Orange Park Vice Mayor Eddie Henley spoke for more than 20 minutes at Tuesday night’s council meeting before handing in his resignation letter.
“I’ve been dealing with issues from some really faceless cowards in this town. One had the audacity to go through my trash a few weeks ago,” said Henley.
He said the intimidation and hate emails started well before last month’s mayoral vote, where he was passed over to become the first Black mayor of Orange Park.
Henley spoke about someone in the community lingering in his driveway. “I don’t know what their plan is, but I did talk with (Police) Chief (Gary) Goble. I did share with him that both me and my wife are abiding members of the Second Amendment. I will do everything I possibly can to protect myself and my family at all times.”
The former vice mayor said one issue that continues to come up is his residency. He says he’s been accused of not living in Orange Park, which would disqualify him from serving on the town council. This is a claim he has denied repeatedly, he said. “I still pay utilities for trash collections, so it would be very easy to confirm.”
In addition, Henley referred to the “infamous” May 17 mayoral vote, a story that gained media attention. Before the vote, he said he heard rumblings that he did not have the “intelligence capacity to preside over this town.”
The 3-2 vote to re-elect Mayor Randy Anderson included Councilman John Hauber, Anderson, and Councilwoman Susana Thompson. Thompson was the first to make the motion to re-elect Anderson. Councilman Alan Watt made the motion to elect Henley.
He countered the "intelligence" statement by outlining his education and experience. “I have five damn degrees, and the last one being a doctorate degree. I have 40 years plus of government service to these United States.”
After reading excerpts from a “novel of emails” and referring to a website that is a “secret society” of Orange Park, he ended his speech with a Hitler and Putin reference.
“It only takes one person to destroy a town or nation. We can look back in history and see what Adolf Hitler did to 8 million Jews. We can look at what Putin is doing with Ukraine. And I can see what this town is going through by those that are in power that lives on these streets that members of this council listen to and abide in their foolishness.”
Mayor Anderson asked him if he would reconsider, but Henley declined.
At the end of the meeting, each of the four remaining council members commented on Henley’s resignation.
“Some of the things that he read he should’ve never read because that should’ve never been sent,” said Anderson.
Thompson said, “I’m very saddened and very disappointed to know that those things happened to Vice Mayor Henley. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for him to put up with that. I want him to know that I feel for him and his family.”
Hauber denied that there’s racism among council members. “We don’t see color up here. We see everybody as a human.”
“I’ve been called all kinds of names. I’ve been accused of being dishonest and a crook. I have had my life threatened for sitting up here on this dais, but none of that compares to the venomous garbage that Eddie read,” said Watt.
The council will consider the process of selecting someone to fill the vacant seat at the next meeting.