The governor stole one of Key West’s Planning Board members — well, sort of.
Gov. Ron DeSantis in September 2019 appointed Key West resident Ed Russo to the state’s Board of Harbor Pilot Commissioners. The Florida Senate confirmed that appointment this month, meaning Russo must step down from the city board, to which City Commissioner Sam Kaufman had appointed him.
“According to (Russo), he was required by law to step down from the Planning Board if he wanted to accept the governor’s appointment to the state board,” Planning Board chair Sam Holland said on Feb. 17.
Each city commissioner and the mayor appoints a member to the Planning Board, and Kaufman is accepting applications for Russo’s replacement. Applicants must live within the city of Key West.
Kaufman told The Weekly he has received a number of qualified resumes from interested individuals. He will accept applications until noon on Friday, Feb. 28.
“Then I will interview the following week,” Kaufman said. “My goal is to appoint someone prior to the March Planning Board meeting with time for some orientation for the new member in advance of that meeting.”
Anyone interested in sitting on the city’s Planning Board should email a resume and letter detailing their interest to [email protected].
The city’s Planning Board hears a spectrum of important public planning issues, including new construction projects, extension renovations and projects that require variances, or exceptions, to the existing regulations.
“Depending on the nature of the activity or proposal, the Planning Board either serves in an advisory capacity, making recommendations to the City Commission, or makes final decisions that are subject to appeal either to the City Commission or the courts,” city spokeswoman Alyson Crean said.
Russo had been an active and outspoken member of the Planning Board, who occasionally lamented the advisory board’s limited authority to enact positive change that would help alleviate the city’s affordable housing shortage.
In his new role, Russo will join the state board that oversees harbor pilots and deputy harbor pilots for each of Florida’s ports.
All foreign-flag vessels and certain United States-flag vessels with a draft of seven feet or greater (cruise ships, container ships, tankers, etc.) are required to have a Florida licensed pilot onboard while maneuvering in Florida waters. Licensed pilots are required to also hold a U.S. Coast Guard license, according to state documents.
Russo’s term with the state board will end in October 2022.