Recent years of rancorous debate and narrowly split votes seemed like ancient history Monday night after newly elected Mayor Steve Leary and Commissioner Greg Seidel took their oaths of office.
The five commission members discussed each agenda item in the mostly routine meeting with congenial deference to each other. They laughed often. They agreed more than they disagreed. As they felt out their group’s new dynamics, commissioners seemed determined to start off on a positive note.
By evening’s end, for example, they all agreed that any improvements in the city’s street lights should take into account the city’s overall appearance as well as the cost.
There were few hints, however, of how the group might vote on more contentious issues. Indeed, perhaps the most pointed political message of the night came from Father Richard Walsh of St. Margaret Mary Church, who gave the invocation. He exhorted commissioners to have the “courage to not be controlled by special interest groups,” and to limit any bias to concern “for struggling people in our midst.”
In his brief comments, Seidel, the former chairman of the city’s utility advisory board, acknowledged his freshman status on the commission. “I’m the new person up here and I’m looking forward to it.”
Before the ceremonies started, Leary acknowledged the limitations of being the city’s mayor. Asked what goal he wanted to accomplish first, he noted that “there’s nothing I can do as one commissioner anyway.”
As Winter Park’s representative at ceremonies, document signings and communications with other governing bodies, the mayor is perhaps the best known commission member. But Winter Park’s governing document – its charter – spells out that the mayor is “a voting member of the commission” whose powers are mostly limited to presiding over meetings and makes appointments to city boards with the full commission’s approval.
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