Orange Park, FL

Orange Park Town Council sets date to fill vacant council member seat

Julie Morgan

The four-member Orange Park Town Council took less than 20 minutes at Tuesday night’s meeting to discuss how and when the next member of the panel would be appointed.

Just last month, Eddie Henley resigned from Seat 1 and the vice mayor position. Henley cited racism as the reason for his resignation. He said he received intimidation and hate emails after he spoke out about being passed over for mayor in May. Henley would’ve made history as the first Black mayor of Orange Park. Randy Anderson was reelected.

The council agreed to make the appointment at the next meeting on July 19. The deadline for Orange Park residents to apply for the seat is Friday, July 8. If you’re interested, email council members.

After all applications have been submitted, there will be a meet-and-greet in council chambers on July 13. The gathering creates an opportunity for the public to get to know the candidates. The meet-and-greet is scheduled for 6 p. m.

Each council member agreed that the public should have input on the process.

Initially, Councilman John Hauber suggested a special council meeting so residents could ask questions. “I think the majority of the questions need to come from the residents.”

Councilman Alan Watt agreed that they should include the community, but he said based on his experience, the council should have “rigorous control” over the questions that are asked. He remembers the process being an “embarrassment” twice before. “We had questions from the public that were inappropriate,” said Watt.

Mayor Randy Anderson stressed the importance of a deadline and having someone “in the seat” as soon as possible.

A vice mayor was supposed to be elected and sworn-in Tuesday night. However, Anderson pulled it from the agenda.

Before the meeting, at least two candidates had shown interest in Henley’s former seat. One of those residents is S. Winnette Sandlin. Earlier this year, Sandlin ran against Councilwoman Susana Thompson for her seat. Currently, Sandlin serves on the Planning & Zoning board.

During the meeting, Frank Ricketts also mentioned his interest. Ricketts also serves on the Planning & Zoning board.

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