Palm Beach County Commissioner Stephen Abrams failed to get his six colleagues to agree to change his commission chairman title to county mayor.
Abrams, appointed recently to chair the seven-member commission, had proposed the change, which would have also had commission Vice Chairwoman Pricilla Taylor taking on the title of county vice mayor.
Tuesday’s vote, though, was postponed so commissioners could let the proposal “ferment,” Commissioner Shelly Vana said. But some commissioners appear strongly opposed to the change.
“I find this topic rather humorous,” said Commissioner Jess Santamaria. “My constituents call me Jess. I don’t need a title – even a title of commissioner. I want to be called a ‘public servant.’”
“If you really want attention, maybe the proper title would be king or queen,” he said, suggesting Abrams drummed up the idea to give himself a promotion. Santamaria then took this shot at his former colleague, retired Commissioner Burt Aaronson: “We had a former commissioner who liked to be referred to as the ‘Godfather.’”
“I like czar,” said Vana at one point in the discussion.
Taylor and Vana said they like the idea of a change in title, suggesting it may add heft to the top two leadership positions on the commission. But they said changing the commission to a strong-mayor form of government may be what it takes to give the title real meaning.
Commissioner Paulette Burdick agreed, saying she “would support the concept of a strong mayor” to strengthen the commission’s leadership, though she wondered if it was necessary: “If it’s not broken, why fix it?”
Newly elected Commissioner Mary Lou Berger said the strong mayor question should be left out of the discussion. She was ready to support the title change in a vote, as long as it did not involve a power shift.
“We spent a lot of taxpayer’s money doing a charter amendment process last year, and [changing to a strong-mayor form of government] was not a topic that came forward with any great strength from the residents of the county,” Berger said.
Before the discussion was tabled Abrams addressed Santamaria’s accusation of self-promotion.
“Like I said, it’s not about me,” Abrams said. “If this were not to pass, I’m not going to take out a full page ad in a newspaper. I’m not going to have my friends write letters to the editors about the injustices of it all because it’s not about me.”
Abrams explains his reasons for the proposed change in this exclusive interview with BizPac Review: