Wednesday morning, Monroe County’s Board of County Commissioners ushered in a new era of leadership as David Rice was sworn into office, and Heather Carruthers was unanimously selected as the new mayor of Monroe County.
The meeting began with a declaration of affection and some ribbing of outgoing County Commissioner Mario DiGennaro.
“It’s been very entertaining and it was fun watching you and Mayor Murphy spar from time to time,” said Commissioner George Neugent.
While some of the comments were reserved for how much excitement DiGennaro brought to the commission, the consensus was that his devotion to Monroe County is infallible.
Commissioner Kim Wigington said, “You have given new perspective to the commission, and I have seen you truly and genuinely care about the constituents you serve.”
Fellow board member Heather Carruthers echoed her sentiments.
“Even though we don’t always agree, it has always been clear to me that you really do care and bring 100 percent of yourself to this job. And we really do appreciate what you have given us. We will also miss your wisecracks.”
The outgoing commissioner then lavished praise upon the county staff and singled out County Attorney Suzanne Hutton and Administrator Roman Gastesi.
“I want to give you my evaluation publicly,” DiGennaro said to the administrator. “And I give you a triple ‘A’. You have really helped this county and put us on the right track.”
DiGennaro then moved onto his fellow commissioners and how much he admired the work Wigington puts into research on county issues. He told Neugent he appreciated the times they worked together on items and called Carruthers “my sweetheart,” and suggested her qualifications would serve her well at a higher office in Tallahassee.
“It’s been fun,” he said to Mayor Murphy. “I love you. At times I have hated you, but I really do love you.” With the crowd in a jovial mood, DiGennaro offered one more taste of his gruff humor as he smiled at Murphy. “Sometimes I have wanted to strangle you…slowly.”
His final farewell was reserved for the residents of Monroe County.
“You have one of the greatest commissions that you could have throughout the state,” DiGennaro said. “They work hard and are dedicated. I am going to stand out of the way because I know your county is in good hands. You have a new commissioner coming in, and he is going to slide right in. It has been a real pleasure. It has been an honor to serve you all.”
His replacement, David Rice was then joined in front of the dais with his wife, Mary and George Neugent, who was administered his fourth oath of office as his wife, Suzie looked on.
As the new commission took their seats on the commission, Heather Carruthers was quickly nominated to serve as Mayor by Sylvia Murphy and elected unanimously.
Murphy then nominated Wigington to serve as Mayor Pro Tem (Vice Mayor), but she respectfully declined.
“I appreciate the nomination, but once again I am going to very respectfully decline. There is a person who was just sworn in that has a great deal of seniority, but was passed over in a game of keep-away,” she said just before nominating Rice for the position.
Heather Carruthers was the unanimous choice to serve as the next Mayor of Monroe County.
On Wednesday, Monroe County Clerk Danny Kohlage swears George Neugent (right) and David Rice into office. Rice returns to office after a four year absence and Neugent is entering his fourth term. Also pictured, the commissioners wives: Mary Rice (left) and Suzie Neugent.