Ousters Shake Up St. Johns Political Leadership Kohnke and Reardon Lose Commission Seats

By Sundin, Shawna | The Florida Times Union, September 13, 2002 | Go to article overview

Ousters Shake Up St. Johns Political Leadership Kohnke and Reardon Lose Commission Seats


Sundin, Shawna, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Shawna Sundin, Times-Union staff writer

ST. AUGUSTINE -- While plenty of the post-election buzz has been about the delay to declare the winner in the governor's race, much of the talk in St. Johns County has centered on what happened right here at home.

County Commissioners Mary Kohnke and John Reardon were ousted Tuesday in the Republican primary, shaking up the county's political leadership.

Most people say Kohnke's personality led to her resounding defeat in District 4, which includes Ponte Vedra Beach and part of Palm Valley. She received 3,386 votes, about half as many as each of the other two candidates.

"I think it was her uncivil behavior that did her in, both to her constituents up here in Ponte Vedra Beach and from her position on the commission," said Dan MacDonald, Kohnke's campaign treasurer in 1998 when she first ran for commissioner.

MacDonald said he no longer supports Kohnke because she's backed too many developments, including megadevelopment Nocatee.

"She argues with her fellow commissioners and she argues with some of the citizens and she's threatened the city employees," MacDonald said. "I think those are the things that did her in."

Bruce Maguire received the most votes with 6,444 and will face Democrat Douglas Laidlaw in the Nov. 5 general election. The third candidate, Judy Ham, got 6,160 votes.

Kohnke, a 70-year-old retired professor, said yesterday she has been a "tough but not rude" commissioner and is pleased with her accomplishments over the past four years.

"I ask people tough questions, the staff and developers, and I expect answers and not excuses," Kohnke said. "Now if there are people who consider that rude, then they don't understand the definition of rude. I have never been rude to anyone."

Kohnke didn't want to ponder why she didn't get re-elected and is reveling in soon being able to again have time to fish, golf and write.

"Now I get to resume life as a civilized human being," she said. "It's over and done with, what's to care about. You can't sit here and worry about the past. You've just got to pick up with the future."

Many people do credit Kohnke for the various projects in which she's participated. She got land donated for Davis Park in Palm Valley and created a foundation to help pay for its development. She also was instrumental in getting county sign, tree and eagle ordinances developed. …

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