After nearly three hours of public interviews, a determined St. Augustine Beach city commission chose a new commissioner and restored its ranks to five.
City Attorney Jim Wilson swore in Beach restaurant owner Donald Samora on Monday night after commissioners questioned each of the 14 candidates who applied to fill the seat vacated by Commissioner Gary Snodgrass last month.
Snodgrass resigned Nov. 6, citing a growing workload he could no longer handle.
It was unclear whether commissioners could get through all the questions and public comments in one evening as the meeting started and commissioner and vice mayor, Undine George, suggested that commissioners develop a “short list” of perhaps five candidates and then take time to review qualifications and develop more extensive written questions to be asked at a later date.
“I’d say it is a tall task to say we are going to pick one at one meeting,” she said, characterizing the decision ahead of them as “grave.”
Mayor Rich O’Brien agreed that the decision for an interim commissioner would be “the most important thing that we tackle this year,” but saw no reason to delay further.
“I think we are fully capable of making this decision tonight and move on,” he said.
The first round of votes saw six candidates selected from among the 14 as commissioners cast votes for their top five picks.
James Kaye, Roberta Odom and Samora all received three votes each. Patricia Gill, Dylan Rumrell and Ernesto Torres each received two votes.
The second round of voting eliminated Gill and Torres, with Odom and Samora each getting three votes a second time.
Commissioners took those top two vote-getters, asked a few additional questions, and voted in Samora.
An owner of the Beachcomber restaurant on A Street and district sales manager for Alpine, a division of Illinois Tool Works Inc., Samora will serve the rest of Snodgrass’ term, which will expire Dec. 31, 2018.
After Samora took the dais, the commission voted for George and Commissioner Margaret England to serve as the city’s mayor and vice mayor, respectively.
They will be sworn in at the commission’s January meeting and serve for the duration of 2018.
The following is a summary of candidates, based on their letters of interest and resumes provided to the city:
• Rose Bailey was a vice president and regional loan manager over three states for PNC Bank. After retiring, she worked as a mortgage broker and processor.
• David Bradfield’s background includes real estate and development, and he has served on the planning and zoning board.
• Patricia Gill, a city resident for more than 20 years, has served on the beach planning and code enforcement boards. She’s also worked in higher education, holding both teaching and administrative positions.
• Jeffrey Holleran, a beach planning board member, has created and led several local businesses.
• James Kaye has about 40 years’ experience as a family physician and was the medical examiner of Ocean County, New Jersey. He’s lived in St. Augustine Beach for nine years.
• Kevin Kincaid, who came to St. Augustine Beach after retirement, worked from 1979 until his retirement in 2008 for the fire department in Fairfax County, Virginia, in both firefighting and administrative positions. He also has experience as a medical escort.
• Patricia Wittman Kreis has lived in the city since 2012. She works for Dell Technologies and has worked in technology for more than 30 years.
• Michael Longstreet, a former beach commissioner, has lived in the city for 23 years. He has also served on the city’s beautification advisory committee.
• Roberta Odom, a realtor, serves on St. Augustine Beach’s planning board.
• Tom Reynolds, a stay-at-home dad of two sons, bills himself in his letter as a “government watcher.” His most recent employment includes commercial pickup and delivery driver, though he’s had experience in other industries.
• Dylan Rumrell is the owner of two businesses: Ancient City Brewing and Southern Cross Consulting Company.
• Donald Samora, a beach resident since 2010, is a business owner.
• Ernesto Torres, who has served in the military for about 30 years, is on the city’s Code Enforcement Board.
• Kay Watkins is a Navy veteran and former hospital laboratory scientist. She retired in 2016 from the Naval Hospital Jacksonville as an off-shift supervisor.