The City of Panama City Beach began a new era on Thursday. A new Mayor, new Councilman and beaches reopening were just a few items on the short agenda at the council meeting.
The meeting began with swearing in ceremonies for new Mayor Mark Sheldon, Councilman Michael Jarmon and re-elected Councilman Phil Chester. Sheldon, sworn in by his wife as their children held the family Bible, was visibly emotional.
The first item of business was to discuss the emergency Covid-19 closure of the beaches. The council voted 5-0 to mirror the ordinance put in place by Bay County Commissioners on Tuesday. The soft opening of Panama City Beaches portion of the island will begin Friday morning. “I see this as a baby step, this is the first step in moving forward” said Councilman Paul Casto. The beaches will open daily from 6am-9am and 5:00pm til 8:00pm. The council urged citizens to follow CDC social distancing guide lines and comply with all emergency orders issued by the Governors office. Councilman Geoff McConnell said “I am concerned with Georgias cases on the rise.” He continued, “I want to be clear, we are not open for visitors”.
Other action taken at Thursdays meeting, was the appointment of Councilman Geoff McConnell as Vice Mayor.
The council also chose its appointees to the TDC (Tourist Development Council). Councilman Phil Chester and Councilman Paul Casto will represent the City on the 9 member TDC. Chester is the chairman of the TDC. Casto fills the seat that was held by former Mayor Mike Thomas. This seat has traditionally been held by the Mayor.
Community Member Josh Wakstein was selected by the council as Chairman of the Planning Board and Councilman Michael Jarmon was selected to serve on the TPO (Transportation Planning Organization.
Mayor Sheldon also made good on a few campaign promises by asking the City Manager to put forth a timeline for setting a strategic plan, by announcing a few community committees, CRA, budget, and economic development. He finished by changing the communication in the City Council meetings, by announcing changes in public participation at the council meetings. Now any citizen, PCB resident or not, can speak on any item on the agenda during that agenda item in the meeting. He said “I want voices to be heard”.