BRADENTON BEACH – Ralph Cole is back on the City Commission.
Cole, who lost his Ward 3 reelection bid to Randy White in November, was appointed to the commission by a 3-1 vote during a special commission meeting Wednesday night.
Cole will serve the remaining 11 months of the commissioner’s term vacated by John Chappie, who was recently elected mayor.
Commissioner Marilyn Maro nominated Cole. Chappie and Commissioner Jake Spooner supported her nomination. Participating in his first commission meeting, White nominated Planning and Zoning Board member James Lynch and voted for him.
Cole and Lynch were the only applicants considered. Bill Vincent recently rescinded his application and no last-minute candidates expressed interest Wednesday night.
Cole was sworn in Thursday, Dec. 7, and will participate in the commission’s regular meeting that night.
Before the nominations were made, White questioned whether the appointment could be made that night because the voter-approved charter amendment that eliminated the city commission wards has not yet been finalized by ordinance.
The elimination of the wards made Cole eligible to apply for appointment. Had the wards not been eliminated, the appointee would have had to have come from the city’s southernmost commission ward where Lynch and Vincent live.
Chappie and City Attorney Ricinda Perry told White the appointment could take place that night. Perry referenced the commission’s previous approval of a resolution presented in September by the lawyer for the Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach’s. Perry said the 20-page resolution that contained the charter amendment ballot language also stated the approved amendments must be enacted as soon as the elections results were certified.
During public comment, Jim Hassett referenced the elections and said, “The public just got done telling us we want change. I would like to ask to you continue thinking about change and elect Mr. Lynch.”
Former planning board member John Metz praised Lynch and suggested Cole should not be appointed because 55 percent of city voters voted against him in his race with White.
Tonya Cole, no relation, expressed support for Cole. She cited his emphasis on family and his willingness to assist constituents.
When addressing the commission, Cole stated his desire to continue the work he’s been part of for the past two years. This includes his duties as chair of the Community Redevelopment Agency. The Agency has approximately $1.3 million at its disposal for the continued improvement and redevelopment of the city’s waterfront CRA district.
Lynch cited his experience as a military attorney, law instructor, ombudsman for the elderly and planning board member. He said these qualities could help the city find win-win solutions.
When nominating Cole, Maro cited his experience, his emphasis on families and she said he was the only city official to check on her after Hurricane Irma.
Commissioner Jake Spooner countered Metz’s argument by noting that 169 city voters voted for Cole to represent them.
Chappie mentioned Cole’s experience and his penchant for research. When expressing his respect for Lynch, Chappie stressed the need for Lynch’s experience and continued service on the six-member planning board that has four new members.
When it became apparent that Cole was going to be appointed, audience member Patty Shay got up and walked out of the meeting, followed by Metz and several others.