The City of Port St. Joe’s Board of City Commissioners will see the introduction of a fresh face and the return of a familiar face following the results of Tuesday’s municipal election.
Voters returned Mayor Rex Buzzett to office for another two year term and elected local businessman Steve Kerigan to fill the vacancy left by Group 2 Commissioner David Ashbrook, who did not seek reelection for the office.
The results of the election were certified by the city on Wednesday.
“I’m really proud of running a clean campaign, and I’m truly humbled and honored that the voters came out and voted the way they did. I was shocked that it was as decisive as it was,” Kerrigan said.
Kerigan, who will be entering his first term as a city commissioner, defeated Army veteran Alan “Al” Wetzstein with 68.68 percent of the vote.
He said he looks forward to getting into office, where he says he will work to create more commonality between the city and county governments.
“… I’m ready to get in there and roll up my sleeves and work to overcome the bridge between the city and the county. We have to come together as a community to fight and tackle the issue that are not just facing Port St. Joe, but all of Gulf County. We need to come together to do what’s best for our citizens, what’s best for our water, what’s best for our town, and I want to represent everyone.”
Wetzstein congratulated Kerigan on the win, referencing issues on which they hold similar opinions.
“I look forward to seeing what he’s going to do with the city,” Wetzstein said. “I think the shared priorities and goals of our campaigns are still solid, with opposing the LNG plant and affordable housing, and I hope he takes on those causes for the community.”
Buzzett, who will be entering his third term as the city’s mayor, had also served as a city commissioner for a decade before seeking the mayoral office.
Running for reelection this year, Buzzett said he planned to work on what he called “unfinished business — namely seeing through improvements to the city’s roadways and the construction of affordable housing and workforce housing options.
He defeated his challenger, Air Force veteran Amos Pittman Jr., with 61.2 percent of the vote.
Pittman stated that he was “extremely proud” of his campaign, “especially (running) for the first time around.” Pittman also commended the voter turnout of this year’s election, stating that he was “excited to see so many young people come out to vote.”
As this was the first contested election held in the city in three years, voters also had the opportunity to cast their votes on two referendum measures aimed at restructuring the terms of commissioners.
The first measure, which sought to lengthen the terms of commissioners from two to four years, was not approved by the voters, 56.01 percent of whom voted down the ordinance.
However, voters approved an ordinance that changes the municipal election dates to coincide with the nation’s general election dates in November.
This will change the city’s elections, currently held the second Tuesday in May, to the first Tuesday in November, which city officials hope will increase voter turnout for future elections.
Almost half of the city’s eligible voters turned out for this year’s election, 48.23 percent.
Of the 1,338 ballots counted, 175 were cast by mail and 714 were cast during the city’s early voting period from April 29 to May 6.
These election results have not yet been certified. The city will be holding a special meeting on Wednesday, May 10, to certify the election results.