Thomas elected Orange Park mayor a year after claiming gender discrimination

By Nick Blank Staff Writer
Posted 5/22/19

ORANGE PARK – Town council members elected Connie Thomas as Orange Park’s new mayor with a 4-1 vote.

Thomas was nominated for mayor by Council Member Alan Watt, though seconds later Council …

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Thomas elected Orange Park mayor a year after claiming gender discrimination

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Town council members elected Connie Thomas as Orange Park’s new mayor with a 4-1 vote.

Thomas was nominated for mayor by Council Member Alan Watt, though seconds later Council Member Ron Raymond nominated Watt for the position. Watt then was then confirmed as the vice-mayor, 5-0.

Last year, Thomas accused council members of gender discrimination after Former Mayor Gary Meeks nominated Raymond to be vice-mayor, which Raymond and Meeks denied.

Tensions cooled. The town council then read a proclamation for Meeks. He was elected in 2010 and served three terms. Meeks was an officer in the Orange Park Police Department from 1973-1989. Town staff, council members and residents showed their gratitude.

“Tonight marks the end of an era,” said former Mayor Steve Howard. “Those of us who know you know how you make everyone else better.”

Meeks, who termed out, said he would miss the job. He praised the effort of the town’s employees and voters for trusting him, he said. Anderson also thanked Meeks for his service in his council member comments.

“[Council members] have to make the decisions, but all the work that has to be done, [employees] do,” Meeks said. “I do appreciate that.”

Anderson assumed Meeks’ Seat 5 facing no opponent in April. Anderson, a U.S. Navy veteran, was on the Planning and Zoning committee, so a seat on the dais wasn’t a major change, he said.

“Once I sat down, I was like ‘OK,’” he laughed at the end of the two-and-a-half hour meeting.

The 2017-2018 audit presented by Purvis, Gray and Company gave the town a healthy assessment. The town has no outstanding debt. Two items were discussed relating to defining trailers on properties and short-term vacation rentals.

In his council member comments, Raymond returned to the issue of Thomas and 2018 vice-mayor election. Raymond said he was disappointed Thomas didn’t apologize for her accusation in the past year.

“I have not forgiven, and I will not forget,” Raymond said. “Until you choose to apologize to me personally, we will continue to work together on this dais, each of us coming with our own ideas, but that was a very wrong thing for you to have done.”

Thomas did not address Raymond’s statement in her comment portion. After the meeting, Thomas called the mayor's role a privilege.

“I felt very honored,” Thomas said. “For a place that you love, to have that form of leadership, it’s wonderful.”

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