ST. PETE BEACH – Commissioner Rick Falkenstein announced Dec. 11 he will resign at the end of December rather than wait until a new board member is seated after the March 12 election.
Falkenstein said he wanted to resign before his term was up to give the incoming commissioner a chance to help choose a replacement for City Manager Wayne Saunders, who plans to leave the city’s top administrative post sometime in March. He has told commissioners he could stay on a bit longer, if needed, to help smooth the transition.
Falkenstein was elected to the commission in March 2015. In 2014 Falkenstein, who is general manager of his family’s Hurricane Seafood Restaurant in Pass-A-Grille, was chosen to fill the District 2 seat vacated by former Commissioner Jim Parent.
During an earlier meeting, Falkenstein said he was sorry to leave the board but had to devote more time to his family.
“It was a tough decision, but so be it,” he said earlier.
The commissioner’s announcement leaves fellow commissioners with the task of filling his District 2 seat for the last three remaining months of his term.
Further complicating the issue, only one candidate filed to run for Falkenstein’s vacated seat, Doug Izzo, government affairs representative at the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce and member of the city’s Planning Board.
According to his LinkedIn résumé, Izzo has worked for the chamber for six years, six months and has served on the Planning Board for almost two years. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Eckerd College, with a double major in business and communications and minor in political science.
At their Jan. 8 meeting, commissioners could select commissioner-elect Izzo to fill the vacant seat from January to March or they could select a temporary replacement.
City Attorney Andrew Dickman advised, while choosing the incoming commissioner “is a very logical choice,” the city should advertise for anyone interested in temporarily filing the commission seat from January to March. Those interested should file a résumé with the City Clerk by Dec. 27. Commissioners will choose Falkenstein’s replacement at the Jan. 8 meeting.
“I think it’s right that I resign, effective in a couple of weeks, to allow the new incoming commissioner to be part of the decision making for the new city manager selection. I think he needs to start off running just like I did. When I first began in 2014 I learned a lot. I’m hoping you don’t have to go through a whole bunch of taking applications. Hopefully, you can just appoint him,” Falkenstein said at the last meeting.
With the big decision of choosing a new city manager, Commissioner Ward Friszolowski said he would feel more comfortable with Falkenstein staying on board or having Commissioner Elect Doug Izzo make the decision.
Commissioner Melinda Pletcher told Falkenstein, “It just shows how much you love our city.
“You’ve been such a positive person to sit up here with, and it’s very sad to think you will possibly not be up here with us again.”
Holding back tears, Commissioner Terri Finnerty told Falkenstein; “It’s been an absolute joy sitting here with you. Commissioner Falkenstein has served the city so well; he has done so much and has been such a positive force for us up here. It’s always been a joy for me to come to these meetings and sit next to you. I know you are doing it for all the right reasons, for your family, but we are so going to miss you. The city is so going to miss you.”
At his last meeting Falkenstein thanked all his mentors, fellow city commissioners, family members and staff and said he would miss serving the residents.
With Pletcher unopposed for her District 4 seat, the city will not have to hold a municipal election on the second Tuesday in March.