GOLDEN ERA The City of Gulf Breeze is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Much of its recent success began in 1992 with the hiring of Buzz Eddy as the city manager, the election of Mayor Lane Gilchrist and a change in council election process.
Prior to that year, the council elections were open with all candidates running against each other. The top four vote-getters were named to the council with the mayor. Everyone served the same two-year term, and the process was repeated every two years.
In 1992, the city council terms were increased to four years. The seats were designated A, B, C and D and candidates ran for specific seats that weren’t tied to any geographic area. The citizens voted for all the seats, which were staggered so that only two seats and the mayor faced re-election every two years.
That new stability gave Gulf Breeze an opportunity to develop long-term plans. I was fortunate to be elected to the council that year and served until 2006 when I retired from public office.
Gilchrist and Eddy played key roles in the development of the city, but so did the mix we had on the council. Egos played no role in our decisions. We often debated and questioned each other during meetings, but once the votes were cast any disagreements were forgotten.
The Gulf Breeze City Council consisted for most of my 14 years of Mayor Lane Gilchrist, Clay Ford, Dan Kopack, Tim Hoffman and myself. Ford, an attorney, was a former Arkansas legislator who represented the city on a regional and state level. He later became the president of the Florida League of Cities and a state representative.
Dan Kopack, a CPA, watched the city finances and took a conservative approach to the budget. He handled the Metropolitan Planning Organization and was one of the first who called for a regional bridge authority to construct a new bay bridge.
Tim Hoffman’s family has a long history in Gulf Breeze. Both he and his wife were volunteer firefighters. An architect and planner at Hurlburt AFB, Hoffman was our outside-of-the-box thinker who handled planning issues.
Beverly Zimmern replaced Kopack in 2001. She provided a common-sense approach that has served her well as the city’s mayor for the past two years. She played a critical role in how quickly Gulf Breeze recovered from hurricanes Ivan and Dennis.
I was fortunate to serve with such an outstanding group of public servants. It was a unique time and one from which other boards could learn a great deal.