The seat for District 2’s County Commissioner, left, remains empty six months into the vacancy. [ Screenshot from BOCC live stream ]
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Six months into vacancy, District 2 County Commissioner still not appointed

Now more than six months into its vacancy, Billy Traylor’s seat on the Gulf County Board of County Commissioners sits empty as county officials and constituents wait to see if and when Governor Ron DeSantis will appoint someone to represent District 2.

The seat, which was won by Traylor in November of 2022, was never officially filled after the election, as Traylor passed away following a battle with brain cancer and was unable to officially assume office.

The vacancy became the topic of several minutes of discussion at the county commissioners’ May 23 meeting.

“As time has passed, we have an empty seat over here in District 2, and I used to have maybe one person a day ask me why it’s not filled, and now I can’t go anywhere. It’s 10 times a day,” said Commissioner David Rich to the room of county officials, staff and citizens.

Then, he addressed the county administrator.

“I just need you to issue an official statement and another request to the governor to fill this seat over here.”

County Administrator Michael Hammond then addressed the public, explaining the process behind having the seat filled.

“It’s not like a city where it’s chartered and the board can appoint their own members in some situations like this,” said Hammond. “Only the governor can appoint this seat, and he doesn’t have to.”

“There are, from what I hear, like 1,000 vacancies from school board trustees to ARPC members, and appointments are not high on his priority (list). The governor’s office needs to get on the ball or at least make the announcement that they’re not going to fill the seat.”

An exact timeline for this process is unclear at this time, and DeSantis has been known to take several months to make appointments.

It took the governor about a year to fill the vacancy left by the August, 2021 death of Levy County Commissioner Mike Joyner.

But DeSantis took only about two months to fill the vacancy on the Miami Dade County Board of County Commissioners and about one month to make appointments to the Lee County and Gadsden County boards last year.

The appointee, if selected, will serve until the next election cycle in 2024.

The governor’s office began accepting applications for appointments to the position in the weeks following Traylor’s death. The Star received reports that several applications have been submitted.

In the meantime, county officials said, extra effort must continue to be paid to District 2 and its residents to ensure their interests are still taken into account, even without direct representation.

“The four of us will represent them in anyway we can in the meantime. We’ll take calls. We’ll take care of whatever they need,” Rich said, gesturing to the other commissioners at the front of the room.

Hammond described some of the county’s efforts to maintain normal spending and maintenance efforts in the district.

“The staff has been spending (Traylor’s) parks money on his parks, so we’re keeping up all of those things, but technically we haven’t been doing it with any authority,” he said. “We’re splitting up the work crew time, we’re splitting up the park money, all 

But despite these efforts, officials expressed that they hoped to see an appointment to the seat made sooner rather than later.

“The public still has a need for it, and they’re clamoring for some representation,” said County Attorney Jeremy Novak. “… after six months, we definitely need that participation and representation for that district.”

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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