Health issues force St. Augustine mayor to step down

Nancy Shaver served as mayor of nation's oldest city since 2014

By Erik Avanier - Reporter, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Nancy Shaver announced Thursday she was resigning as St. Augustine mayor to concentrate on her recovery from a stroke she suffered Monday.

Shaver, who had served as mayor of the nation's oldest city since 2014, announced that her resignation would be effective immediately and released this statement:

Serving each and every one of you as Mayor of this magic city has been an amazing gift. I have been overwhelmed by your support and caring this week and throughout my years as Mayor. It appears my health will not allow me to continue to serve the city and people I love. I will be taking time to recover my health and wish the city leaders well as they do their very best for our city. Sometime soon I hope to see you along the waterfront or playing the washboard at MiCasa Café.”

Shaver was serving her third, two-year term as mayor. She suffered the stroke before she departed City Hall following a St. Augustine City Commission meeting Monday.

“We’re devastated. We’re devastated. We’re shocked," City Manager John Regan said. "Our hearts go out to Mayor Shaver."

WATCH: Stroke signs and symptoms on The Morning Show

Regan told News4Jax that during Monday's meeting, Shaver appeared fine, but at some point, she said that she didn’t feel well.  

“There was a break when she discussed to the vice mayor that she wasn’t feeling herself and that she needed to hand over the gavel and the vice mayor said, 'Nancy, If you are not feeling that great, maybe you should see a doctor, and if you hand me the gavel, I’m worried,'" Regan said. 

But Shaver continued on and at one point, she and the vice mayor got into a heated exchange over whether the city should reconsider its decision to buy land in South Davis Shores.

Following the exchange, Shaver announced that she had once again been diagnosed with cancer. After the meeting, while Shaver was in a room with City Clerk Darlene Galambos and two police officers, Galambos noticed something was not right with Shaver. 

“As the mayor was walking out the room, her walk wasn’t right and she made a wrong turn for the door and Darlene asked her to stop and sit down," Regan said. 

City employees called 911 and Shaver was taken to Flagler Hospital and transferred to Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville, where she is currently recovering, according to a family spokesperson.

Shaver’s neighbors and other St. Augustine residents were both shocked and saddened by the announcement. But they all said they want her to recover.

"She's one of the most delightful people -- just a lovely lady," neighbor Frank Lee said tearfully. "The city is going to miss her."

"As a city leader, I think she's terrific. She's bright. She's intelligent. She does her research," said St. Augustine resident Tom Schubert. "You couldn't ask for a better one." 

The city charter gives the remaining members of the City Commission 10 days to fill the mayor's seat or the governor can appoint someone to the office. Regan has called a special commission meeting for 9 a.m. Monday to discuss filling the vacancy.

WATCH: St. Augustine to hold meeting to find new Mayor

"I hope the city gets the chance for us to choose our mayor rather than the governor choosing the mayor," said St. Augustine resident Paige Tyrrell. 

Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman seems like the obvious person to become mayor, but because of the way the current statute is written, the vice mayor, who is also a City Commission member, can’t just move into the position so fast.

“Anyone on the board would need to resign in order to be appointed," Regan explained.  

It's not yet known who will be throwing their name in the hat for consideration. 

5 FAQs regarding filling vacancy of mayor's office

On Friday, the city of St. Augustine answered five questions about the next steps for filling the vacancy of the office of mayor.

With Shaver’s announcement on Thursday that she resigned her office as St. Augustine mayor, the clock started running for the remaining four members of the City Commission to select a replacement to complete that term of office.

Below are some of the most asked questions about that process"

When will the new mayor be selected?

The city charter gives the remaining commissioners 10 days to appoint a replacement, otherwise the governor will fill the vacancy. The City Commission will initiate that process at a special meeting at 9 a.m. Monday in The Alcazar Room at City Hall on King Street. The meeting is open to the public.

Who is qualified to be appointed to fill out the term?

There are no qualifications for the new mayor above those required for anyone who would have sought the office through a regular election, being anyone who is a qualified elector, i.e. a resident of the city and of voting age. 

Why doesn’t the vice mayor automatically fill the position?

The city charter provides that the vice mayor, or another commissioner, may fill in for the mayor during temporary absences, but not automatically fill the office in the event of a permanent vacancy, such as in case of a resignation. 

When will the new mayor take office?

The new mayor takes office immediately after being selected by the commission’s majority vote and being sworn into office which must occur within the 10-day window allowed by the city charter. The new mayor is selected to complete the current term of office which ends on Dec. 7, 2020, the first Monday in December following the next regular election.

Does the mayor have powers not afforded other members of the commission?

Since St. Augustine has a city manager form of government, as opposed to a strong mayor form, the position of mayor is largely ceremonial with the city’s day-to-day operations being handled by the city manager. The position of mayor, in this form of government, carries no more authority that the other members of the commission, although the mayor does chair commission meetings and signs official documents on behalf of the commission. Also, the mayor is often the most visible member of the commission largely by virtue of being most often called upon to represent the city at formal events.

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