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Interest in running for higher office has long been a bar used by voters to gauge whether to support candidates in elections. A question often asked of candidates is, “will you serve out your term or leave when a ‘better opportunity’ comes along?”
On Friday, May 20th, Coral Gables Commissioner Jorge L. Fors, Jr. tendered his resignation, deciding to leave the constituents who elected him to serve out a full term on the Coral Gables City Commission, in order to run for Miami-Dade County Commissioner for district 6.
Fors officially filed his irrevocable resignation with Coral Gables City Clerk Billy Urquia, as is required by Florida Statutes on May 20th, however the resignation is not effective yet. He will hold his seat for an additional five months, providing an effective date of November 22nd. (Click here to see a copy of Fors’ resignation letter).
Filling The Vacancy
Although the City Charter specifies that the remaining four members of the Commission should appoint a replacement to serve the vacant term through the next municipal election, a Commission vote to replace one of its members could be a very difficult decision. Any candidate selected by the Commission would bring disagreement from many in the community. The appointment would be for a period of five months.
Fors’ effective date ties the hands of the remaining four Commissioners even further. In recent days, discussion had been that some on the Commission were interested in considering the possibility of a special election to fill the vacancy created by Fors’ resignation. This special election would come at a large cost to the City, unless it were held during a current election, such as the August 23rd primary election or the November 1st general election. A November 22nd resignation means the Commission cannot begin to act on filling the vacancy until November 22nd at the earliest, three weeks after the general election.
Fors’ term is set to expire at the swearing in of the newly elected Commission on April 14, 2023, following the Coral Gables municipal election or April 28, 2023, if there is a runoff.
However, there may be a way for the Commission to work around this. In 2017, the Commission decided to place the vacancy created when Jeannett Slesnick decided to resign from the Commission to run for Mayor up for a vote. They took action shortly after Slesnick filed her paperwork, allowing for enough time to accept candidate packets by the Clerk.
Past Commission Resignations
Fors becomes the sixth City of Coral Gables Commissioner in its 97 year history to resign his office. He is only the second to do so in the last 80 years.
The first two resignations took place less than a month apart in November and December of 1926, when Telfair Knight and Charles F. Baldwin resigned on November 10th and December 3rd respectively. Knight resigned to allow for residents to have a second vote on the five member Commission, providing for a 3/5 control by the Coral Gables Corporation, which he explained in his resignation should hold three seats as it represented 3/5 of the City’s tax base. Baldwin resigned over deteriorating health and growing business commitments.
On September 8, 1930, H. Rogers Jones became the third to resign, followed by Andrew T. Healy on March 3, 1942, when he accepted a position as Assistant County Solicitor.
The most recent one was Jeannett Slesnick who resigned in April of 2017 to run for Coral Gables Mayor. An election she lost to Raul Valdes-Fauli.
The replacements of each of the first three Commissioners were non-controversial and took place rather quickly. The letters of resignation of their predecessors were accepted and the Commission immediately appointed their replacements.
However, Healy’s replacement in 1942 was somewhat controversial. His resignation came just a few months after he had been elected Commissioner. In his resignation, he suggested a potential replacement. The Coral Gables Country Club had backed a slate of candidates in the 1941 election. Healy was one of these. His suggested replacement was also a member of the Club. His colleague on the dais, Commissioner Mayes, advocated for Healy’s suggested replacement, but the Commission would decide on a different resident to serve out the remainder of Healy’s term.
It will be up to the remaining four members of the Commission what direction they take with the 158 day Fors vacancy.