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Seat can’t be filled

Jenny Andreasson

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Although there’s already been an election for the unfilled Maitland City Council seat, Councilman-elect Ivan Valdes can’t officially start the job until April 25. That leaves the Council down one member for three meetings.

But Seat 1 won’t be exactly empty — the person in it just won’t be able to vote. Valdes has agreed to take his place on the dais early.

The city charter prohibits newly elected officials from starting their term before the second meeting in April. Former Mayor Robert Breaux, who was appointed to the seat on Jan. 12, has to step down on election day, Tuesday, March 8, per the charter language.

“I have great concern that we have a gap, and it bothers me in the fact that if someone is absent, we’re down to three, and that’s really a problem,” Councilwoman Bev Reponen said.

City Attorney Cliff Shepard agreed with Council that the charter needs to be changed to prevent the lapse.

“We need to get this fixed in the charter,” he said.

Shepard also said that if Valdes agreed to it, he could take his seat on the dais on March 14, but he would have no voting power. He could participate in discussion that leads up to a vote. Breaux could do the same thing.

“Dr. Breaux, I enjoyed you being on Council and your participation, but whereas Ivan is the councilman-elect, the logical step is to have him give his feedback,” Councilman Phil Bonus said.

When asked if he’d do it, Valdes, sitting in the audience, nodded his head and said, “I’m ready whenever you’re ready.”

“At the next Council meeting, our first order of business is to vote to put [Valdes] up here,” Mayor Howard Schieferdecker said.

Council thanked Breaux for his service in the last month and a half.

“I have really enjoyed Robert Breaux … the amount of time and input he’s put it in, and I’ve really valued his input,” Reponen said.

Seat 1 was previously held by Schieferdecker, who became mayor in January when former Mayor Doug Kinson resigned after an unsuccessful bid for Orange County Commission. At the end of the qualifying period, Valdes was the only resident to throw his hat in the ring for Schieferdecker’s seat.

Valdes has lived in Maitland with his wife and three daughters since 1995. He is the managing partner and financial advisor at a Maitland firm. His wife also owns a business in Maitland.

He said the city will benefit from his financial background.

“As taxpayers, we need to make sure the city invests and does things it needs to do to grow and move forward, but not to write open-ended checks,” he said.