Citing her daughter's failing health, Holland steps down. A special meeting will be held May 19 to discuss next steps.
Updated 8 p.m. May 18
Mayor Milissa Holland has resigned.
Her adult daughter, Tori, has been in dire health for years, and Holland needs to perform her most important role first, she said.
"I'm incredibly proud of being a mom," Holland said in a May 18 phone call with the Palm Coast Observer. "Your kids come before anything else."
Her last words in her last City Council meeting, on the morning of May 18, just hours before she resigned, also showed her focus on her role as mother: She told the council that she missed a recent event so that she could spend time with her son, who was visiting for the first time in years, from Germany.
The City Council, led by now-Mayor Eddie Branquinho, will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 19, in a special meeting to authorize Elections Supervisor Kaiti Lenhart to begin the process of an election, which could take place in as few as 50 days. That will allow a new mayor to be in place before the City Council begins budget discussions, according to City Manager Matt Morton.
Morton, who has been in his position for two years, said Holland should be remembered for her "steadfast willingness to always put the city ahead of everything else. ... She has this burning fire to improve the quality of life not just for people now but for future generations who come here."
She was at the center of discussions that led to the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University to extend their reaches to Palm Coast, for example.
Holland was the city's third mayor, elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. She was also the first woman to serve on the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners, serving 2006-2012.
Holland said she hopes her public service, both as a county commissioner and as mayor, "demonstrates that my passion is with this community. It's the community I grew up in, that I have watched grow, that I understood early on what made it so special, and I never lost sight of that."
Her father, James Holland, was on the City Council in 1999, when the city incorporated.
"Being part of those original City Council conversations at our dinner table certainly helped drive a lot of my decisions, not only on the County Commission but certainly as mayor," Holland said.
City Council meetings have become less civil in recent weeks — worse than ever, Holland said. But that didn't impact her decision to resign. "Every time I'm out in the community, whether it be in the supermarket or one of our parks and trails, I really feel that our residents continue to remain positive and enjoy their lives every day."
Holland's Facebook announcement is as follows: "They say that people will have a few defining moments in ones lifetime. Loss has been a part of my journey and it certainly has impacted me in a variety of ways but it has also taught me what is important in life. As you know my daughter has been through some extraordinarily challenging years health wise that at times became so serious that the outcome could of been very different than what it is today. For all of the prayers, support and words of encouragement that continued to pour in throughout this trying time, I want to say Thank You.
"Although she was able to receive the tremendous gift of a liver that ultimately saved her life, she has had some unexpected set backs that have required some additional levels of care and as her primary caregiver and of course her Mom, I began the process of assessing and evaluating where I must spend my time and focus and that is right by her side.
"So it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to step down from my role as Mayor of the City of Palm Coast. This decision has been made after many hours of deliberation and consideration. This is without question one of my defining moments and I want to look back at this time in my life and know that I made the difficult decision to do the right thing for my family.
"I love this City and my community. I am grateful for the leaders that came before me and for those I have had the privilege to work with along the way. The City of Palm Coast has outstanding professional and hardworking directors and employees that provide this City with excellent services that I am so proud to have witnessed throughout my time on the Council. I am hopeful as much has been accomplished towards the betterment of our City and our residents and the future is filled with transformative opportunities.
"Thank you for the honor of serving you, the Citizens of Palm Coast. I am appreciative of your support and friendship. It has been both an honor and a pleasure."
This is a developing story. More to follow.