The Thursday meeting of the Key Colony Beach City Commission will carry more than a little extra weight, as the commission may choose to appoint its fifth member from a pool of at least seven residents who have applied for the honor.
Following the sudden resignation of Mayor Patti Trefry last month, a majority vote of the remaining four commissioners – Mayor Pro Tem Beth Ramsay-Vickrey, Secretary/Treasurer Tom Harding and Commissioners Freddie Foster and Joey Raspe – is needed to fill the fifth seat on the dais. Selection of the city’s new mayor, vice mayor and secretary/treasurer would then occur at the commission’s organizational meeting in December.
If the four cannot reach a consensus, the Nov. 16 agenda packet states, candidates must qualify between Dec. 4 at 12 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 12 p.m. for a special election conducted in tandem with Florida’s presidential primary on March 19, 2024.
“In reviewing the applications, I see we have a strong candidate who has the community knowledge, involvement, support and the city experience necessary to fill this vacancy,” Ramsay-Vickrey said in a statement to the Weekly on Tuesday. “The electorates will decide three seats in November, but the expensive costs involved to hold a special election in March are an unnecessary expenditure that is simply not in the best interest of our city. Therefore, it is my sincerest hope we reach consensus and seat our fifth commissioner on Thursday.”
Though the city set Nov. 9 as its self-imposed deadline for residents to submit applications to fill Trefry’s seat, the commission may consider additional applicants at the meeting on a case-by-case basis.
The seven current candidates include:
- Thomas DiFransico, a retired engineer and 11-year KCB resident with more than seven years of service with the city’s utility board, code enforcement and planning and zoning board. Touting more than 40 years of engineering, construction and management experience in his application, DiFransico said his “education and experience allow (him) to make fair and well-reasoned decisions” and that “understanding contracts and construction methodology will be useful for future projects.”
- Joseph Schmidt, a retired mechanical contractor and 22-year KCB resident with prior experience on the city’s utility board. A master plumber license holder in multiple states, Schmidt stated he will “bring sanity and return KCB back to ‘the gem of the Florida Keys.’” Pledging to “open ears that will hear the voices of citizens,” Schmidt also listed his “PhD in common sense.”
- Fred Swanson, a 16-year KCB resident and retired oil industry engineer. “I have spent hours and days familiarizing myself with what is and has been happening in KCB following Hurricane Irma through reviewing meeting minutes, financial records, budget and audit reports and talking to people,” Swanson wrote in his application. “I am not gregarious. I tend to listen more than speak. But I can promise you that I will work tirelessly to right this city.”
- John Dalton, a 37-year resident of KCB with experience as the chair of the city’s utility board and code enforcement. In his application, Dalton cited his experience as the president of his own corporation in Massachusetts as well as two years of work as an inspector for engineering firm Mittauer & Associates, Inc.
- Patricia Conkling Benton, an attorney and mediator who recently became a full-time KCB resident after 12 years of part-time residency. “I planned to run as a candidate next fall when several terms expired,” she wrote in a letter to commissioners in her application. “Although I have not yet lived in KCB year-round, I believe, given the current political climate, this is advantageous because I have not aligned myself with any one group and as such will approach decisions with objectivity.”
- Douglas Colonell, a builder and developer who purchased a home in Key Colony Beach in April 2020. Outlining 42 years of building construction, business management and experience in construction law through two development and commercial building companies, Colonell wrote in his application that “in addition to my commercial contracting experience and general business background, I have the skills necessary to be a valuable commission member.”
- Mario Di Gennaro, a 30-year KCB resident and former Monroe County commissioner from 2006-2010. In addition to submitting 10 letters of recommendation, ranging from Sheriff Rick Ramsay and current Monroe County Mayor Pro Tem Jim Scholl to several current and former state legislators, Di Gennaro outlined his role in the sinking of Key West’s Vandenberg wreck and expansion of the Key West airport. “My previous business and government experience and knowledge can be very beneficial to bringing our community together,” he wrote.
Thursday’s meeting is set for 9:30 a.m. at the Key Colony Inn, with the appointment votes set as the first item of business. Full application materials for all applicants, as well as online broadcast information, is available in the commission’s Nov. 16 agenda packet at keycolonybeach.net.