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Destin City Council unanimously appoints John Stephens to fill vacant seat

The Destin City Council on Monday unanimously appointed local businessman John Stephens to fill the council seat left vacant by Matthew Sweetser’s resignation last week. According to the city charter, […]

The Destin City Council on Monday unanimously appointed local businessman John Stephens to fill the council seat left vacant by Matthew Sweetser’s resignation last week.

  • Sweetser announced his resignation last week, citing health issues. His term was set to expire in November 2026.

According to the city charter, if a vacancy on the council occurs with less than one year left in the term, the remaining council members must appoint someone to fill the seat until the next election. They could take applications or go ahead and nominate someone who meets the requirements.

  • The charter also states that whoever is elected to complete Sweetser’s term in 2024 would only be eligible to serve one additional four-year term after that.

At Monday’s meeting, the council heard from two residents interested in the appointment — Stephens and former Destin Mayor Captain Gary Jarvis via letter — before selecting Stephens in a unanimous 6-0 vote.

Stephens is the owner of “Luther’s Pontoon, Waverunner, & Kayak Rentals” and has been involved in the business since 2005. He told the council he regularly attends city meetings and serves on numerous city committees and boards.

  • “I’m passionate about helping the city of Destin shine,” Stephens said. “It’s time to get to work now, not eight months from now. So this interim seat needs to be filled by someone that wants to help our city either for the two, four, six or eight years, whatever it is.”

Former council-member Rodney Braden spoke before the council saying that while he does plan to run for re-election in November, he didn’t think it would be fair for someone appointed now to have the advantage of incumbency in November’s election.

“I’ve had several people call and want me to put my name in the hat for the seat, but I plan on running in November,” Braden said. “I just think it gives whoever an unfair advantage if they’re appointed to that seat.”

Jarvis, a former Destin mayor, also threw his name in for consideration and city staff read a letter he submitted.

In making the motion to appoint Stephens, Council member Kevin Schmidt said he would bring energy and passion to the role.

  • “I think he’ll do an amazing job. He’s showing nothing but energy and passion for this city and everybody in it,” Schmidt said. “And if he can get up here on this seat and start taking action and helping us to continue pushing forward on some things, I am all about it.”

As of Tuesday, Stephens is one of only two candidates who have pre-filed. 

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