Basiscally, more than 70% of the 558 members who cast a ballot in Holley-Navarre Water System’s January 16 board election figuratively showed Preserve Navarre Director Wes Siler their middle fingers, and some even did so literally while he was campaigning Tuesday near the polling site with Carmen Reynolds and others.
How did this once promising community organizer fall so quickly out of favor, earning only 159 votes?
Since teaming up in 2021 with Democratic activist Nancy Forester to form Preserve Navarre, Siler has been seemingly trying his level best to sow discord and discontent between residents and area leaders. Some critics accuse him of bilking gullible seniors for money to promote Preserve Navarre’s pro-incorporation agenda.
Siler was the only candidate actively raising money to campaign for one of two unpaid water board positions and set up a GoFundMe account which raised $2,873 from 35 donors toward a $5,000 goal.
But all the campaign money spent on signs and materials couldn’t overcome his own worst enemy – himself.
Last weekend Siler’s campaign distributed a handout containing an egregious error, accusing the utility of having discharged effluent into Santa Rosa Sound for decades. He’s yet to make a public correction or issue an apology for that mistake.
That’s par for the course. Siler, Forester and other Preserve Navarre supporters typically double down when called out for spreading false information, often resort to ad hominem attacks, and then have the audacity to portray themselves as victims of cyberbullying.
I personally believe such behavior over the past three years is the reason HNWS members still came out to vote during what was considered, by Floridian standards, harsh winter weather. The voters weren’t necessarily there to support the two winners but perhaps motivated to defend their member-owned utility against Siler’s attempted infiltration of the board.
Last year Debbie Gunnoe, who now leads the anti-incorporation effort, helped Siler campaign for a Preserve Navarre candidate. This year, she protested Siler’s plight to get on the board, calling him out for what she described a “hidden agenda” to misuse the utility for incorporation efforts.
During Tuesday’s election, HNWS members also defeated a proposed amendment to the utility’s governing documents. Both Siler and HNWS were pushing the measure as a way to end proxy voting. In total, only 4 proxy votes were cast in the board election, so it’s not nearly as big of an issue as some have made it out to be. Gunnoe fought against the change, pointing out how it could have potentially created a dangerous loophole for manipulation of the utility’s vast resources. In the end, that proposal, which was included as a separate optional ballot, failed by a slim 259-239 margin.
Each one of the HNWS members who cast a ballot deserves our community’s appreciation for engaging in the election process. Those who supported the two winning candidates and opposed the amendment deserve additional thanks for helping safeguard the utility and its resources. Gunnoe deserves her own accolades for standing hours out in frigid conditions to protest and inform members who were willing to listen to anti-incorporation concerns.
Serving on the water board is an especially thankless job. Not only do the Directors not get paid for spending hours each month participating in lengthy meetings but also they have to contend with rumors and accusations stemming from the likes of Siler and Reynolds, who’ve make repeated public allegations of “corruption.” A $40,000 forensic audit only yielded a list of 15 recommendations the utility could make to improve its internal controls. If there was true corruption, it’s likely someone would have gone to jail.
Watch the role of the Directors in the following video of last night’s board meeting. Go to the 2 minutes 30 second mark and you can see as HNWS President Mark Miller, who was re-elected by 66 percent of the 559 ballots cast for the board, tries with other Directors to explain basic procedures to Reynolds.
It’s time for these poorly informed bad actors to exit stage left. If you’re not going to work in honest, respectful ways to improve our community, don’t expect us to support your efforts to destroy it.