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Who holds the gavel? St. Petersburg City Council elects new chairman

The chairman guides the council through meetings and generally speak last on issues.
Council member Ed Montanari, left, was elected St. Petersburg City Council chair for 2020. Council member Gina Driscoll was voted vice-chair. [Times (2019)]
Council member Ed Montanari, left, was elected St. Petersburg City Council chair for 2020. Council member Gina Driscoll was voted vice-chair. [Times (2019)]
Published Dec. 12, 2019
Updated Dec. 13, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — It may have been the quickest City Council discussion this year.

With hardly any chatter and no opposition, council members on Thursday unanimously voted current vice-chairman Ed Montanari the body’s new chairman for 2020.

Afterward, Montanari, who was running the meeting, saluted the winner: “Congratulations to myself," he said to a laugh from his colleagues.

Council member Gina Driscoll was elected vice-chairwoman.

The role of chair is largely honorary, though it is that member’s responsibility to guide the council through meetings. Generally, the chair speaks last on issues, which means he or she can have the final word.

The committee meeting was the first time council members-elect Robert Blackmon and Deborah Figgs-Sanders were on the dais. They took the place of outgoing members Charlie Gerdes and Steve Kornell, who are both term-limited. Gerdes, the current chairman, and Kornell did not participate in the discussion to elect next year’s council leadership. Blackmon and Figgs-Sanders will be sworn in next month.

Generally, council members elevate the previous year’s vice-chair, so it wasn’t surprising Montanari earned the promotion. It’s not always the case, though. Last year, Kornell was vice-chair, but council members elected Gerdes.

Montanari enters his fifth year on the council, having won re-election in November.

Driscoll also won the vice-chair position in short order, though not before another nomination. Council member Amy Foster turned down a nomination, paving the way for Driscoll.

Since council members most often promote the vice-chair, Driscoll is poised to become chair in 2021, when she will be up for re-election.

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