Rev. Larry White, second from left, delivers remarks commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after receiving the Marathon City Council’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service proclamation. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

In the wake of councilman Trevor Wofsey’s resignation, the Marathon City Council discussed plans to appoint an interim council member and attended to the unforeseen resignation’s impact on potential changes to council term limits.

According to the city’s charter, the council has until Feb. 4 to choose a replacement for Wofsey, who resigned on Jan. 7 following a domestic battery arrest.

In an address to his fellow council members, councilman Steve Cook expressed concern that a nominee was seemingly pre-selected to fill Wofsey’s seat. Cook then urged the council to take time to consider the nominees in a special call meeting to avoid any public impressions of impropriety. 

“There is a difference between the coconut telegraph and violating Sunshine Law,” said Cook. Citing instances in which he had allegedly learned of several appointments or city hirings prior to official votes or confirmation, Cook said he was upset not by the selections themselves, but the manner in which he had learned of the predetermined proceedings.

“However we decide to do this selection process, I think we are obliged to follow the policies and procedures that we have set forth legally to install an official in the city and never have the citizens think that (these rules) don’t matter,” he said.

Councilman Luis Gonzalez also expressed concern regarding messages he received since news of the vacancy broke. “We are in an unfortunate situation, and we have to deal with this matter,” said Gonzalez. “No matter who we end up selecting, there will be folks who like that person and folks who don’t. I know that we are a much better community than what has been displayed to me this week, either by phone call, by email or by text.”

After a brief discussion, the council agreed to address the vacancy in a special call meeting on Monday, Jan. 24 at 12 p.m. at Marathon City Hall. Candidates who submit their names for consideration will be required to submit an application to fill the seat.

As the unexpected vacancy comes in the midst of a potential change to city council term limits, the council also voted to alter the proposed city charter amendment extending city council term lengths from three to four years. According to the city’s current charter, since the balance of Wofsey’s term is greater than 81 days, the council member appointed to fill Wofsey’s seat will serve until November 2022, when a total of four vacant council seats will be up for election. 

Intending to avoid such a large turnover in a single election in the future, City Attorney Steve Williams proposed changes in order to maintain election cycles in which only two or three of the five council seats would be available at any one time.

Under Williams’ changes, at the next regularly scheduled election, the person receiving the fewest number of votes but still winning one of the four vacant seats will serve a shorter term to preserve the 3-2 election cycles. If the charter amendment is approved by council, and subsequently by voters at the August 2022 primary election, the three highest vote-getters in the November 2022 general election would serve from 2022 to 2026, while the fourth highest would serve a two-year term – expiring in tandem with Gonzalez’s term in 2024. 

Williams’ proposed changes would allow for similarly altered elections following unexpected vacancies in the future.

As this was the first time such significant changes were added to the proposed amendment, the new ordinance will be heard again in its entirety at February’s regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

In Other News:

  • FWC Capt. David Dipre addressed the Council following recent complaints that local jet ski (PWC) companies are illegally operating in shallow areas and at high speeds close to shore. Dipre acknowledged that high turnover in most tour companies’ workforces may lead to some guides who are unaware of watercraft laws. Together with Williams, Dipre announced his intention to draft literature to better educate tour guides and other PWC operators so that they may later be held accountable for violations. Councilman Dan Zieg also suggested the installation of signs that “you simply cannot miss” in critical launch areas or other zones of concern.
  • Garrett announced that the city officially closed on the purchase of the old Seven Mile Marina and is in the process of working with K2M Design Inc. to develop a site plan for the property.
  • Code Compliance Director Ted Lozier delivered an update regarding the department’s continued efforts to curb compliance issues with vacation rentals, particularly regarding acceptable procedures for trash cans. Lozier noted that information will be sent to property owners and managers regarding these procedures, and new fliers will be attached to trash cans that remain out at the curb for too long after scheduled collections. He also noted that due to current collection schedules, several routes that are the subject of routine complaints only have one or two days per week when the entire route should be free of cans for scheduled pickups. The council stressed the importance of communicating with both property owners and managers in instances of non-compliance, while Gonzalez asked Lozier to strengthen the language used in the fliers. “I’d like to see the words ‘subject to citation’ removed. There will be no ‘subject.’ You’re going to receive a citation. And after three citations, you face the possibility of losing your license,” said Gonzalez.
  • Zieg asked Lozier for an update regarding the city’s progress in registering and inspecting local taxicabs, adding that background checks for drivers must be paired with safety inspections of their vehicles.
  • The council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city to pursue purchase of a portion of Boot Key running along the shore of the island’s interior canals to be used as conservation property.
  • City staff were directed to rework a resolution prohibiting trailers from being parked along the golf course side of Sombrero Boulevard and establishing designated areas for vehicle parking. Citing concerns about how the resolution could establish a precedent for other neighborhoods wanting similar treatment, the council elected to continue discussion of a reworked resolution at a later date, acknowledging that the problem had already been partially addressed by tagging unregistered and out of date vehicles and trailers along the street for eventual removal.
  • In its second public hearing, the council unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance restricting Marathon’s building certification and recertification process to include only multistory structures.
  • Parties interested in filling the vacant city council seat must submit an application found at the following link: Applications are due to the City Clerk Diane Clavier ([email protected]) no later than noon on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

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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.