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Although this year she won’t follow her husband whose photograph appears on the wall of the St Augustine Beach City Hall along with the City’s other mayors, Undine Pawlowski George was appointed to the next highest seat on the 2016 City Commission.
George ran against Beach Mayor Andrea Samuels in 2008 and lost, returning to run for and win the race for Seat 3 in 2010 against Hester Longstreet. Public speakers took three-minute turns to make their case as to why they felt Commissioner George has been treated unfairly since she has never been appointed mayor during the five years she has held office.
“It’s not about whose turn it is or who’s next in line,” Commissioner England said. “I haven’t been mayor, but I couldn’t accept because of my schedule.”
Vice Mayor Richard O’Brien was nominated and seconded. Commissioner George nominated herself, calling supportive public comments a “nomination from the floor”.
O’Brien won the mayoral appointment on a 3-to-2 split vote. When Mayor Samuels, who chaired the remainder of tonight’s meeting, called for nominations for Vice Mayor, George was appointed and confirmed on a unanimous voice-vote for the 2016 term.
Community activist Ed Slavin spoke to the commissioners pointing out the influence of members of the St Augustine Beach Civic Association, including Samuels, who has served two consecutive terms as mayor and not allowed to serve a third term by charter. According to Slavin, the Civic Association, a non-profit 501c4 charitable organization, has misused its tax-exempt status by engaging in political activities at the Beach commission and otherwise. Slavin cited a $500.00 campaign contribution in the name of the Civic Association, paid in support of the recent referendum to increase St Johns County’s sales tax to 6.5%.
Commissioner George’s mother, who said she is in the process of moving from Bethesda Maryland to live in St Augustine Beach, said “shame on you” referring to the commissioners who have refused to acknowledge her daughter’s contribution to the City. Ed George, the commissioner’s husband and former mayor, said he served on the charter committee that authored the method used to appoint the mayor and vice mayor. “If I had it to do over,” George remarked, “I would have pushed for the way the City of St Augustine does it and let the voters choose the mayor.”
George pointed out that his wife won re-election last year, unopposed, after her first 4-years in office. In her 2010 win over Longstreet, Undine Pawlowski George pulled 1,529 votes — 62.33% of the votes cast in her race, which is more votes that either he or his opponent, Gary Snodgrass, received (1,228 and 1,230 respectively).
“She could have easily defeated any of you on the commission today,” Ed George remarked. “If it were up to the voters and not three of you, she would already be mayor.”
In an e-mail communication sent by George’s office earlier today before the meeting, she said that she will continue to “happily serve our community for the next three years of my term — as mayor, vice mayor or as commissioner.”