On Tuesday, residents of Southwest Ranches will have to decide between staying on the same bridle path or changing the route.
To lead the town of 9,000, known for its farms, ranches, and love for horses, voters will have a choice of incumbent Jeff Nelson and challenger Holly Hugdahl.
Both mayoral candidates agree on three major issues:
Keeping Southwest Ranches a rural town.
Addressing problems with drainage.
Taking care of road repairs.
But there the similarity ends.
“We’re on pretty good path,” said Nelson. “There are some immediate issues, but in this difficult economic environment, we’ve done a darn good job at addressing them.”
But challenger Hugdahl disagrees:
“Jeff thinks everything is wonderful the way it is, I happen to think we need a lot of change,” Hugdahl said.
Nelson, 55, was elected to the council in 2004 and became mayor in 2008. He has lived in Southwest Ranches for 15 years and is currently the assistant principal at Cypress Bay High School.
Under his administration, Nelson said, Southwest Ranches maintained one of the lowest tax rates in Broward County, and negotiated police and garbage contracts to save residents money.
“We are the fourth lowest in millage rate in all of Broward County,” Nelson said. “We rolled back the millage rate to ensure residents wouldn’t pay more.”
But that’s not good enough for Hugdahl, 59, who vows to lower the tax rate and the town’s legal fees. She estimates she can cut $600,000 from the building department, code and legal fees.
“If we can cut costs, we’ll have money to work with,” Hugdahl said.
She also vows to improve communication between the town and the residents, reduce waiting time for building permits and modify code enforcement.
Hugdahl has lost two previous council elections. In 2004, she lost her race to Nelson for a council member seat. She has lived in Southwest ranches for over 12 years and works as the municipal finance director of Miami Shores Village.
Council members Doug McKay and Freddy Fisikelli were automatically re-elected to their seats when no one signed up to run against them.