The night's highlight was representative DeGroot presenting a resolution by the Missouri House of Representatives honoring the life and service of the late Ward 2 Councilman Ray Manton who died in office last month. The low point is hard to sort out as a group of anti-mayor obstructionists added to their 75% rejection rate of appointees volunteering to serve the city.
Monday, many council members expressed shock over the rejection of the nomination of Mikel Garrett to Manton's seat; especially given Garrett's 12 years of volunteer service to the city and Manton himself having confided prior to his death to two council members that Garrett would be a preferred replacement.
Since the nomination was posted on the agenda days in advance about seven residents were inspired to speak in favor of Garrett's nomination during public comment period. So effusive was the praise by those who had served on Wildwood boards with Garrett, that Representative DeGroot joked that he too "supported Garrett's nomination, if he promised not to run for State Representative."
Not one resident spoke in opposition to Mikel Garrett during the public comment period.
Adding weight to Garrett's nomination was the disclosure by both Ward 3 council member Dr. Ken Remy and Ward 2 council member Lauren Edens, that Mr. Manton had told both of them that he considered Garrett someone that he would favor as his replacement if one was ever needed. Edens, who represented Wildwood's 2nd Ward along with Manton had requested that Mayor Bowlin nominate Mr. Garrett. Edens won her seat last April with nearly 70% of the vote against Tony Salvatore, a perennial candidate, who was also defeated by Mr. Manton the year prior.
(Photo: Alfreda Manton, Widow of Late Councilman Ray Manton follows along as Missouri State Representative Bruce DeGroot reads a proclamation honoring Mr. Manton's service.)
The predicted attempt to obstruct Garrett's appointment strained credulity as the Woerther-Kennedy-Shea (WKS) faction claimed that they just did not know enough about the candidate despite the fact that he has a 12 year record of volunteering on Wildwood committees, including being chair of the Board of Adjustment. Council member McCune, who voted against Garrett, stated that she had served with Garrett on a committee.
According to the nominee, the objecting members also had extensive telephone conversations with him. Garrett was unable to attend the meeting because of the need to travel as his father was in hospice and not expected to live through the night. He told Wildwood Matters that during the nomination process he had made an extensive and systematic effort to speak to every council member. "I was willing to talk to them as long as it took to answer all of their questions," said Garrett in an interview Monday night.
Garrett told Wildwood Matters that he had spoken with Tim Woerther, Ward 7, for 13 minutes, Crystal McCune, Ward 7, for 49 minutes, Cheryl Jordan, Ward 6, for 24 minutes, Kevin Dillard, Ward 3, for 10 minutes, and John Gragnani, Ward 8, for 15 minutes. He based the times on his phone log. According to Garrett, council members Niles Stephens and John Bopp did not respond to email requests for conversations. All of whom voted against Garrett.
Ostensibly, these members voted against Garrett's nomination because of unanswered questions but mostly about a face book post in support of Lauren Eden's during the April municipal election. At least several members of the opposition carried printed copies of the post into the meeting.
The post that was described as troubling early on by Garrett opponents, was eventually exposed as surprisingly benign, especially for Wildwood standards. When projected for the audience, the facebook post stated, "Please do NOT vote for Tony Salvatore. He is negative ..., petty, and will continue the ill will that is so pervasive on the council today."
Tony Salvatore ended up losing the election by a 70% margin to Edens in April and had lost a bid against Manton himself during the prior year's election.
"I am shocked that such a qualified nominee suffered political retribution for having lawfully expressed a political viewpoint during a prior election," stated Ward 8 councilman, Joe Garritano.
"I am convinced they were searching for anything to hang me out to dry," stated Garret. "Bowlin could have brought forth the Pope and they would of rejected him because it was the Mayor making the nomination."
Mayor Jim Bowlin summed up the evening with a statement to Wildwood Matters, "since 1789, the U.S. Senate has rejected only 7% of Supreme Court appointees. A few Wildwood Council Members have blown through that in just three years. They now have a 75% rejection rate of residents volunteering to serve. They have rejected among others Subdivision Trustees, a retired teacher, a firefighter, and PhDs. Tonight, they dismissed a ten-year member of our Board of Adjustment leaving Ward 2 without one of its two voices on the council."
Mayor Bowlin stated that he would continue to bring forth a nominee every Council Meeting until the seat is filled.