LAUREL HILL — City Councilman Johnny James’ constituents might soon have the opportunity to help their representative get back in office through a fish fry.


LAUREL HILL — City Councilman Johnny James’ constituents might soon have the opportunity to help their representative get back in office through a fish fry.



But unlike other political fundraisers, James isn’t trying to get re-elected. He’s just trying to get back in his seat.



James, who by an April 2 City Council action is on a leave of absence from his council seat, must apply to have his property annexed to Laurel Hill before he can be reinstated.



However, the $2,050 cost of annexation, which by city ordinance must be paid by the applicant, is more than James can afford.



“The price I got to pay, it’s too much,” James said. “It’s a lot of money. They (city officials) don’t set me a payment plan. I have to have the money.”



James said he lost his good-paying job of several years at L3 Crestview Aerospace and now works in housekeeping at North Okaloosa Medical Center for near minimum wage.



'THEY WANT ME IN THERE'



He said when he found out the cost of annexation from Mayor Robby Adams, he initially considered waiting until his financial situation improved before seeking his seat back.



“It’s crazy,” he said. “My head tells me, 'Wait two more years,' but the people, they want me in there. It’s kind of rough to come up with that kind of money and pay bills, too.”



But, as James, Adams and council members Debra Adams and Daniel Lane said at the April 2 meeting, he was twice elected to office, and voters expect their votes to count.



If James raises the annexation fee, he won’t automatically regain his seat. His application still must be approved by the City Council, which then must reappoint him to his seat.



‘I GOTTA GET BACK TO WORK’



Questions about James’ residency arose because of a mistaken belief that property on his side of Robbins Lane had been annexed into the city in the 1960s at the same time those across the street were annexed.



The council approved James' leave of absence to apply for annexation by a 3-1 vote, with newly elected Councilman Scott Moneypenny voting against the measure.



James said supporters and members of his church have discussed holding a fish fry within the next week or two to help him raise the annexation fee.



“We’ll get it done, one way or another,” James said. “I gotta get back to work for the people and the kids.”



Email News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes, follow him on Twitter or call 850-682-6524.