Two weeks after Robert Brown suddenly resigned, the Fairhope City Council was made whole again Monday night after the unanimous appointment of Jay Robinson. Brown resigned Feb. 22, just three months into his third term, citing an opportunity to move his family outside city limits.
Robinson, who served a single term before stepping aside last year to attend to a growing family, said he’s since adjusted to life with four children and he “felt comfortable” accepting the nomination when approached by members of the council in the last month.
There was some controversy around the council supposedly rushing the appointment and neglecting to consider nominees other than Robinson, particularly candidates who campaigned for office last year. But Robinson’s appointment was the first item on the agenda Monday night, and although Council President Jack Burrell opened the floor for nominations, no other names were submitted. Baldwin County Circuit Court Judge Jody Bishop was on hand to administer the oath of office and immediately afterward, Robinson took his seat on the council.
Allegedly, Brown is moving his family from a house on Fly Creek to an older, family-owned waterfront property in Point Clear, which is in unincorporated Baldwin County. Burrell said Brown informed him “late last year” he’d possibly vacate his council seat, and the two even discussed legislatively annexing the non-contiguous Point Clear property into the city so Brown could continue to serve.
But once the vacancy was certain, “the name that came to mind first was Jay Robinson,” Burrell said.
“I’ve been asked if I considered other people and yes, I considered everyone in the city,” Burrell explained Monday. “I was even contacted by five to seven people who offered their services. I just think [Robinson] is simply the most qualified person in the city.”
Joshua Gammon, who ran for Place 5 against Kevin Boone last year, said while Brown did the “honest thing” by resigning, he was disappointed there wasn’t public participation before Robinson’s nomination.
“Not that it would have changed the outcome in any way, but I think it’s important for us to know what metrics are being used to choose leaders, especially with it being such an early resignation and we’re talking basically a full term here,” Gammon said. “And while I certainly don’t question the capabilities of Mr. Robinson, I just think it’s important that we come together as a community to discuss these things.”
Paul Ripp of The Ripp Report suggested Robinson’s appointment was fixed, and the council “jumped all over it” well ahead of Brown’s public resignation. Ripp pointed to probate documents indicating Brown purchased the Point Clear property last July — a month before the election — and accused the council of acting “suspicious.”
“How do you think that looks to the citizens of the community?” he asked. “Nobody discussed anything with them, and none of the candidates who I know that ran [last year] were asked what they thought. It’s not fair.”
Burrell said the council was acting within its statutory authority.
“When you run for office and if you [lose], that doesn’t mean you’re the next [most] qualified person to fill that office,” Burrell said. “I think that [Robinson], had he run for reelection, he would have won in a landslide. The state of Alabama has given the authority to make this appointment to the City Council and everyone up here is duly elected by a majority of citizens and entrusted to make these decisions. We’re not going to run from that authority. I think we’re just following due process.”
Later, Burrell said although he was aware of Brown’s possible departure for at least two months, it wasn’t his news to share. For his part, Robinson said it was “an honor and a privilege” to return to the council.
“I haven’t missed the turmoil that sometimes comes with [the job] but I’ve missed the people, I’ve missed the service and I’ve missed the involvement, so it really was a pretty easy decision for me to come back in the end,” he said, explaining why he did not run for reelection last year.
“In July of 2020, there was a lot going on. We were in the middle of a pandemic and my wife was pregnant with our fourth child and my wife has a history of health scares. There was a lot for me to contemplate and with so many uncertainties at that time, I didn’t feel comfortable making the commitment to serve in this position. It’s been eight months since then and in that time I have a healthy and gorgeous 5-month-old girl, a healthy and happy wife, and we’ve adjusted to life as a family of six. We have a very comfortable work-family balance.”
Separately, the council approved a resolution to raise garbage and trash collection rates from $15.80 per month to $20 per month for most residential services and from $20.26 per month to $25 per month for base rate commercial customers. The increase, which remains in line with rates charged by neighboring municipalities, will help eliminate a $900,000 operational deficit in the sanitation department.
Also, the council entered into a funding agreement with the Fairhope Airport Authority to refinance a $6,695,629 bond which was initially drawn to purchase additional property around the airport. Bond counsel Preston Bolt explained the new bond through Trustmark Bank extends the term to 2028 at an interest rate of 1.14 percent.
In other airport news, the council allowed the authority to enter a professional services agreement with Jason Wilson of URG Consulting LLC to explore management services, aviation support, fiscal management and alternative funding opportunities. The six-month contract is worth $15,000.
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