Fruitland Park favors commissioner districts, Sharon Kelly in runoff

Sharon Kelly
Sharon Kelly

Fruitland Park voters overwhelmingly supported two amendments to the city’s Charter Tuesday, electing by a three-to-one majority to divide the city into five single-member districts of proportionately equal population.

Under Charter Amendment One, voters in each district will elect one commissioner who must reside in that district. The five commissioners will then elect one of their own mayor.

A second charter amendment will require a majority vote in four of the five city districts for residents to change city ordinances by initiative or referendum.

Voters also elected political newcomer Ray Lewis the city’s Group Four Commissioner over Vice Mayor Al Goldberg. Lewis received 816 votes—68.9 percent—to Goldberg’s 368 votes.

Goldberg said after the counts were posted that he doubts whether absentee and early voting ballots will significantly change the results.

Goldberg, who has served the city as commissioner since 2005, said he plans to continue to work for better government in Fruitland Park as a citizen.

“I plan to attend commission meetings, offer suggestions and continue to serve my fellow citizens in Fruitland Park,” Goldberg said recently.

Lewis said a vote by commissioners to pay themselves a pension first motivated him to seek office. Lewis was appointed to the city’s Charter Review Committee in January he decided to run for the commission.

Longtime Commissioner Sharon Kelly appears to have been forced into a runoff with challenger Rick Ranize. Absentee and early voting ballots could change that outcome, however.

Kelly received 370 votes, or 31.5 percent. Phillip Dean Purlee, who serves on the city’s planning and zoning board, garnered 357 votes, or 30.4 percent. Challenger Rick Ranize, who ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Chris Bell in 2012, received 447 votes, the largest share of the Group 4 vote at 38 percent.

Unless about 250 early and absentee ballots significantly change those proportions, a runoff election will be held in two weeks.