Burgess, 26, takes office as Zephyrhills’ youngest mayor
ZEPHYRHILLS - The youngest mayor in the history of Zephyrhills was sworn in Monday evening and the reorganization of the city council took on new meaning as referendums approved by voters last week took effect. Danny Burgess, 26, was sworn in to finish the term of former mayor Steve Van Gorden, who resigned in December amid allegations of sexual harassment while principal of Zephyrhills High School. City council members Lance Smith, Kent Compton and Charlie Proctor were also sworn-in as they resume their seats on the council. Smith won his race against Realtor and former councilman Manny Funes and Compton retained his seat after a challenge from cafe owner Rose Hale. Proctor did not have an opponent. Council members selected Smith as council president and Proctor was chosen to serve as vice president. A referendum approved in the last election allows the council vice president to carry out the president’s duties in the president’s absence.Two other referendums approved by voters set three-year term limits for city council members and for the mayor. The terms had been two years. To phase in the new term lengths, council members had previously decided to draw straws. Smith, occupying Seat 1, drew the longest coffee straw held by City Attorney Joe Poblick to be the first to serve a three-year term. Since Burgess is finishing Van Gorden’s term, he will not begin a three-year term unless he wins re-election next year. Next year, Council Seat 2, currently held by Jodi Wilkeson or Seat 4, held by Ken Burgess, uncle of the new mayor, will draw straws to see which seat will begin a three-year term. In 2015, Seats 3 and 5 will move to three-year terms and in 2016 the seat remaining (either Seat 2 or 4) will begin a three-year term.