Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Influence in St. Johns Shifts North; St. Augustine Losing Its Political Clout

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Influence in St. Johns Shifts North; St. Augustine Losing Its Political Clout

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon, Shorelines staff writer

Bruce Maguire's appointment as chairman of the St. Johns County Commission comes amid an 80 percent turnover for the board in the past two years and a northward shift of political influence.

The commission voted 5-0 Tuesday to appoint Maguire as chairman with another unanimous vote for James Bryant as vice chairman. Bryant is the only commissioner on the five-member board with more than two years of service. He was re-elected this year to a third term in the seat that represents the coastal area from South Ponte Vedra Beach south.

Maguire, who represents the Ponte Vedra Beach and Palm Valley area, said that when he was elected two years ago, political change was beginning in the county. Karen Stern was elected to her first term on the commission with Maguire. Two more new faces joined the board this year when Ben Rich and Cyndi Stevenson were elected.

"There have been isolated instances where they [the voters] did not want a particular individual voted back to the board," Maguire said. "But overall, I think what you're see is people saying it's an emotional time [for] another change."

St. Augustine, the county seat and traditional stronghold of politics in the county, used to pull all the strings for local races, Maguire said. But the population explosion in the northern area of the county in the Julington Creek and Ponte Vedra Beach and Palm Valley areas has shifted the political pull, Maguire said.

"There's a population change and there's a demographic change, too. The population in the north half of the county now dominates the voting process," Maguire said.

The Ponte Vedra Beach and Palm Valley vote alone in the Nov. 2 general election accounted for about 25 percent of the ballots cast countywide. The turnout at the 12 precincts along with absentee and early votes cast in the northeast corner of the county was about 84 percent, higher than the countywide turnout of about 78 percent, according to the County Supervisor of Elections Office. …

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