Cutler Bay Vice Mayor Ernie Sochin faces a challenge from activist Ed Wolmers in the town’s Nov. 6 election.
The vice mayor’s race will be the only one on the town ballot. Council member Sue Ellen Loyzelle was automatically reelected because no one ran against her. The other three council seats don’t expire until 2014.
The vice mayor’s salary is $604.67 per month.
Sochin, 76, is a sales manager at Master Distributors, a national electronics distribution company. He has served on the Town Council since Cutler Bay incorporated in 2006. He represented Seat 2 on the council until 2008, when he became vice mayor. If he is reelected, he will have to leave the council when his term expires in 2016 because of term limits.
Wolmers, 50, a Cutler Bay resident since 1997, owns a franchise of a national towing and recovery business called American Lenders Service Co. of Miami. Although he was against incorporation, he is an active community member who served on the original town charter committee during incorporation and on the charter revision commission from late 2011 to mid-2012.
This is not Wolmers’ first campaign for a seat on the Town Council. In 2010 he ran against current mayor Ed MacDougall and in 2006 he ran for a seat on the council after incorporation.
In his bid for reelection, Sochin said the most important issues are education and what he calls “new urbanism.” To him, this means integrating more stores and recreational facilities into residential areas, specifically along Old Cutler Road.
“I love the idea of people being able to live and play and work in their own hometown without having to drive away,” Sochin said.
He also plans to get community businesses, such as the local Mercedes dealership, involved with high school students to offer apprenticeships for those willing to learn a trade.
“There are jobs but not people prepared to fill them,” Sochin said.
Wolmers said he wants to improve transparency and communication between the Town Council and the community.
“The council has the responsibility to respond to the community,” he said. “What can I do differently? Honestly, just stand up and fight for the people.”
Wolmers said he is running against Sochin because he believes he can play a more active role on the council.
“In the last year, I felt that he’s been asleep at the wheel,” Wolmers said. “He has not been 100 percent awake and fought for the people.”
He said he would also make it a priority to prevent bickering amongst council members and maintain decorum at meetings.
Background checks revealed little of note for either candidate, except Wolmers filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999 and was discharged three months later. Wolmers said the bankruptcy came after a long struggle with finances that were sparked by a 1991 boating accident that claimed the lives of his daughter and niece, both 4, and his 28-year-old brother.
Financial reports show that Sochin has raised $10,736 in contributions, $5,000 of which he loaned himself. Wolmers has raised $300, $200 of which he loaned himself.
Wolmers said he is not seeking contributions from residents due to the state of the economy.
“People are hurting right now,” he said.
A series of amendments to the town charter — the town’s constitution — have been proposed by the town’s Charter Revision Commission and will be included on the Nov. 6 ballot. Voters will be asked whether to:
• Approve non-substantive editing changes.
• Prohibit town officials from intentionally misusing their positions to threaten, harass or intimidate any other person.
• Add a map of council districts to the charter.
• Allow town awards and recognitions as authorized by council.
• Give the Town Council the power to censure, reprimand or fine any council member or staff member under the council’s control determined by the council to have intentionally violated any provision of the charter or explicit directive of the council.
• Require former council members who have left office due to term limits to wait at least two years before running again.
• Prohibit people from running for a town office if they would be prevented from completing the term due to term limits.
• Declare that any elected official who resigns from office before completing the full term shall be treated as if they had served the full term for purposes of term limits.
• Declare that if any elected official’s term is lengthened because of a charter change, the extra time will not count toward term limits.
• Make any council member who is absent without good cause for three consecutive months subject to forfeiture of their office.
• Declare that the town manager shall be responsible for supervising all contracted services, consultants and contracted employees, except the town attorney and town clerk and their employees.
• Allow nonresidents with special expertise to serve as nonvoting members of town boards.
• Prohibit town officials from serving on the Charter Revision Commission.
• Prohibit any person from serving on more than two consecutive Charter Revision Commissions.
A copy of the Cutler Bay sample ballot can be found here.