious intent of the comprehensive plan."
Mayor Fran Barford announced earlier that she was not going to run for a third term.
Two candidates have stepped up to run for her position. Sandy Mattick, the former owner of Pine Avenue General Store, has qualified to run for the position. She currently serves on the planning and zoning board.
“I have a long history of government service,” Mattick said. “I have always been involved in the process. I believe I can make a difference in Anna Maria.”
Mattick, whose mother, JoAnn Mattick, has just been reelected to the commission, said she and her mother are independent thinkers and both make up their own minds.
Mike Selby also qualified as a candidate for mayor just before the deadline last Friday, July 30.
“It was literally an 11th-hour decision to run, because I was at a crossroad – either leave Anna Maria or become more involved because of my love for the city,” Selby said from North Carolina, where he was on Friday.
Elections Supervisor Bob Sweat said there is no problem with qualifying for election while out of town.
“As long as all the paperwork is complete and correct, a candidate can qualify for election,” Sweat said. “There’s no problem here.”
Both candidates say they have noticed changes in the city over the past year, and they are disturbed by the divisiveness in the community.
Both say they want to be part of the solution rather than a contributor to the problem concerning development on Pine Avenue.
The only thing that’s certain on the city’s political scene is that incumbent Commissioners JoAnn Mattick and Chuck Webb have been reelected. The terms of both are up in November, and neither commissioner drew any opposition, so they are automatically returned to office for two more years.
Both Mattick and Webb said they’re interested in having a part in helping the city resolve some of the on-going issues such as the controversy over parking and development on Pine Avenue.
That hard-fought issue of development and the parking that goes with it on Pine Avenue and in other parts of the city’s residential/office/retail district was intricately connected to the recall election.
When Pine Avenue Restoration made a public records request to Commissioner Stoltzfus, demanding copies of his electronic correspondence about city business, several e-mails became a problem for the sitting commissioner.
There are several communications in which he makes strongly negative remarks about city staff and consultants, and there are several instances in which he offered to help fund lawsuits against the city if his name could be kept from public view.
After the release of the electronic correspondence, a recall committee was formed. Bob Carter, a resident who had not previously been involved in politics, headed it.
That recall went through a first round during which the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters was obtained and then certified by Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat.
Then a second round of the petition, including a defensive statement by Stoltzfus, was circulated and the signatures of 19 percent of the registered voters were collected. The requirement for this second round was 15 percent.
The Supervisor of Elections certified those signatures as well.
Court ruling remains
The recall election may be scheduled, but whether or not it will take place is in the hands of Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas.
Richard Harrison, Stoltzfus’ attorney, has appealed to the court to quash the recall election on the grounds that the language in the petition was so vague that his client couldn’t mount an effective defense.
Nicholas denied an earlier appeal for an expedited hearing. He said there would be ample opportunity to challenge the petition if the second round of signatures were to be certified.
Nicholas will hear arguments on Aug. 12 beginning at 1 p.m. He’s set aside three and a half hours for the hearing.