Marathon turns 20, has an election, repairs the beach, tweaks pot law - A group of people posing for the camera - Florida Keys
Marathon’s first city council is sworn in on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2000 at the Marathon High School cafe-torium. Pictured from left: John Johnson, John Bartus, Randy Mearns, Bob Miller and Frank Greenman. Photo by the late Alan Fletcher.

It’s been a busy year at Marathon City Hall. With a stand-alone election (no other Keys municipalities were choosing new leaders), the race seemed magnified somehow. Plus, there were six candidates for three open seats. By August, incumbents Dan Zieg, Steve Cook and John Bartus had all thrown their hat in the ring, as did political newcomers Eugene Gilson, John Kissick and Adam Geaneas. All three of the incumbents were returned to office in early November. 

As expected, turnout was low — 29% of registered voters in Marathon cast ballots; that was compared to 76% who voted in the 2016 election that also featured the Trump-Clinton presidential race.

Mayor Cook said all the candidates and supporters were reaching out to one another on election day with bottles of water and snacks.

“What we need to do is get these guys plugged in,” Cook said, referring to the challengers. “We need to get them involved in city business and sitting on panels.”

Zieg has since nominated Gilson to the planning board. 

The city of Marathon spent a lot of time this year considering its flood zone, sea level rise and flood insurance rates. The new flood FEMA maps were released, although the implementation (rate hikes) have been delayed. In May, the City of Marathon decided to adopt 3 feet of “freeboard” above base flood elevation for new and redeveloped construction.

In other news: 

• In February, the council heard a presentation and agreed to back a permit application for an artificial reef (wreck) to be placed eventually in the Middle Keys. According to the representative, the process has stalled due to NOAA’s focus on the Restoration Blueprint.

• In June, the city also tweaked its ordinance allowing law enforcement to issue tickets for possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. It matches laws in other Keys cities, as well as counties, and clears up how the fines are to be paid, how to challenge the ticket, and the consequences of doing nothing.

• On Dec. 12, the city hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to reopen all of Sombrero Beach damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017. The city spent about $1.5 million to restore the park, and in some cases improve it. A low wall now surrounds the park that could help retain the sand in case of another storm.

• And last, but not least, the City of Marathon turned 20 this year. There was a five-page spread in the Keys Weekly detailing some important moments in history from the completion of our wastewater system to the passing of the “pig law.” The city threw a party at Marathon Community Park with fun, games, food and speechifying.  

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