In mid-August the Chamber’s After Hours mixer presented at the Marathon Community Theater served as the unofficial kick-off for the Marathon City Council election. The qualifying period has just ended and a political newcomer had placed his name on the ballot.
Although a 24-year Marathon resident and businessman, Mark Senmartin’s resume did not include the traditional, unofficial council requirements such as board appointments and political connections.
He joined incumbent Vice Mayor Richard Keating who is running for a third consecutive term and Pete Worthington – a former Mayor and the longest tenured councilman in the history of Marathon.
Keating’s four years in public office have been highlighted by the completion of the $100 million wastewater system, the launch of two major resorts, municipal beautification efforts and the recent dedication of a new fire station on Grassy Key.
Worthington, less than year removed from his last term on the Marathon Council, can also take credit for many of those accomplishments. He voted in favor of those issues during his six consecutive years on the dais.
Over the past few months the political scene of Marathon has seen many “firsts” including the resignation of two sitting council members from the election canvassing board for publically supporting candidates; Ginger Snead on the side of Keating and Worthington and Dick Ramsay with Mark Senmartin.
This past week the campaign took another unexpected turn when former county attorney and Key West resident Jimmy Hendricks was identified by the State Attorney’s Office as the individual who “facilitated the mailing” of campaign literature that reproduced Senmartin’s code violation for illegal lot clearing.
The report follows a paper trail that begins at Gemini Printing in Marathon and includes a statement by Hendricks, a convicted felon who once facilitated the bribing of former county mayor Jack London, calling Senmartin “a bad guy.”
Senmartin has no criminal record and says he never met Hendricks.
These story lines have done nothing but steer Marathon’s electoral process away from the real campaign issues.
So, The Weekly took this final chance to ask each candidate two questions:
- Why should we vote for you?
- Once elected, what will be your priority during this term and how will your accomplish it?
With nearly nine years of council experience, Worthington says his institutional knowledge and political connections set him apart from the other candidates. “Bringing personal experience and relationships is critical to getting things accomplished,” Worthington said, adding that he has forged many personal and professional relationships with federal and state officials during the years he worked on advisory boards and as a city councilman. He cited sewer grant money and the construction of city hall as his priorities, but added that his first action will be to push for an interlocal agreement with the State Attorney’s office in order to properly enforce the city charter. He said far too often Marathon councilmembers circumvent the city manager instead of conducting city business through proper channels.
Senmartin said his accession to council candidate stemmed from the simple premise that the residents of Marathon should be represented by people like them – “the guy who works at Publix, the hairdresser” — and believes he is the candidate who best personifies that ideal.
A small businessman and the father of two young sons, Senmartin says his top priority will be to increase residents’ awareness and participation in local government.
“I want people to get fired up,” but adding, “and getting fired up does not have to be a negative thing.”
One way in which he is going to encourage greater participation is to appoint new faces to the council’s advisory boards and encourage other councilmembers to do the same.
“Everyone has ideas,” he said. “There is no reason why people should be excluded from bringing ideas.”
“I have been able to work with everyone on the council and get things accomplished during the worst economic times of my life,” Keating said in reference to his accomplishments on the council.
Since the beginning of his campaign, he has pledged that his third term would “stay the course” while citing municipal achievements (see above) and his ability to continue building consensus with other councilmembers to reach common goals.
“The key is to have a consistent policy coming out of city hall,” he said, further explaining that local government should be responsive, so that it does not hinder the progress of private business.
Job creation and economic stimulus are Keating’s top priorities for his third term. He said we can achieve through incentives for small businesses and by retaining a city manager that has proven that he “can control costs of running city hall even though property values have decreased.”
The staff at the Weekly Newspapers congratulates the candidates on their decision to seek public office and we hope all Marathon residents choose a candidate who best represents their interests. The campaign, although interesting, may surely leave a sour taste in the mouths of many voters. We at the Weekly can only hope the next campaign is performed with a bit more decorum and that the council and city staff continue to build on the foundations that have made Marathon one of the most progressive and hardworking municipalities in all of Florida.