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Florida Keys News
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Newly elected hope to work together

MARATHON -- Mark Senmartin and Richard Keating, both elected Nov. 6 to Marathon City Council, say they look forward to working together and do not expect any particular voting bloc to develop.

Senmartin, who was to be sworn in Tuesday, Nov. 12, said he is ready to work with all the council members. The only new face on the council, Senmartin said the election results are refreshing and positive.

"Many Marathon business owners have seen how I campaigned and now think, 'I can do that, too.' I've inspired them to get involved in their local government and that's fantastic," said the pawn shop owner.

Senmartin said he wanted those who supported him with campaign funding to know that every cent raised was spent locally. "It came back to our community," he said.

Senmartin said his primary goal will be to bring greater efficiency to the building department. With simple projects sometimes taking two to three weeks to get through the permitting process, Senmartin is hoping the city can implement an "express checkout" system for straightforward renovations. Passing paperwork to everybody's desk prevents permits from being issued in a timely manner, he said.

Senmartin questions whether the building department is ready to handle several big resort projects on the horizon. He said he would like to determine whether backlogs are due to insufficient personnel or the permitting process itself.

Another of his goals is more transparency in the way the local government operates and enhancing public involvement in government and its meetings.

Keating begins his final two-year term after having served four years already. He'll be term-limited and prohibited from running for local office in 2016. Currently the vice mayor, Keating says 97 percent of the council's votes are 5-0, although there may be certain aspects of the issues being discussed that individuals do not agree with. He doesn't agree with some observers who say last week's election will create a new voting bloc of councilmen Dick Ramsay, Chris Bull and Senmartin.

Keating said the campaign was hard-fought by all candidates. Senmartin collected 1,401 votes, more than double Keating's 694. The third candidate, former mayor Pete Worthington, failed to win one of the two open seats with just 637 votes.

"Senmartin received a mandate from the voters," Keating said. "He is someone I can work with, and I expect he'll do fine. People are fed up with governments that don't work. Marathon council has worked well together and that will continue."

He added that the council was to decide Tuesday who is to serve as mayor and vice mayor, but hazarded no guesses as to who those would be. The one-year appointments are mostly ceremonial.

Keating said his goals for the coming session are helping small businesses to be successful, and he looks to new commercial development, namely the Spottswood property at the former Faro Blanco Resort and the Marriott, to bring more visitors to Marathon and create jobs and additional revenue to bolster the local economy.

He also looks forward to moving ahead this month with the City Hall project, noting it is high time local government moves out of trailers.

While Keating may not expect last week's election to bring significant changes, Ramsay does.

"If you look at the election results, people in Marathon made a dramatic statement," said Ramsay, who was a backer of Senmartin. "Some of those changes and issues plainly discussed during the campaign can be expected to be made. We will have a government that responds to the people, not one that is directed by those who are more connected."

Ramsay also wanted to address comments by Keating and Worthington who criticized Senmartin for encouraging residents to vote just for him. Voters were allowed to vote for two of the three candidates.

"We have a wonderful system," Ramsay said. "The complaint [about single-candidate voting] was the most ridiculous statement I've ever heard. Unless we want to change the Constitution, people are able to vote for whom and how many candidates they want, or even not vote."

Ramsay said he intended to make a statement at this week's meeting about what the council should focus on based upon the election results.

Regarding who may be chosen mayor and vice mayor, he said he hopes the council would consider him for mayor since he has served five years. He said the selection can be political but he prefers that the council looks at accomplishments.

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