John Fanelli, dynamic school trustee, is Palm Coast Council’s choice to fill the seat vacated by Barbosa

The Palm Coast City Council this morning named John Fanelli, a dynamic school district administrator serving on the board from former Superintendent Jacob Oliva, to serve for the next seven months in the District 2 council seat abruptly vacated by Victor Barbosa less than a month ago.

Fanelli was one of eight candidates, each of whom was interviewed publicly by the board this morning in approximately 20-minute segments. The board was lucky to draw a strong batch of candidates, but it ended up with two finalists: Fanelli and builder Tony Amaral Jr. The tipping point was Mayor David Alfin giving Fanelli the third vote. which he needed as Alfin considered the immediate short term. and the benefits that Fanelli and his ties to the school district would bring to the board.

The other six nominees were Bob Coffman, Larry Gross, Hung Hilton, Carl Jones Sr., Perry Mitrano and William Schreiber. (See brief sketches of their background here.)

“I don’t think we have a bad choice among them,” Council member Nick Klufas said. Alfin spoke of his pride in knowing that “we have neighbors of this caliber in our community.” He was, however, appalled at the “imbalance” of a city attracting eight such candidates for a nominated seat, but only three for the upcoming election.

“They are so authentic. They were so direct. They were so precise,” Council member Eddie Branquinho said. “I would say some of them, most of them are ready to start here with us. And one time, I just like to say I’m glad all my colleagues here stayed out of politics with this one, which was gorgeous. I think that’s the whole idea. Branquinho later said: “Unfortunately, we have to choose one.” Meaning: one.

Fanelli was attractive to board members because of the conduit he would represent with the school district. Amaral, who had interviewed without fail, with a solid mastery of the history of the city and its current issues. Fanelli was sworn in immediately after the vote, which took place at 12:30 p.m., three hours after the start of the special meeting. Fanelli immediately had his first conflict: He had to make a presentation at a 1 p.m. school board workshop, on a major realignment of the district’s dress code (it needs to be relaxed). But the council still had in front of it what looked like several hours of workshop.

Fanelli ran for the board as a “husband, father, chief, parishioner and 35-year-old resident of Palm Coast” educated in Flagler County Schools and 2016 Principal of the Year, while at Wadsworth Elementary . He is currently responsible for student services in the district, including mental health and disciplinary issues. He administered significant grants, including a $1.2 million grant that included five local agencies. “I believe that with a shared mission and vision and the love our council has for our great city, I can be the fifth member of a strong team that will work together in the best interests of our citizens,” said Fanelli on the board. . “I know we will sometimes have disagreements, debates and solid dialogue about what it looks like and how best to achieve our goals. But that’s how the best decisions are made.

Fanelli, a 21-year-old educator, is still in the prime of his school board career, but he doesn’t rule out deeper political involvement several years from now — and why he was more interested in a temporary position and named for now.

“I bring a diverse background and a different perspective to the board,” Fanelliu said. “I have a young family myself, I have three kids going to school here in Flagler County nine, six, and four. They are the love of my life. That’s part of the reason I’m doing this. As such, Fanelli would be the first board member to have children in the school district since Jason DeLorenzo, who served for five years until 2016, with a daughter who had just entered the school system. The council in its 22 years has rarely had parents with children in the district.

As for Fanelli’s role in the administration of the district: “I would not have submitted a nomination if I had felt that I would not be able to give the time necessary to fill this seat in a way that supports the council. and the citizens of the coast,” he said. “So I did that. I spoke with my manager. I spoke with the Superintendent who told me she would work with me to ensure I had the time needed to fill both positions. As if to point out that he didn’t have a narrow view on school matters, he quickly pivoted to answer a question about the board’s goals (his “strategic plan”), which he would champion.

But Alfin brought it back to school matters, indicating the mayor’s interest in having a direct link with the school district. “I think I can make connections between our city and our school district because I know the intricate workings and details of our school district,” he said, noting his role with Oliva in developing flagship programs in all schools, forging students’ first steps towards a career.

Branquinho had reduced his list to Amaral and Fanelli. Danko said he was “on board” with Fanelli. Klufas had reduced his list to Amaral, Fanelli and Mitrano, “leaning towards” Amaral. Alfin was in line with the Klufas list, with a focus on Amaral and Fanelli.

Council members asked up to three questions each – mostly the same questions they asked each candidate, although due to the candidates’ backgrounds, some were given questions more specific to that background or history. : Amaral, a builder, was asked about the development impact fee, Mitrano, who ran Bunnell’s solid waste division – and drove its garbage trucks – was asked about a city-run garbage service , And so on. More often, questions were repeated, such as questions from different council members about the maintenance of the saltwater canals, or council member Ed Danko’s seemingly superfluous opening question claiming that the candidate will not run. for the seat opened in November (the city’s request for nominations had asked for this to be a condition; Danko, a hyper-political member of the council, may have used the question to gauge the candidates’ intentions beyond 2022 ), or Klufas’ question about what kind of diversity the nominee would bring to the board.

Klufas meant “diversity” in the broadest sense, including experience and perspective, because the candidate pool did not lend itself to too much diversity otherwise: but for a black candidate and an Asian candidate, all eight are men, seeking to join an all-male, all-white, all-Republican board.

There was irony in Fanelli’s choice of council today: as the county commission on Monday night freely criticized the school board, mislabeling the school board’s actions on impact fees and directly attacking a member of the school board, the municipal council, for its part, embraced the school board by proxy.

Martha K. Merrill