Question: Yes - 52, No - 14
By Tim O’Meilia
There’s a revolution on the Manalapan Town Commission.
The mayor and three commissioners are out. Three new commissioners and a familiar face as mayor are in. All without a shot being fired or a ballot being cast.
To be accurate, there’s something to vote on in Manalapan on March 12. Voters, what few who might go to the poll, will decide whether three terms in office (four, if you want to be mayor as well) are enough.
But voters won’t be choosing the three new faces and one current commissioner-as-mayor.
Pay close attention: Two commissioners are not seeking re-election. Neither is the mayor. Another commissioner signed up for the mayoral post, leaving his seat open. Three other candidates signed up for the three vacant seats. No one else was interested.
Maybe it was the four-hour meetings. Or the long-winded discussions over police protection at the Boynton Inlet or along the oceanfront. Or whether the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office should take over police protection in town. Or whether oceanfront residents (who pay more taxes) should be given more muscle in town affairs.
Maybe it was something else.
“Originally, I said I wanted to run for one term because I had already been on the commission for six years,” said retiring Mayor Basil Diamond, who was re-appointed to the commission in 2010 and ran successfully for mayor in 2011. “I’m a believer in having turnover to the extent that we have people to run.”
Manalapan had just enough.
Chauncey Johnstone replaces two-plus year Commissioner Donald Brennan as a representative of oceanfront residents. Six-year commissioner Tom Thornton replaces Bill Quigley as a Point Manalapan commissioner. Commissioner David Cheifetz decided against seeking his at-large seat in order to replace Diamond as mayor. Planning Commission member Peter Isaac stepped up to replace Cheifetz.
Brennan hinted that he might not seek re-election, noting that some oceanfront residents were discouraged over safety issues along the beachfront.
“My main focus is for everyone to realize that Manalapan point and Manalapan island affect one another,” said Johnstone, who lives in La Coquille Villas. His family owned a home on the point for several decades.
Johnstone said he would not have run if Brennan had decided to return. “About a month ago, several people asked me about running. I thought I might if Mr. Brennan did not run.”
Quigley, who served from 1999 to 2004, said he returned two years ago to help calm conflict on the commission. “We kept the Police Department local, stepped up patrols and I think we have an excellent staff,” he said.
He said he decided to leave the council because others were interested in running.
Thornton said he thinks he can lend experience to a commission with three members in their first term. “We had some pretty experienced people and now, all of a sudden, you have them leaving and all new people replacing them,” he said.
He said he is happy with the town administration. “Maybe we’ll all calm down,” he said of recent discussions about the town manager and police chief.
The new commission must deal with two major issues: seawall protection and a multimillion-dollar water distribution system upgrade.
“It’s not just our problem,” Diamond said of measures the town may consider to ensure that seawalls are reinforced and maintained. “It’s a nationwide issue all along the coast.”
Diamond said new faces bring fresh outlooks to town concerns, but finding interested residents is difficult.
“People don’t move to Manalapan to run for office,” he said with a laugh. “We try to encourage them to serve on ARCOM or the planning board and then to get on the Town Commission.” Ú