Don Selvage

Less than a year after he left office, Don Selvage is returning to the Lakeland City Commission for the next three months. The commission this morning chose him as interim commissioner to succeed Michael Dunn, who resigned from his Southwest District seat last week. Selvage represented that district for eight years prior to Dunn’s election last December.

The commission also set Jan. 15 for a special election to fill the remaining three years of Dunn’s term. The person elected will take office at “the next opportunity” after the election, City Attorney Tim McCausland said. Selvage has said he does not intend to run in the special election.

Dunn resigned Saturday, a day after a grand jury indicted him on a second-degree murder charge in the shooting death of a shoplifter at Dunn’s military surplus store.

The vote to appoint Selvage was 5-1, with Commissioner Phillip Walker dissenting. Walker expressed admiration for Selvage but said he had hoped to consider other nominees.

Full video from this morning’s meeting:

City Commision Meeting from City of Lakeland on Vimeo.

Commissioner Justin Troller successfully pre-empted what he said would be a divisive airing of several candidates by nominating Selvage soon after the beginning of this morning’s 8 a.m. special meeting.

Troller noted that commissioners have heard from several people interested in the interim position and said, “I think we have a person who held the seat before who chose not to run who I think will not miss a beat if appointed to represent that southwest quadrant.” Troller added he’d rather appoint somebody like Selvage who isn’t planning to run for the office rather than giving a potential candidate an unfair advantage over election rivals.

Selvage, a 70-year-old retired Marine colonel, announced in January 2017 that he would not seek a third term on the commission. The four-candidate race to succeed him resulted in a December runoff between Dunn and former Commissioner Larry Durrence. While Durrence outpolled Dunn 46% to 37% in the initial election, Dunn won the runoff  54% to 46%, propelled partly by his strong support for keeping the Munn Park Confederate monument in place. It was his third try for the commission.

Selvage is expected to be sworn into office just before the City Commission agenda study session scheduled for next Friday.

He told reporters today: “This is under tragic circumstances. I didn’t apply for the position, but I am honored that the commission has enough confidence in me to ask me to come back and serve for a couple of months.”

After the vote, Mayor Bill Mutz told reporters eight or nine people have expressed an interest in running for the vacant seat; he declined to name them.

The choice of Selvage drew almost entirely favorable comments on two Facebook posts.

Today’s meeting generated more media attention than usual. Video journalists complete their setup before the meeting started.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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