Mayor Coniglio Reflects on 10-Year ‘Labor of Love’

William Kelly   |  Our Town  |  February 15, 2021

Gail Coniglio sums up her decade-long tenure as Palm Beach’s mayor as a “labor of love.”
As Congilio prepares to exit office following the March 9 election, her labor and love for the town are everywhere evident as she leaves its beaches, finances and infrastructure healthier than she found them. Ever the diplomat and always a team player, Coniglio is quick to share credit for any achievements with those who worked beside her. “Everybody brought a different talent,” she said in a recent interview. “Every council laid a brick.”

Coniglio announced in December she would not seek a sixth two-year term as mayor. Town Councilwoman Danielle Moore is unopposed in her bid to succeed Coniglio, and is expected to be sworn to the office at the first council meeting following the March 9 town election. Coniglio was elected mayor in 2011 after serving four years on the council. In seven town elections – twice for a council seat and five times for mayor – she never faced a challenger. Coniglio – a restaurateur and mother of six adult children who is expecting her 16th and 17th grandchildren – carved a reputation as a hard-working mayor who achieved goals through persistence, diplomacy and unified effort.

An executive board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities, Coniglio was known for forging lasting ties with the county, state and federal governments, and with other regulatory agencies. She has described her role as mayor as that of liaison and steward. “It’s been a labor of love,” Coniglio said. Coniglio has described the town as a three-legged stool that requires all three legs – representing its government, residents and business community – to function in unison. “I have served with many councils that left their stamp,” Coniglio said. “There is not much in the way of relationships that hasn’t been fulfilling to me. It’s the part of the job I will miss the most.”

Letting go of the job she loves was a difficult decision, she said. “It’s bittersweet. But the town is in great shape. You try to leave wherever you’re at in a better spot. I hope I have done that.”

 

Highlights of town accomplishments under her watch include:

  • The securing of a 50-year commitment from the federal government to renourish nearly three miles of shore in Midtown with a mix of federal, state and local dollars.
  • The cost-sharing arrangement included a $25 million federal grant for beach restoration jointly announced by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and Coniglio in 2018. It followed years of lobbying in Tallahassee, Jacksonville and Washington DC by Coniglio and town Coastal Manager Rob Weber.
  • The approval of a coastal protection plan that includes periodic sand fills at Midtown Beach and Phipps Ocean Park, and use of the sand transfer plant on Singer Island, and federal maintenance dredging of the Palm Beach Inlet, to collect and deposit sand near the northern tip of the town’s shoreline.
  • Establishment of a Palm Beach Island Beach Management Agreement that has streamlined environmental permitting requirements for beach fills.
  • An accelerated upgrade of capital improvements that enabled the town, through a 2010 bond issue, to take better advantage of historically low interest rates for future infrastructure projects. The acceleration was spearheaded by the council under then-President David Rosow.
  • The launch in 2017 of a long-term plan to bury all overhead power, cable and telephone lines on the island to improve aesthetics, safety and system reliability, especially during storms. The project will cost more than $100 million and is expected to be completed around 2026, officials have said.
  • The renovation of Town Hall and of Town Hall Square, with donations from the community, as part of the town’s 2011 Centennial celebration. Coniglio said presiding over the town’s 100th birthday celebration was especially gratifying for her.
  • The opening in 2019 of the town’s new 17,000-square-foot Morton and Barbara Mandel at Seaview Park, funded through a public/private partnership.
  • Demolition last year of the Town Marina to make room for a new state-of-the-art facility that will include floating docks and larger slips. Coniglio worked to secure grants to help finance the new marina which officials hope will pump $10 million to $12 million each year into town coffers.
  • Extension of the Lake Trail under the new Flagler Memorial Bridge, which opened in 2017. Coniglio worked closely with the Florida Department of Transportation to achieve the goal of tying together the portions of the popular recreational path that were long divided by bridge.
  • A voluntary effort by the council to pay $5.4 million a year, beyond annual legal obligations, to reduce a long-term liability in the employee pension fund.
  • While Coniglio was a council member in 2009, the town renovated the Par 3 Golf Course based on a redesign by World Hall of Fame champion Raymond Floyd. The project, funded by a mix of public and private funds, led to construction of a new clubhouse at the course.
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