VIDEO | Coin Flip Decides New Niceville Council Member

Not kidding. A coin toss had to seperate the final two candidates to replace Abner Williams on the Niceville City Council.

After winning a coin flip that decided the appointment, Doug Stauffer will serve the rest of Abner Williams’ three-year term on the Niceville City Council. 


After a month of special meetings, downselected lists, three interviews, and two city council votes Monday evening, the Council was still deadlocked, 2-2, on who should serve as the next councilperson. 

Councilmen Sal Nodjomian and Carl Donahoo voted for Stauffer. Councilwoman Cathy Alley and Councilman Bill Schaetzle cast their ballots for Tolbert. 

“I think Doug [Stauffer] did a fantastic job on the opening question of biggest concerns,” Councilman Nodjomian said of Stauffer as the Council debated who would join their ranks, “He’s the only one to talk about affordable housing, workforce housing. No one else brought that concept up. He talked about the daycare issue, which is one of the largest issues. Both of these issues are the number one issues for Eglin Air Force Base, which is the single largest influencer of our community.” 

Nodjomian added that he believed Stauffer was the man for the job because he communicated how he would interact with citizens to ensure he represented their interests (staying on top of emails and attending regular events like the Niceville Chamber of Commerce breakfasts.) Nodjomian added that Stauffer had read the charter and book of ordinances as a reason to support him. 

On the other side of the discussion, Councilman Bill Schaetzle felt Tolbert’s experience on the Niceville Planning Commission and his ability to stop and think about the evening’s questions before answering spoke to his councilperson capabilities. Councilwoman Alley agreed:

“Doug [Tolbert] by far has the most experience being on the Niceville Planning Commission, and understanding all of that process, and working with the Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning [Committee]. I liked his three pillars. I like the integrity, humble attitude, resonance, she said, “And he also was on the latest city charter Review Committee. He chaired that. So I think that he would do a great job. He’s very passionate about what he does. He’s very engaged. He does the research. He wants to know what’s going on. And he does all of that before coming to a meeting.”

The tie wasn’t resolved after a 10-minute discussion and revote. That meant they had to decide by chance – by coin flip or going biblical and drawing lots.

“The [] charter talks about flipping a coin or drawing straws,” Mayor Henkel said, “So, once again, for everybody out there – we are not doing something that’s not in accordance with our city charters.”

Editor’s note: we believe he was referencing this part of the charter

Henkel thought of a number – and had both of the finalists pick. Stauffer chose the closer number and picked tails. Henkel flipped a quarter with Washington’s head on one side and the Statue of Liberty on the other. Stauffer called tails and became the city’s newest council person. 

Henkel swore in Stauffer soon after the coin toss.

More Local News

How We Got To A Coin Flip

At the Council’s special meeting on January 29th, the commission shaved the initial list of 11 applications to serve on the Council to four candidates in the wake of Councilman Williams’ resignation.ย 

In the interim, one of the candidates –ย Kristen Shellย – took a job as Deputy City Manager of Niceville.ย 

Shell had received the most votes of any candidate at the workshop meeting on the 29th.ย 

That meant the Council had to choose between City Planning and Zoning Member and retired Air Force Officer Doug Tolbert, Faith Independent Baptist Church Pastor and Republican Party Activist Doug Stauffer, and General Contractor Suraj Patel for the spot.ย 

The four City Council members and the Mayor interviewed the final candidates in an open meeting to determine whom they would vote to appoint to the Council.ย 

Other Information

During the meeting, Councilman Carl Donahoo told all three finalists to take heart if they weren’t selected; two seats would open up in next year’s municipal elections as he and Councilman Nodjomian would not seek re-election at the end of their term.ย 


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