ISLAMORADA COUNCIL CHOOSES PETER BACHELER AS NEXT MAYOR

Discussion over who would be Islamorada’s next village mayor saw community members voicing support for Councilman Henry Rosenthal inside the Founders Park Community Center on Dec. 16. Council members, however, elected to elevate the village’s vice mayor to the dais’ center seat. 

With a 5-0 vote, Councilman Pete Bacheler took the gavel. Rosenthal was unanimously elected as Islamorada’s vice mayor. 

Then-Mayor Buddy Pinder kicked off the meeting by moving to make the longtime resident and former businessman in Rosenthal the next mayor. Rosenthal ended up seconding that motion, but not enough votes were secured, with Councilmen David Webb, Mark Gregg and Bacheler saying “no.”

Before the vote, several community members took the podium and the microphone on Zoom to support Rosenthal for mayor. Former councilwoman Cheryl Meads said Rosenthal isn’t new to Islamorada, and that he’s the “people’s choice.”

“Back when everyone was raw and didn’t know what to do and act, Henry was just Henry,” she said. “He took everybody’s phone call and called everybody back. He’s always focused on Islamorada.”

Resident Chuck Tittle told the dais that Rosenthal, a former president of Leadership Monroe and board member of the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center, is the guy who “gets things done.” Tittle alluded to Rosenthal’s efforts to discontinue the multimillion-dollar pedestrian bridge near Founders Park earlier in the year. 

“He’s a proven leader,” he said. 

New Planning Director Dan Gulizio speaks to council members on a resolution regarding BPAS allocations for 2022. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

Webb said he’s respectful and appreciative of all the accolades among those on the dais. Barring an unforeseen circumstance, he said it was the expectation that the council member in the vice mayor position would be the next mayor. Councilman Gregg agreed. 

“For me, the deciding factor is to go with tradition. Pete has served dutifully in that regard,” Gregg said. 

Rosenthal said he doesn’t need notoriety from the mayorship. But he told fellow council members that there are many items on his plate that he’d like to bring to fruition in the coming year. 

“If the mayorship provides me with a little bit of an edge, then that’s what I’m looking for,” he said. 

Overall, Rosenthal said he was happy to see community involvement in the process. He credited the public participation to the atmosphere the dais created. Bacheler thanked the community for participating.

“The result may have been a  little bit different, but nonetheless, the residents got to do and say what they wanted to do and say,” he said. “I want to continue in that vein with that activity.”

A brief recess saw Pinder and Bacheler swapping seats and new tags placed for the mayor and vice mayor. The council followed up by recognizing Village Clerk Kelly Toth, known as the “council mom,” for her many years of service. Toth retired as village clerk on Dec. 21, as she heads to Tennessee to begin a new chapter. 

She first came to the village as a human resource clerk in 2004. Leaving for Texas to spend time with family for a couple years, she came back to Islamorada to join the finance department in 2009. Toth’s been with the village ever since.

The village clerk is a key position entrusted with important responsibilities. Toth took on the duties of the position seven years ago and excelled in every way, Pinder said. 

Newly-chosen Islamorada Mayor Pete Bacheler speaks to new Vice Mayor Henry Rosenthal following 5-0 votes that named them to the positions. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

“She’s been keeping village council members organized, I’m going to say in line, maintaining the village’s public records, providing info to the public and so much more. Kelly really is irreplaceable and she will truly be missed,” he said. 

Toth said it was a pleasure working for the village. She said she and her husband, Geo, have been planning the move since early 2020 with a job opportunity that she couldn’t pass up. 

“I’ve enjoyed working with the public. I’ve enjoyed all the people I’ve worked with. I enjoyed taking care of the council,” she said. “I kind of look at my job as a council mom, making sure everybody has what they need, the information that they need and go where they need to go. I truly enjoyed that.”

Village Manager Greg Oravec worked with Toth for five-and-a-half months. One of his first weekends, he went to village hall and noticed people working away. One of them was Toth.

“I think she was doing (meeting) minutes. In the short term I worked with her, I recognized her as being extraordinary for a number of reasons. What I like to call special attention to is her customer service and the way she deals with her customers, which are citizens and public, but also council and staff. It’s a department that faces outwards and is the first line,” he said. 

Council members proceeded to tackle an agenda that included a noise ordinance, which would have permitted lawful construction activity and lawn maintenance at set hours during weekdays, weekends and holidays. Webb, who brought forth the topic at a July meeting, asked to table the ordinance in lieu of residents expressing concern over general noise nuisances from events. The tabling came after a resident spoke about the Beach Road Trip Weekend event, dubbed the world’s “Biggest Caribbean Music Festival” on Windley Key Nov. 26-28, which brought all sorts of traffic, noise and chaos. The dais agreed to table to allow staff review and inclusion of other noise issues. 

A resolution was also approved to set the building permit allocation system (BPAS) distribution for 2022. Code requires the village establish the amount of non-residential floor area and dwelling units that may be made available in the next annual BPAS allocation. In total, there are seven affordable housing allocations available for distribution in 2022. This includes six affordable housing allocations and one rolled over from 2021. 

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Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family (he's expecting a little boy in October).