At the June 18, 2018 Brooksville City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Kutney discussed assigning council members to one of the five committees designated by the Florida League of Cities for the upcoming annual conference. Council Member Joe Bernardini joked with Bill Kemmerer about taking a place with the finance/taxation committee next year, the committee currently assigned to Brooksville City Councilwoman Natalie Kahler. “We can talk about that next year,” Kemmerer said.
“You can have it now if you want it,” Kahler remarked. Kemmerer declined, but the comment didn’t seem to register with him. Kahler looked across to Kemmerer and stated, “No, Bill, I’m serious. I can’t go, so if you want to move to Finance, you can.” Kemmerer declined again, remarking that he is on the Withlacoochee Board also, and needs to focus on the water issues.
Kemmerer was chosen as the voting member for the Council, and Bernardini as the alternate. As the city council continued to discuss the various committees, Kahler stated again that she could not participate. When Kemmerer asked why, Kahler stated “Because I have to resign tonight.”
The announcement came as a surprise. “From City Council?” Kahler stated the “resign to run” law required it. Kahler is running for county commissioner district 4 and will face incumbent Jeff Holcomb in the Republican primary on Aug. 28. Also County commissioners are sworn in a few weeks prior to the City Council, which would create an overlap. Kahler could not hold two positions (if she won) at the same time. The resignation became effective June 20, 2018 so that Kahler could file the necessary paperwork.
This leaves a vacancy of Council Seat #5. With budget considerations, selecting the council member needs to be done quickly.
Florida’s Constitution and Florida Statutes provide a basic framework for filling a vacant City Council seat. Depending on the length of time before an election (more than 90 days but less than six months), the City Council can select a replacement. If the seat is vacant more than six months, a special election must be called.
Kahler’s vacancy falls inside the six-month guideline, which means the City Council has discretion in the method used to choose the next council member. City Manager Mark Kutney offered the suggestion from a previous vacant seat: letters of interest, received over a period of one week, would be presented to the remaining council members. They would then vote on Kahler’s replacement.
Kutney explained that in 2015 the City Council adopted a resolution to break a tie, but it was specific to the vacancy of Council seat #3. Kutney suggested adopting a new resolution to allow the same method to be used to break a tie for any open seat.
Vice Mayor Robert Battista agreed that the letters could be received and a vote taken at the July 16, 2018 meeting. The selected individual would be expected to become familiar with the published online agenda so that he or she could participate in the remainder of the meeting on that night.
With Kahler’s seat vacant, and Council Member Kemmerer absent, the Council voted 3-0 to amend the 2015 resolution so that it is applicable for all open council seats. They also voted 3-0 to advertise the open position with a submission deadline of July 13, 2018. The letters of interest will be delivered to council members before the close of business that day.