Jan Rodusky Takes Empty Seat On Royal Palm Council

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council appointed resident Jan Rodusky to a vacant seat on the council last week. Rodusky emerged as a compromise candidate after two previous selection rounds resulted in deadlocks.

Seat 4 was vacated by Fred Pinto upon his election as mayor. Rodusky, chief grants officer for the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County and a 20-year resident of the village, will fill out the final 11 months of Pinto’s term.

At the April 7 meeting, council members each voiced personal preferences for who they thought were the strongest candidates.

Village Manager Ray Liggins pointed out that the village charter and code of ordinances do not specifically address how to fill council vacancies. However, anticipating the vacancy, the council worked out a proposed system in February.

“I derived this process from that meeting and Robert’s Rules of Order, reviewing it with the attorney… and put it in writing here,” Liggins said.

The vacant council seat drew 11 applicants. Council members were able to interview the applicants individually before the meeting, and each member was able to vote for his or her choice on folders provided by the clerk.

“There’s three ballots there if we need them for all three rounds,” Liggins said. “If any of the council members care to discuss their preferences prior to casting the first ballot, they would need to make a motion and receive a second prior to such discussion.”

In the first round, council members selected one choice to fill the vacancy. In the second round, council members were required to select a first and a second choice, with the first choice receiving two points and the second choice receiving one.

In the third round, council members named three applicants in order of preference, with the first choice receiving three points, the second getting two and the third choice receiving one.

“The applicant with the most points becomes the appointee,” Liggins said. “After completing the process, [if] an appointee is not selected, the council will need to agree by majority vote on one applicant, or agree to leave the seat vacant.”

During public comment, several residents said they believed that former Councilman Richard Valuntas, who applied for the vacancy, should not be chosen because he had lost in the March election.

Councilman David Swift’s motion to discuss the candidates’ qualifications carried 4-0.

“I’d like to thank all of the candidates who submitted an application and participated in this process,” Swift said. “Most of our applicants are politically active in the village. They have attended council meetings, speaking their minds on important issues.”

Swift said his first preference would be Felicia Matula.

“She is a chief financial officer, an accounting professional for a major hotel making financial decisions for 22 national branch hotels. She has a master’s degree in accounting from Nova Southeastern University,” he said. “Felicia is well-known to many residents in the village. She is a community leader with Royal Palm Beach’s Relay for Life, she is a board member and coach for community softball, she is a member of the Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission. She has run for mayor twice and lost the second time by only 28 votes.”

His second choice was Larry Zabik.

“Larry is one of the founding partners of Zabik & Associates and has managed both large and small construction and renovation projects for the past 36 years,” Swift said. “He is former mayor and councilman of the Village of Royal Palm Beach, so I have had the pleasure of working with him. He has also served as assistant superintendent for the School District of Palm Beach County.”

Swift’s third choice was Rodusky.

“Even though she lives a few blocks away from me, we had not met before our interview. She was the best of all 11 candidates, and I was very impressed,” he said. “She has a wealth of knowledge about senior services, grant writing and has a lot of professional contacts throughout Palm Beach County that are essential to the village. If appointed, she would bring a fresh perspective to our council and would represent the village well.”

He added that Rodusky serves on the board of governors for Leadership Palm Beach County and has also served with the Area Agency on Aging. She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in public administration. Rodusky has also served on the village’s Recreation Advisory Board.

Smith said she had talked to all the candidates and based on their experience, Barbara Powell, a former member of the Planning & Zoning Commission and a certified planner, struck her as qualified.

“Just from her experience… I was impressed with her,” she said. “I was impressed with Jan Rodusky as well… I’m impressed with her skills and vision of what the village could look like. The other was Larry Zabik. I’ve never met Larry before, but he was somebody who impressed me as well. If I had to choose, it would be them in no particular order.”

Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara said they were fortunate to have so many exceptionally qualified citizens offering their time and effort to serve on the council.

“This is one of the opportunities to find out who’s actually out there,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to find out more about them. We have a lot of qualified people to choose from.”

Hmara said that he was looking for someone who would be able to contribute as soon as possible and participate in community activities, plus someone with leadership and decision-making abilities, as well as professional and educational background. His first choice was Valuntas.

“He is ready to become an instructive member of the council from day one for obvious reasons, having just been on the council,” Hmara said. “His leadership abilities are clearly reflected, I think, in his decision-making skills. One of the things I focused on was his logical thought process.”

Hmara’s second choice was Lynn Balch, chairman of the village’s Education Advisory Board.

“Mr. Balch is a dedicated and intense, yet mild-mannered, professional who cares deeply about the Village of Royal Palm Beach,” he said, pointing out that he and his wife had lived there for more than 30 years.

His third choice was Jackie Larson, a longtime member of the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Pinto said he had been impressed with Rodusky. “I didn’t realize that I had known her in prior years and the work that she had done for the cultural council,” he said. “She seemed like a very outstanding candidate.”

He said he also liked his conversation with Zabik, discussing the early days of the village, and with Larson. He also favored Valuntas.

“You can look at this as you really want,” Pinto said. “If you believe that because he was in the last election and lost, he should be omitted from being considered for appointment, if that’s the way you feel, I don’t think there’s anything we can say to make you change that. But what I want to point out is in that election, he got more votes than any other candidates who did not win.”

Pinto also liked Matula.

In the first-round balloting, Pinto and Hmara chose Valuntas. Swift voted for Matula, and Smith voted for Powell.

The vote on a motion by Hmara to appoint Valuntas deadlocked 2-2, with Smith and Swift opposed.

The second round resulted in Pinto voting for Valuntas as first choice and Balch second. Hmara also voted for Valuntas as first choice and Balch second. Swift voted for Zabik as first choice and Rodusky second. Smith also voted for Zabik first and Rodusky second.

The result was a tie for Valuntas and Zabik.

After the last round of balloting, Village Attorney Jennifer Ashton announced that they had a winner, Rodusky with six points. She was the only candidate to make the list of three council members.

Pinto had selected Balch first, Larson second and Rodusky third. Hmara picked Valuntas as first, Balch second and Larson third. Swift picked Zabik, Rodusky and Matula in that order. Smith picked Rodusky, Zabik and Powell.

In her application, Rodusky wrote that she would work with the council to accomplish the goals established in the Strategic Plan. She is particularly interested in working to achieve additional leisure choices and bring quality community events that are participatory in nature and rich in arts and culture. “In addition, I am concerned about our aging neighbors and will work to ensure that services are available to them,” Rodusky wrote.