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Palm Coast Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 2 months ago

In split vote, Flagler County Commission selects Joe Mullins as chairman

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Commissioners Andy Dance and Greg Hansen voted for Hansen to be selected as chairman, rather than Mullins.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Flagler County commissioners chose Joe Mullins as the commission’s new chairman on Nov. 15, doing so despite objections from locals who said Mullins uses social media to demean and bully residents and isn’t fit for the position of chairman.

“I love this county and I'm going to work hard for it, and I'm going to do the best I can. And I do realize that is one spot, it's one of five."

— JOE MULLINS, county commissioner 

The vote was 3-2 for Mullins, with Commissioner Andy Dance voting against his nomination and saying he was doing so because of Mullins’ “online banter.” Dance nominated and voted for Greg Hansen as chairman; Hansen also voted for himself.

Hansen was later selected to serve as vice chairman.

Mullins, after accepting the nomination, said he wouldn’t let the commission or the community down. 

“If we all come together and we work together, we can do great things, as we’ve seen,” he said.

Mullins, as the meeting began, was the commission’s vice chairman. The positions of chair and vice-chair rotate around the board each year, with the vice chair typically holding that role for one year, then assuming the role of chairman.

Mullins’ position as vice-chairman left him in line for the chairmanship. 

But he had also been vice-chairman, and therefore in line for the chairmanship, the year before, and had declined to take it: He’d said at the time that home and business concerns were eating up his time, and offered to remain in the position of vice chair.

Last year’s commission reorganization meeting had also occurred a couple of months after Mullins had insulted fellow commissioners during a meeting, referring to then-fellow commissioner Charlie Ericksen old and lazy and calling Commissioner Greg Hansen a “fat son of a b----.” (Ericksen didn’t run for reelection and is no longer on the commission; Hansen is.)

Commissioners at the time had admonished Mullins, but declined to censure him.

"There are a lot of good people on this board, and we don't need Flagler County to go any further down into the dirt than what this man is going to bring it down to. ... He is not good for Flagler County. His character is not good."

 

— PASTOR SIMS JONES

That year, as this one, he’d regularly derided constituents on Facebook, mocking some for their weight, suggesting others were on drugs or were unfit parents, offering to send Trump supporters to Democrats’ homes for a “Trump welcome,” or suggesting putting liberals on a train and driving them out of the county. He made up demeaning nicknames for people who tangled with him online, referring to one woman who worked at a local restaurant as “Cheeseburger Chelsea;” in online arguments, he prodded his critics with unfounded claims, on multiple occasions suggesting that an individual he was arguing with had had, or was pursuing, sex reassignment surgery.

On his half-hour weekly radio program on Flagler Broadcasting, he’d commented about wanting to see liberals beheaded, drawing anger from Democratic Party members. 

At last year’s reorganization meeting, Mullins nominated Commissioner Donald O’Brien to continue as chair. Other commissioners accepted. 

He made no such offer Nov. 15.

This year, as last, locals lined up to tell the commission that Mullins was the wrong person for the job.

“There’s been many examples of extremely poor public behavior on his part,” said Robin Polletta. “Do we truly want this sort of individual to represent Flagler County at a time when it’s posed to experience amazing growth and ... great potential?”

Local Pastor Sims Jones said he’d worked with Mullins on projects in the past, but had started to worry when he began getting calls from other people asking how Jones could work with someone like Mullins. Jones had been especially troubled when the calls started coming from other pastors. 

“So I stopped working with him,” Jones said. “And I assured other people that we need to come out and make sure that he is not, or will not, ever become the chairman of this board — because there are a lot of good people on this board, and we don’t need Flagler County to go any further down into the dirt than what this man is going to bring it down to.”

About 10 people had make comments objecting to Mullins’ potential appointment by the time Commissioner David Sullivan, who’d rolled his eyes during one such comment, formally nominated Mullins for the position of chairman.

O’Brien was displeased that Mullins had turned what O’Brien said should be a “simple, non-controversial innocuous process” into a controversy.

“I’m frustrated at being put in this position and stressed out regarding the vote of selecting the chair,” O’Brien said. “The role of chair is nothing more than a ministerial job, one of signing documents authorized by the commission and conducting orderly meetings. That’s it.”

He said that the locals who’d warned against making Mullins the public face of the commission were overplaying the importance of the chairmanship. 

Then his comments turned to Mullins’ actions. 

“My frustration is due to the fact that — Commissioner Mullins, I’m going to address this to you — for all of the good that you do in the community, and you do a lot — you’re always a cheerleader Flagler County, you make a lot of charitable contributions, you recognize and support staff with lunches and things like that, and a lot of other positive activities —  but despite all that good, your social media activities and contentious stands on some highly charged political issues has caused you to be a lightning rod, and it’s damn frustrating,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said he didn’t pay attention to the “online nonsense.”

But, he added, “My inbox is pretty damn full with emails of people not wanting you to be chair, and it’s frustrating.”

He asked Mullins if the chairmanship was something he wanted, given his personal and business concerns. 

“It is something I’m interested in, and I do feel like we should rotate it,” Mullins replied. “... I would be honored to have that position and represent the county as I do on many committees, many national committees. I love this county and I’m going to work hard for it and I’m going to do the best I can. And I do realize that is one spot, it’s one of five.”

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to accurately reflect the vote for Mullins: It was 3-2.

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