The Gainesville City Commission voted in Commissioner David Arreola as the next mayor pro-tem at its Thursday special meeting since Commissioner Gail Johnson will leave the role following her recent resignation.
The motion also included the selection of Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker to the Library Governing Board, filling Johnson’s seat.
Commissioner Harvey Ward made the initial motion naming Arreola for the post and Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos seconded the motion. The Commission voted 6-1 to approve the elections with Johnson dissenting.
Johnson asked for clarification on how past commissions selected the mayor pro-tem, saying she had thought the current mayor pro-tem typically suggested someone for the role.
Mayor Lauren Poe said the process isn’t defined in the city’s codes and it depends on each commission who makes the motion.
“I’m just going to express my disappointment because I was fully expecting to come here today to make the suggestion about who I would like to see as mayor pro-tem,” Johnson said, explaining that she thought that was the protocol.
“I’m disappointed that it’s working out this way,” she said.
It marked Johnson’s final meeting after she announced her resignation on Aug. 23.
At the end of the meeting, Johnson addressed the commission saying she had concerns that the city was at risk between now and when outgoing City Manager Lee Feldman actually leaves on Nov. 12.
Johnson said she spoke with the mayor of Fort Lauderdale who said Feldman had fired people from several senior leadership roles in the city between the time of his termination and the time he actually left management.
“I know that the votes are not there to have Manager Feldman go home today, and I understand that there is also what I see as blind trust,” Johnson said.
Feldman denied the report from Fort Lauderdale, saying he never fired senior leadership after the Fort Lauderdale Commission concluded his contract to his departure.
He also confirmed for Johnson that he did not intend to fire anyone before he left and had no plans to do any harm to the city in his role.
Johnson asked if the city had a way to oversee Feldman’s work until his Nov. 12 departure. While the city auditor and attorney provided a couple options, nothing came of the discussion.
After the discussion, Duncan-Walker said “see you later” to Johnson.
“I’d like to say thank you to Commissioner Johnson because on your very last day you have chosen to continue in the spirit of bravery and advocacy for this city that you have come to be known for,” Duncan-Walker said. “It has been a joy, a privilege and an honor to serve next to you these last few months.”
A special election will be held Nov. 16 to vote on a new at-large commission to fill Johnson’s seat.