Citing rapidly rising COVID-19 infections on Key Biscayne and a growing threat to a large number of island seniors, the Village Council on Tuesday endorsed resumption of a County mask mandate. The vote was unanimous.
In another major move, the Council unanimously selected Police Chief Charles Press to take on the role of acting Village Manager when current manager Andrea Agha departs on Jan. 1. There are about two dozen applicants for the Village’s top job so far, officials said.
On the mask mandate, Mayor Mike Davey said police will first issue warnings and hand out masks to people who are not wearing face coverings in the Village, followed by a notice of violation. Fines for violations, however, appear to be unenforceable under an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Our goal is not to get fines. I just want people to comply,” said Davey.
As of Tuesday, the state’s COVID-19 dashboard listed 1,172 cases in Key Biscayne since the pandemic started. The island has a population of 13,000 but typically gets more than a million visitors a year. The case number is nearly double the number from October 9, when the dashboard listed 627 cases according to Carolyn Koslen, a digital marketing professional who has been logging cases. Since the beginning of November, there have been 459 new cases on Key Biscayne.
With regard to the manager job, Press told Council members his department would be able to manage with existing leadership in the interim period while the Council searches for a permanent replacement for Agha. Press said he is not a candidate for the post.
The Council agreed to review the applicant pool and reach out to candidates directly. It tentatively set another meeting Dec. 15 to review how finalists will be evaluated. Each council member is to come up with five preferred candidates in time for the Council’s January 12 meeting.
The Council also seemed to endorse an idea presented by resident Steve Simon, who chaired the 1991 manager search process. He recommended a uniform background and reference check process that would include emotional and psychological testing to evaluate managerial acumen.
Council Members Ed London and Luis Lauredo wanted to shorten the Dec. 31 application deadline, but other council members said doing so would create the impression the selection process was predetermined. “I am totally against changing the date. I think we are going to look like idiots if halfway through the game we suddenly decide, ‘Hey, we’re cutting it off now.’ We’re going to lose all credibility,” said Council Member Ignacio Segurola.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.