Robyn Still, left, and Lynny Del Gaizo are the two finalists for Marathon’s open city council seat, to be decided on Jan. 31. CONTRIBUTED.

The next Marathon City Council member was nearly decided by a coin toss at the Jan. 24 meeting. Instead, the seated council members narrowed a field of 14 applicants to two nominees, then voted to continue deliberations at a second special meeting next week.

The open council seat was created in the wake of former councilman Trevor Wofsey’s resignation following a domestic violence arrest earlier this month. Wofsey’s replacement must be appointed by the four remaining seated council members.

In the words of City Attorney Steve Williams, Marathon’s city charter is “glaringly vacant” in outlining procedures for a special appointment such as this one, stating only that the appointed person must be legally qualified to hold the office and chosen by a majority vote of the seated council members.

“We are going to resolve that in a resolution coming forward,” said Marathon City Manager George Garrett. “It will be based on what comes out of this meeting.”

After voting to reject the application of Kevin Macaulay, whose paperwork was received after the noon deadline on Jan. 19, the seated council members heard short addresses from the eight applicants in attendance before nominating up to two individuals each. After the first round of nominations, only four names remained in consideration: Wendy Bonilla, Jeff Pinkus, Jody “Lynny Thompson” Del Gaizo and Robyn Still.

Moving on to vote on each nominee individually in the hopes of appointing one of the finalists by majority rule, the field of four was quickly narrowed to two, as only Del Gaizo and Still received affirmative votes in the ensuing round, each in a split 2-2 decision.

Speaking to the council, Del Gaizo, a real estate agent with Key Colony Beach Realty, stated her case after her third place finish in the two-seat 2021 city council election. “I grew up here, and I’ve been here over 50 years,” she said. “I did put my hat in the ring last June. I was new. I learned a lot along the way. My heart and soul is in our community and the people that live here. I don’t want to see everyone leave because they feel like they’re pushed out…My question is, ‘Why not me?’”

“To me, this is very simple,” said councilman Dan Zieg, who voted in favor of Del Gaizo along with Luis Gonzalez. “There is only a single applicant who campaigned and was rated number three by nearly 700 voters. I do not believe we can tell nearly 700 people that their votes don’t matter…I think to disenfranchise the voters is a very bad message.”

“Throughout the last several weeks, I’ve heard several quotes that have stuck,” said Gonzalez. “One of them is, your selection shouldn’t be based on giving someone an edge. To me, an edge is earned by commitment and performance, and you the citizens will determine both of those categories when whoever we decide to appoint runs for re-election in November.”

Still, one of the owners of The Tackle Box in Marathon, touted her experience in public service and law enforcement as well as involvement in multiple community organizations as she addressed the seated members. “Through my 22-year career in law enforcement, I have extensive experience in creating and implementing public policy,” said Still. “I originally planned on running for city council in the last election, but I decided not to run because I first wanted to educate myself on city issues and needs. I am informed, I am open minded, and as a professional woman I think I would bring diversity.”

Showing support for Still, councilman Steve Cook gave his own interpretation of the will of Marathon’s voters. “I was one of the people who voted for (Del Gaizo in 2021), but in this case it seems that wasn’t enough to win,” said Cook. “The will of the election seemed to go with both stability and a new candidate. While I really like the idea of putting someone in that knows the job, if we’re going to talk about the will of the voters, the voters wanted someone absolutely new.”

Marathon Mayor John Bartus also lent his support to Still. “The charter that we worked so hard to get passed gave the provision of the city council to choose in case there was a vacancy,” he said. “The last election is something a lot of people are talking about, but I think the council has the responsibility to choose who they think is the best person for the job, and I believe that is Ms. Still.”

Through three additional rounds of voting, including a short recess, the votes remained deadlocked at 2-2, with Bartus and Cook in favor of Still and Zieg and Gonzalez in favor of Del Gaizo.

Hearing that his fellow councilmen’s votes were “entrenched,” Bartus asked Williams if the council could legally decide the appointment by a coin flip or other chance event.

 “Lawfully, I would be okay with it if both candidates consent to that process. If it is the will of at least three of you to do it that way, there’s nothing against it,” said Williams.

The idea of a coin flip met opposition from Del Gaizo, as well as a 2-2 split vote from the council, with Bartus and Cook in favor.

“I’m sorry you guys are in this position, but I think it’s kind of embarrassing for all of us and the local community to do a coin toss,” said Del Gaizo. 

“I trust your judgment,” said Still. “We’re going to leave our decision up to you.”

The council elected to continue discussion of Del Gaizo and Still in a second special call meeting on Monday, Jan. 31 at noon. The meeting is open to the public.

The seated council members will have until Feb. 4 to select Wofsey’s replacement. The appointed member will serve until the November 2022 city council election.

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.