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After Resignations, Milton City Council To Fill Open Seats

City of Milton

At Tuesday’s regular meeting, the Milton City Council will appoint two new members to fill recently vacated seats in Wards 3 and 4.  The previous office-holders resigned unexpectedly last month, within days of each other, citing a hostile work environment.

“I didn’t see it coming. I was surprised and disappointed,” said Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay, giving her take on the resignations.

“I appreciate so much what Sharon Holley and George Jordan brought to the council. They both have a lot of experience. They think through issues and study before they take a position. So, I felt they were giving a really strong effort to serve the public.”

Both Holley and Jordan were elected to their council seats in 2018. Although sorry to see them go, Mayor Lindsay says she respects their need to make choices that are best for them. But, she acknowledged that with the pandemic, including heated debate and rejection of a mask mandate and other major issues, it’s been a very difficult year, underscored by numerous disagreements among councilmembers.

“And, what I started to see was essentially a negative attitude towards Sharon Holley, for example. And, I was accused of being biased in her favor,” said Mayor Lindsay.

“There were some difficult conversations in council about how everyone was interacting with each other. So, I can understand why both George and Sharon would have concerns about the environment at our meetings.”

There was more disagreement at their Executive Meeting April 5, when Councilman Jeff Snow objected to Mayor Lindsay’s decision to give former Councilmember Jordan unlimited time as an “Invited Speaker” to further explain his resignation.

“I’m going to make a motion that we move him to ‘Persons to Appear,’” offered Snow.

If approved, this motion before a vote to approve the agenda, would have limited Jordan’s remarks to three minutes.

“It’s just up to the council Mayor, that’s all. If they approve of it, fine; if not, then we’ll listen.”

With Snow’s motion dying for lack of second, Jordan was allowed to speak for more than 23 minutes, using part of his time to respond to remarks by Snow in recent media interviews.

“Mr. Snow claimed that Ms. Holley and I blocked everything that’s been good for the city, even the splash pad,” said Jordan. “He (Snow) said, ‘They stood in the way of progress for years.’ Note, it takes a majority of council votes to block any item. One or two individuals can’t do that on their own.”

Credit City of Milton
George Jordan and Sharon Holley

In explaining his resignation, Jordan expressed concerns about the direction of the city in terms of transparency, honesty and accountability and he added that hostilities faced since his election to the Ward 3 seat became too much to deal with.

“No one should allow themselves to be mentally abused in such a hostile environment,” he said. “For their physical and mental health, they should exit the situation as soon as possible.”

Snow did not respond to Jordan’s comments during the meeting.

Despite the negative experiences cited by Jordan and Holley during their tenures on the City Council, it was not enough to discourage the seven individuals who applied to fill their seats on short notice.

Two men, Robert Leek and Henry Martin, whose military job and service brought them to Milton, are in the running Ward 3 Seat vacated by Jordan.

From various backgrounds, four women: Brenda Davis, Deborah Fowler, Jasline Franklin and Shari Sebastiao are joining Kristopher Long in seeking to replace Holley in Ward 4.

“Considering that we had so many applications, I thought it was exciting. We were able to listen to their presentations and I thought everyone did a great job,” said Mayor Lindsay.

“I’m still studying all the paperwork that we were given. I think it’s going to be a hard choice, probably, for a lot of councilmembers on Tuesday.”

In terms of the experience, qualities and characteristics sought in the applicants, Lindsay said she’s hopeful for a member who will be prepared, yet open to other ideas.

“I really am hopeful for a member who will try to study every issue, listen to all sides of an issue and listen to everybody who has a point of view about it before they come to any conclusions,” she declared.

Having been on the receiving end of personal attacks over her proposed mask mandate, the Mayor is also hopeful that the new appointees will recognize that it’s OK to disagree. 

Credit Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media
WUWF Public Media
WUWF archive photo of Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay.

“Well, I would love to see more civility,” she proclaimed. “I have, three times in the last few years, asked council to approve parliamentary procedures or rules of civility and I have been rejected each time. Perhaps the new members will find it an important thing to consider and I can bring those rules up again. We need to treat each other with dignity and respect.”

The Mayor and Council plan to ask questions of the applicants, establish a ranking, and then select the top-ranked appointees to fill the vacant seats at their next meeting, Tuesday, starting at 5:45 p.m. The new members will be sworn in and get right to work. The agenda includes an update on the city’s controversial new wastewater treatment facility.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.