by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
photos by SC Associate Publisher Chuck Larsen
Mick Denham and Holly Smith were unanimously appointed as mayor and vice mayor respectively in the Tuesday, Dec. 1, Sanibel City Council meeting. Jerry Muench was appointed by a 3-1 vote to serve as the second interim council member. All three will serve in their positions until the city’s March election.
Denham said he was “delighted” to accept the position. He acknowledged three main items he wants to remain focused on during his interim position: living within the city’s budget; water quality; and protecting citizens from the virus.
“These are the things I want to try and do in my final three months,” said Denham. He will not seek reelection in March, after 16 years of service on council. Denham steps up from vice mayor after former mayor Kevin Ruane resigned to run for the Board of Lee County Commissioners, a race he handily won in November.
Denham nominated Councilman Chauncey Goss as vice mayor. Goss was selected to serve as an interim council member in November to fill the seat vacated by Jason Maughan, who also resigned to run for higher office. Goss has said he will not seek election in March, which was the reason Denham said he chose to nominate Goss for the position.
“I think it was a very wise decision to have somebody in a temporary position as a council member, so I suggest we follow a very similar pattern for vice mayor,” said Denham. He added that it was a “difficult decision” for him, but felt the new council in March should have the opportunity to choose the next vice mayor.
Smith said she was a “little surprised” by Denahm’s choice because she and Councilman Richard Johnson would be on council in March and not be a part of the election. She said she “hoped” it would be her or Johnson nominated, but respected Denham’s decision.
Johnson nominated Smith and said he had given it a “great deal of thought.” He has worked closely with Smith as a fellow council member and said he “found her to be very easy to work with and absolutely committed to what’s in the best interest of the citizens.”
Councilman Muench first supported Denham’s nomination of Goss, but later said he changed his mind after Johnson made his nomination and Goss said he would also support it.
There were 14 candidates contending for the open council seat that was ultimately filled by Muench. Smith said, as she did in November, that she still believed it should be filled by someone not seeking election in March because the electorate should decide who serves on council in the March election. She, Denham and Goss voted in favor of Muench for that reason.
Muench has been an island resident for the past 56 years; previously served four years as a Sanibel Planning Commissioner and eight years as a City Council member. He is currently a Sanibel Fire Commissioner, a position he has held for the past two decades.
Johnson nominated John Henshaw to temporarily fill the seat. He said Henshaw was the one candidate who “stuck out” to him because he has experience working in government, with massive budgets and the pandemic. He called Henshaw a “dedicated citizen and volunteer in the community.”
Henshaw is a health and safety professional with more than 45 years of industrial hygiene, safety, environmental health and quality assurance experience. He served as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from 2001 to 2004.
“I stand behind my conviction (to nominate Henshaw), but am 100 percent behind who we seat,” said Johnson.