SEMINOLE – Mark Ely’s long tenure as the city’s director of community development is coming to an end.
A veteran of more than 20 years at the head of various urban projects and development applications, Ely is expected to retire in mid-June.
His plans have been known internally for some time, Mayor Leslie Waters told The Beacon, but the timeline was not made public until his successor was introduced at a May 10 city council meeting.
City Manager Ann Toney-Deal said Wesley Wright, director of community development and then head of planning at St. Pete Beach for the past four years, was hired to replace Ely.
“Mark will be greatly missed,” Waters said. “He has been a walking, talking encyclopedia of city codes and ordinances that has benefited everyone who has worked with him over the years. The board wishes him the best in his next chapter of life (and) welcomes Wesley Wright as the new Director of Community Development.
Wright, who left his St. Pete Beach post after accepting the Seminole post, did not address the board but shook hands with board members after the meeting. He took office from Seminole on May 5 with an annual salary of $96,000 with the title of designated director of community development, pending Ely’s departure.
“While Mark Ely has exceeded expectations in his service to the City and will be greatly missed, we are thrilled to have Wesley Wright join our team,” Toney-Deal said. “Wesley has a strong background in community development that will serve our community well. We are also fortunate to have Mark and Wesley working together until Mark’s retirement to ensure a smooth transition.
Ely did not attend the board meeting and he told the Beacon in an email that he was not yet ready to discuss his retirement plans.
During his tenure as director of community development, Ely regularly drew praise from council members and fellow administrators, and his involvement in Seminole civic affairs did not stop at his office door. . Although usually up to his elbows in city maps and government records on all sorts of land and water issues, Ely also took a keen interest in the city’s recreation department.
Over the years, he has donated a great deal of time and money to support recreational programs and resources such as the city’s Digital Den art studio, which includes computers, graphic displays, a green screen and creative software. In 2018, he donated $50,000 to create a Teen Room entertainment center, featuring virtual reality games, interactive technology and a movie projection screen.
In other cases:
• Council voted unanimously to approve the voluntary annexation of residential property at 11211 69th St. N. The quarter-acre property, formerly unincorporated county land, is owned by Sean Kier and Michelle Kier.
• Two appointments to the Recreation Advisory Council were also finalized without dissent. Carl Glebowski and Leah Hoffman — both Seminole residents with backgrounds in engineering and recreation, respectively — will serve two-year terms.
• In addition, the council recognized Waters, Vice Mayor Jim Olliver and council members Trish Springer and Thom Barnhorn for winning the Home Rule Heroes laurels this year. The annual designation by the Florida League of Cities highlights elected officials and city administrators who have worked to preserve the rights of local governments in Florida.
Waters noted that the Home Rule designation reflects many hours of lobbying Tallahassee elected officials regarding burning local issues.
“When the Legislative Assembly is in session, we get involved in that and tell them what we think is best for the city of Seminole,” the mayor said.
• Another council proclamation recognized the recent achievements of the Seminole Futbol Club Association’s Seminole Shooting Stars, who finished first in the USA Competitive Soccer League’s Under 18 Girls South Bracket. In honor of the team and its coach, Brian Gavaghan, May 10 has been designated Seminole Futbol Club Day.
• Circuit Court Judge Keith Meyer, a 12-year veteran on the bench serving more than 1.2 million residents in Pinellas and Pasco counties, gave a brief campaign overview.
“Seminole is a great place (and) it’s always a pleasure to be here,” Meyer said.
He will face one candidate in a nonpartisan vote Aug. 23 in the Circuit Group 27 court race: Scott Finelli, a New Port Richey-based Kemp, Ruge & Green attorney.
Meyer’s wife, Clearwater-based Trask Daigneault attorney Nancy Meyer, occasionally fills in for Seminole City attorney Jay Daigneault at council meetings.
The next regular council meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 24 at 6:00 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.