ST. PETE BEACH — The sudden resignation of City Commissioner Marvin Shavlan, effective Jan. 15, has left the city scrambling to fill his seat for the few weeks leading up to the March municipal elections.
The city charter requires the vacancy be filled before the election.
That could happen on Jan. 14 following a special meeting when the commission plans to interview candidates for an interim appointment to the District 3 seat vacated by Shavlan.
According to the charter, the appointee would serve only until voters pick a permanent commissioner on March 11.
Shavlan resigned last week. He recently sold his house and will be moving to a rental home in Redington Shores after the closing on Jan. 16.
He and his wife and their cats were unable to find a suitable home to buy or even rent in his district in St. Pete Beach, but will be looking for a home to buy or build in St. Pete Beach during the next year.
"I would have run for a third term if I could have found a place," Shavlan said, adding that he would like to serve again on the commission once he returns to the city.
City Manager Mike Bonfield is asking for any residents interested in being appointed to Shavlan's seat to apply to the city clerk by submitting a letter of interest and any supporting documents no later than Jan. 10.
The only eligibility requirement is the applicant must have lived in the district for at least a year.
And although the charter does not prohibit already qualified election candidates from being considered for the interim appointment, most commission members say such a choice would be inappropriate.
The candidates agree.
"It would not be the right thing to do, so I would respectfully decline any nomination," said Gregory Premer, one of the two whose names will appear on the March ballot.
"If they have to appoint someone, it should be caretaker," said James Anderson, who is also running in the District 3 race. "To appoint myself or my opponent would give an unfair advantage."
As of noon Friday, no interim appointment applications had been submitted to the clerk, but former Mayor Ward Friszolowski, an architect who is now chairman of the city planning board, said he plans to submit his name for consideration on Monday.
Friszolowski has served in either elective office or as an appointed board member in St. Pete Beach for the past 22 years, beginning on the Aesthetic and Historic Review Board in 1992. He was elected to the commission in 1994 and then as mayor in 2000, a post he filled for eight years.
After he retired from elective office, Friszolowski was appointed to the library board in 2008 and then to the planning board in 2010.
"It is unfortunate that Marvin (Shavlan) must resign, but I am interested and believe I am in a good position to help the city," Friszolowski said.
If selected, he would have to resign from the planning board even though he would be serving only for a few weeks.
He and any other candidates for the interim position will be interviewed by the commission at 5 p.m. Jan. 14, just before the commission's regularly scheduled 6 p.m. meeting.
Shavlan strongly hopes the commission will not select either Anderson or Premer for the interim post.
"A lot of people could misinterpret such an action. They should absolutely not do it. My first choice is someone who has served on commission before," Shavlan said.
Mayor Steve McFarlin also said he is looking for an experienced candidate.
"I want to make sure it is somebody that has been involved in the city and is aware of where we are right now," he said.
Both Vice Mayor Lorraine Huhn and Commissioner Melinda Pletcher agreed picking one of the election candidates would give an "unfair advantage."
Commissioner Jim Parent could not be reached for comment.