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Amid Criticism, Tallahassee Commissioners Name 9 Finalists For Vacant Seat

Remaining members of the Tallahassee city commission will choose the person to replace Scott Maddox.

More than 90 people applied to serve on the Tallahassee City Commission and serve out the rest of former city commissioner Scott Maddox’s term. The list reads like a who’s-who of Tallahassee, including former commissioners, former candidates, business leaders, and lobbyists. Now, amid growing disconent about the process, the remaining commissioners have selected nine finalists.

The nine people the Tallahassee commission will consider are:

Applicants had until 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22 to submit their applications to the city. Commissioners had until noon today to pick three names each to forward to the City Treasurer. 
“Each time a name is received by a commissioner I’ll assign a point to it,” said Tallahassee Treasurer Jim Cook, who is overseeing the process. “So that shorter list will then be given to them and that’s the list they’ll work from on December 31st.”  

The list could have been as few as five or as many as 12, depending on the circumstances. The last time the commission filled a vacancy in a similar manner was 2009, when then-commissioner Alan Katz resigned to take a position in President Barack Obama’s administration. There were 75 applicants then. This time around, there are 93.

Cook says the city did not use a search firm because it already has a system in place for replacing commissioners. And he also says a part of the city charter which states if a vacancy occurs, the seat goes to the runner-up in the race isn’t valid, because of the way Maddox was removed from office—he was suspended by Governor Rick Scott.

In addition to formally applying to serve on the city commission, many candidates took their cases to the public and lobbied for the job through social and traditional media. But there has been backlash and criticism as well.

With the exception of stated rules—candidates must be 18 or older and residents of Tallahassee—there were no set of standards for applicants, and commissioners made their choices largely based upon personal preference. 

“A particularly poorly thought out way to pick a replacement #TLH city commissioner, chosen by the... survivors on city commission. Have a special election, not an election by four people. Unless it’s...by design, to satisfy the want for the same old same old. #FlaPol,” noted David Johnson, a Republican political consultant, in a tweet.

He’s not the only person critical of the process. Similar sentiments have also been expressed by others.

Still, the remaining commissioners are moving forward. Now that a "short list" has been published,  The commission will meet on New Year’s Eve to interview finalists, and make a selection.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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