Florida Keys News
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
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Philipson retained as mayor

ISLAMORADA -- The newly installed Village Council unanimously reappointed Ken Philipson to the mayor's post last week.

"He's always prepared for the meetings," said new Councilwoman Deb Gillis in nominating Philipson at the Nov. 29 meeting. "He has been partnered very well with the League of Cities and I think that's a great thing, and he cares very deeply about this committee and community."

Philipson took the mayor's gavel in September, when the previous council gave him a brief two-month appointment at the behest of his predecessor, Michael Reckwerdt.

The largely honorary position doesn't come with any more voting power than other council seats. The mayor also assumes no executive authority, with the exception of signing contracts as directed by the full council. Nevertheless, former mayors say the post does bring additional influence, especially in dealings with the state and other local governments. The mayor also chairs Village Council meetings.

With the renomination, Philipson will serve 12 more months as the chair.

Gillis said she believes he'll help build consensus on the council.

Philipson said he plans to try.

"We are a council of five and with five people working together we can get a lot of things done," he said shortly after the vote.

The council unanimously reappointed Ted Blackburn to the vice mayor post, which he too has held since September.

In other action last week, the council agreed to schedule separate workshops in January to discuss possible changes to the village legal department as well as how to make the planning and permitting processes more user-friendly.

New Councilman Mike Forster was the one to formally propose both workshops. But the acquiescence of other council members should have come as no surprise, since the fate of the town's legal representation, as well as issues related to planning efficiency, have already been vetted numerous times in public forums, including during the recent campaign season.

At the workshop on the legal department, the council plans to discuss whether to hire an in-house attorney to replace the Weiss Serota law firm on day-to-day work. Council members have signaled that they plan to stay with Weiss Serota for litigation services.

The council agreed last week to broaden the planning department workshop to include a discussion about the building department as well. Forster also called for Village Manager Ed Koconis to give up his planning director portfolio, which he retained when he was promoted to manager two years ago.

None of the other council members commented on that suggestion.

Koconis said that he and his staff have already begun working on ideas to speed up the planning and permitting processes.

The dates for the workshops will be scheduled next month.

Also, last week, the council voted on final passage of an ordinance to legalize, but regulate, restaurants that wish to allow dogs in outdoor areas. The license fee will be $100, with an annual renewal fee of $50.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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