Anderson selected as new county commission chairman for 2024

TONY ANDERSON, newly-selected Walton County Board of County Commissioners 2024 chairman. (Photo credit: Walton County Public Information)

By DOTTY NIST

Walton County District 5 Commissioner Tony Anderson has been selected to serve as chairman of the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) for the remainder of the year in the wake of District 1 Commissioner Boots McCormick’s recent relinquishment of the chairmanship.

The BCC’s decision on the chairmanship took place at the Feb. 8 BCC meeting at the Walton County Courthouse.

The meeting began with District 4 Commissioner Donna Johns, BCC vice-chair, serving as chair, a responsibility she had undertaken on Feb. 1 when McCormick had stated his intent not to continue in the chairmanship role.

At that time, Clay Adkinson, acting county attorney, had advised that Johns would preside at the Feb. 1 meeting and sign any documents necessary from the current time forward to the next BCC meeting—but that county policy did not provide for her to automatically become the new chairman. He had indicated that it would be appropriate for an item to be placed on the agenda for the next BCC meeting for a new chair to be voted on.

Immediately after the announcement by Johns of the agenda item for election of a chair (and vice-chair if necessary), District 2 Commissioner Danny Glidewell made a motion to nominate Anderson as chairman. McCormick seconded the nomination.

District 3 Commissioner Brad Drake asked for legalities of the process to be addressed “before the formalities,” related to a decision. He raised the question whether the BCC was bound by Robert’s Rules of Order, which he said he believed the BCC had adopted in 2017.

This is a manual of parliamentary procedure that is widely used in the United States. Robert’s Rules of Order provide for the “vice president” to preside in the event of such a resignation and to continue to preside during the unexpired term, unless rules specify another manner for such a vacancy to be filled.

Responding to Drake, Adkinson advised that the BCC’s meeting procedures governing the operation of the board had been adopted since 2017 and had been amended in 2019 and 2021. He noted that these meeting procedures do not refer to Robert’s Rules of Order and that, in fact, many parts of the meeting procedures do not conform with Robert’s Rules of Order.

Adkinson also advised that there was no resolution and certainly no ordinance/adopted law of the county specifying “the exact process by which the board goes through its selection process for its officers.”

At Adkinson’s recommendation, Johns asked for any additional nominations for chair.

Drake commented that he thought there were “two very qualified people” who could serve as chairman, one being the current chair (Johns) and the other (Anderson), who had served as chairman in the past. He spoke in support of the presiding chair having an opportunity to continue to serve in the role of chair.

Drake was of the opinion that it would put “a good face forward for Walton County” for a woman to be selected. He lamented “personal factions,” and “stresses and strains that are happening out there in the periphery.”

“And I just–I feel like in my gut, there is an attempt to keep Mrs. Johns from being the chair of this board for reasons that are just despicable,” Drake continued, then nominating Johns for the chairmanship.

Glidewell took offense at Drake’s remarks. “This is not supposed to be about personalities,” he said. He explained that the reason he had nominated Anderson was that he is a “senior commissioner” who has served as chairman in the past and who would have the ability to successfully carry out the remainder of the chairmanship term.

Anderson has served on the BCC since 2016. Johns had been elected in 2022.

“And it has nothing to do,” Glidewell continued, “with anybody else’s personality, and it’s certainly not despicable.”

Drake continued to speak in support of Johns, saying, “We have an opportunity to take a step forward today and say, hey, listen, Walton County, we’re pride, preservation, but…we believe in diversity, and we believe in fairness…”

“I didn’t realize that we were into identity politics. I thought we were all Republicans,” Glidewell countered.

Glidewell also recalled that there had been female BCC chairs in the past in Walton County. “This is not about females and males and power to the people;” Glidewell asserted, “this is about who should be our chairman, and who’s most qualified.”

“We’ve got a new administrator. He needs support, and he needs support from somebody who knows what to do…and that’s the only motive here,” Glidewell added.

“Listen,” said Anderson, “I’m not politicking for this job.”

He said he would serve as chairman to the best of his ability if this were the decision of the BCC. “But, you know, I just want to let you know that this is not a conspiracy, especially on my part. I would—I think all of us up here are capable of being the chairman, and I think you are reading into things that are not quite there,” Anderson told Drake.

“My heart goes with who’s most qualified,” McCormick commented, telling Johns, “I think you are up and running….but I don’t think you are ready for chair.” He said he was pulling back his second on Johns’s nomination.

Adkinson advised that, regardless of seconds “you have two nominations.” He was not of the opinion that pulling back a second would affect the latter.

With no other nominations put forward, a roll call vote was taken on the two candidates for chair, resulting in the following choices by the commissioners: Anderson-Anderson; Glidewell-Anderson; McCormick-Anderson; Drake-Johns; Johns-Johns.

“Commissioner Anderson has it. Okay,” Johns observed.

Adkinson noted that Johns would remain as vice-chair, since that position had not been vacated.

Johns indicated that she would be fine with Anderson taking over the gavel at any time during the meeting.

Public comment was taken after the roll call vote on the chairmanship.

The first to speak, Dan Cosson of DeFuniak Springs, was critical of the decision and maintained that the move to withhold the chairmanship from Johns had been due to the fact that Johns could not be “controlled” by Glidewell and some of the other commissioners.

Addressing the officials, Seagrove resident and former county commissioner Cindy Meadows recalled that as the first woman elected to the BCC she had been treated similarly to Johns. She disagreed with the statements that the decision had not been personal.

“They did not want me to be chair, you do not want Donna to be chair, because…I don’t know what the fear is, I don’t know what you think Donna’s going to do…” Meadows told the commissioners.

She warned that women in Walton County would not be pleased with Johns having been passed over, “and you know if you don’t make Mama happy, nobody’s happy.”

Seagrove resident Todd Roark voiced strong disappointment at the decision, pointing out Johns’s qualifications as a U.S. Air Force veteran.

“I will not be scared; I will not be afraid to lead; I will not be afraid to identify what is wrong,” he told the commissioners.

Also speaking in support of Johns as a candidate for chair was Miramar Beach resident Tabitha Howard.

She observed that Johns had done an excellent job (previously) as a South Walton Mosquito Control commissioner and in representing Miramar Beach as District 4 commissioner.

Walton County resident Sandra Majesky told the commissioners that most of America would pick a military person for a leadership position automatically due to the training and experience that these individuals receive. “I have no confidence in several members,” she said of the BCC.

With public comment concluded, Johns pointed out that she had been elected vice-chair, “apparently competent for that position, which would prepare me to take on the chair position.”

“I am extremely disappointed that it has turned out the way it has, but it is what it is, and I will move forward,” she concluded.

Glidewell addressed Adkinson with a question, that being whether, hypothetically, the BCC would be allowed to remove a chairman at its discretion during the term of that chairman, and vote to have a new chairman.

Adkinson replied, “If the board appoints someone, the board can remove them and appoint someone new. It’s certainly within the board’s discretion.”

Glidewell then asked if the board’s action on the matter had been legal and binding.

“I believe the board’s action today was legal and consistent with the board’s prior practices,” Adkinson responded.

After a break, the meeting resumed, moving onto other business with Anderson serving as chairman for the remainder of the session.