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Tails it is: St. Pete city council chair seat decided by a coin toss

Jaymi Butler

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coin toss
After two tie votes between incumbent chair Ed Montanari and Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, the council chair position was decided by flipping a coin.

With the flip of a coin, Ed Montanari retained his spot as chairman of the St. Petersburg city council for another year. 

The coin flip, which took place during Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, followed two tie votes for the chair position. Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, the only other nominee, selected heads. The coin landed on tails, handing Montanari the win in a moment that everyone agreed had a very 2020 feel. 

The vice chair position came close to a coin toss as well. Current vice chair Gina Driscoll and Wheeler-Bowman were both nominated and the first vote ended in a tie. A subsequent vote led to Driscoll pulling ahead.

The voting capped more than an hour of discussion on who would take on the council’s two leadership roles. Driscoll, who nominated Montanari for chairman, praised his leadership during a challenging year and said that having continuity in the chair position is important. She also noted that he didn’t have the typical chair experience one would expect or desire.

“There are a lot of things that you look forward to as chair, such as running the meeting from the dais,” she said. “I feel like you got robbed of that a bit this year.”

Council member Darden Rice, who nominated Driscoll for similar reasons, also had positive things to say about how Montanari has led during a chaotic year.

“I’ve been nothing but impressed,” she said. 

While Wheeler-Bowman expressed appreciation for everything Montanari did as chair, she said that he and Driscoll aren’t the only ones who missed out on having the typical city council experience.

“We have all been robbed during Covid, trying to learn how to Zoom and everything else,” said Wheeler-Bowman, who served as council chair in 2018.

Before the second vote was taken, she said that if she were elected chair, she would bring more structure to meetings and make sure that council procedures were followed. 

“Everyone knows I can lead and lead a meeting, and I’m ready to lead the council once again,” she said. 

Montanari, who calls himself a perfectionist, said that city council members have seen some “big problems” thrown at them this year and that there’s still plenty of work for him to do in his next term.

“I’d like to continue to raise the bar,” he said. 

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