By Steve Plunkett
A second unscheduled opening on the Gulf Stream Town Commission may allow the remaining members to add youth as well as experience to the dais.
Fred Devitt III sold his North Ocean Boulevard home and resigned his seat July 18, just five days after being selected as vice mayor.
On July 13 commissioners split 2-2 over how to fill the vacancy created by longtime Mayor William Koch Jr.’s recent death. Devitt and Garrett Dering supported Bob Ganger, chairman of the Architectural Review and Planning Board for three-plus years. Muriel “Mert” Anderson and acting Mayor Joan Orthwein wanted 35-year-old Tom Stanley, a lawyer who joined the architectural board as an alternate last fall.
The Town Hall received 10 letters of support for Stanley and four for Ganger. Stanley supporters included Joel Strawn, who is both Stanley’s cousin and the late mayor’s lawyer and friend.
“This town has gotten much younger,” Orthwein said. “The young people have made their statement in these letters, and I’m trying to listen.”
“On reading the letters from people who are younger, it really became clear to me that this is one part the commission is lacking,” Anderson said.
Devitt and Dering thought otherwise.
“I do feel that it’s important for this commission to respect the time and the effort that people have put in on committees below this level such as the architectural review commission,” Devitt said.
“I think experience makes a lot of difference,” Dering said.
While the letters backed Stanley, people in the audience were mostly behind Ganger.
“I am not speaking here as a member of the aging community or the old guard, but … I think at this juncture in our history it would be appropriate to give the nod to Bob,” resident Tom Murphy said.
“Bob is unbelievably involved in what goes on in this town, and he’s got the pulse of the people,” said Danny Brannon, consulting engineer for Gulf Stream’s underground utilities project. “I don’t think you could do better than Bob.”
Commissioners voted 3-1 with Devitt dissenting to defer the selection to their Aug. 10 meeting and asked that a letter be sent to residents notifying them of the open seat. Then they named Orthwein mayor and Devitt vice mayor.
Orthwein, Anderson and Devitt favored Dering over Ganger for an empty seat last October, saying Dering, who lives in a Ballantrae condominium, would better represent the newly annexed area. Ganger also is a nine-term president of the Gulf Stream Civic Association and president of the Florida Coalition for Preservation. Devitt was a town commissioner for 15 years. His departure follows former Commissioner Chris Wheeler’s, who sold his house in Hidden Harbour in October. Anderson has her Place Au Soleil home listed for sale.