The Westlake City Council held a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 30 to approve the final reading and adoption of an ordinance changing the date and qualifying period for the community’s first municipal election after finding that the dates listed in the city’s charter do not coordinate with the dates approved by the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office.
The new qualifying dates are from Tuesday, Dec. 31 through noon on Tuesday, Jan. 14. The old dates set out in the charter were noon on the last Tuesday in January to noon on the second Tuesday in February.
Many municipalities have late qualifying dates listed in their charters but have pulled them back in recent years by ordinance. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link informed municipalities that more time is needed to prepare ballots. Other area municipalities cut off qualifying in mid-December.
Westlake will hold its first municipal election on Tuesday, March 31, concurrently with the runoff date set for the county’s March 17 municipal elections. If a runoff is required after the Westlake election, it will be held on Tuesday, April 14 or Tuesday, April 21, depending on the availability of the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office to conduct the vote.
Due to Florida’s presidential preference primary on Tuesday, March 17, Link told county municipalities earlier this year that March 10 municipal elections will not be feasible. She asked that they move elections to the date of the primary instead.
The council learned of the disparity at its Dec. 9 meeting, further discovering that the election would need to be postponed due to clerical errors and charter issues. By that point, it was too late to meet the qualifying deadline for the March 17 vote.
Instead, the council decided to hold two special meetings on Dec. 16 and Dec. 30 to enact an ordinance changing the dates. When a presidential primary occurs in future years, Westlake will set a concurrent election date and qualifying period by separate ordinance.
Confusion over the qualifying dates for the Westlake election was compounded by the sudden departure of the member of city staff who was responsible for elections, according to City Attorney Pam Booker. The new municipal clerk, Zoie Burgess, told the Town-Crier on Monday that she would be available to help candidates through the qualifying process.
Two seats will be open during this year’s Westlake election, those held currently by councilmen Phillip Everett and John Stanavitch, who were both appointed by developer Minto to sit on the Westlake’s transitional council.
According to the charter, council candidates must have maintained Westlake residency for one year in order to qualify for the election. Everett has lived in the city for a year but told the Town-Crier that he has not decided whether to run for election. Stanavitch is not a Westlake resident.
The council approved the ordinance changing the qualifying and election dates by a 3-0 vote with Everett and Councilwoman Kara Crump absent.