With just weeks left before Homestead’s primary election, nine candidates are vying for the three open council seats.
The primary election is scheduled for Oct. 1 but voters can also cast their ballots early from Sept. 26 to Sept. 28.
After that, the two council candidates for each seat with the highest percent of votes from the primaries will move on to the general election Nov. 5.
Here are the open seats and the candidates.
Incumbent Stephen Shelley is running unopposed for Seat 1, which represents the northwest section of Homestead.
Shelley, 34, was first elected in 2009 to a four-year term. He is an attorney whose Homestead-based Law Office of Stephen R. Shelley, PLLC, opened in 2005, and specializes in family, business, contracts, wills and trusts law.
He serves as a council liaison for several local organizations, including ArtSouth, an artists’ community with about 50 studios, three galleries and an art school; the Historic Preservation Board; and the Homestead-Miami Speedway. He is also the chairman of the city’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the New Elected Officials Pension Board.
In August he proposed a free public transportation system that connects Homestead to both Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park. The project recently came to fruition.
Five hopefuls are running to represent Homestead’s southwest section, an area that candidates say is unsafe and needs more development.
Incumbent Jimmie Williams III said he wants to serve again to continue projects the council started in the last four years. That includes road improvements as well as a grant program that provides funds for Homestead residents to fix up their homes.
Williams, 34, is a senior pastor and chief executive officer of St. James A.M.E. Church in Gladeview, a neighborhood in unincorporated Miami-Dade County.
He is the chairman of the council’s Finance Committee, and the council liaison for the city’s Solid Waste Department and the Southwest Advisory Board.
His challengers are: Norman Hodge Jr., Ezzard Horn, Rochenel Marc and Fred Byrd.
Hodge, 41, previously served on the Homestead council from 2003 to 2007, and he said he wants to once again sit on the dais so he can finish up projects started at the time. That includes a Southwest Master Plan, which seeks complete redevelopment of the area. As a councilman he served as a liaison for several local organizations, including the Mayor’s Youth Committee, the Economic Development Committee and the Homestead/Florida City Human Relations Board.
Hodge is self-employed as an account manager and business developer and contracts with companies such as SpotOn, which provides small business owners with economical marketing.
Another candidate for the seat is Horn, who worked for Homestead’s parks department for about 20 years, the last eight as superintendent.
“By me being a longtime city employee, a lot of people said to me, ‘You know a lot about the inner workings in the city of Homestead. Why don’t you go for it?’,” said 57-year-old Horn. He now works for a security-services company.
If elected, he will work toward more development in the southwest and northwest areas of Homestead, more code enforcement and police presence.
Marc, 46, owns a small business in Homestead, Nord-Ouest Security and School Training, which trains security guards.
“Most of the businesses in the southwest of the city closed because of safety reasons,” he told the Miami Herald. “If I had a business I wanted to open in the area, I’d need more police presence.”
Aside from beefing up security in Homestead, he promises to work toward lowering the electricity bills the city of Homestead charges small businesses, creating more jobs and revitalizing the city’s economy.
Byrd, 42, works for Florida International University where he is part of a department that maintains the landscaping on campuses. He is also the vice chair of the Southwest Advisory Committee and, like his fellow candidates, is passionate about revitalizing the area.
“When I was growing up, on Southwest Fourth Street, there were a lot of businesses there at the time,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve become infested with drugs, we’ve become infested with violence. I decided just to stand up and make something happen.”
Incumbent Elvis Maldonado is seeking another term to represent the Waterstone district.
The 40-year-old is the founder and owner of LaptopZone, a Homestead technology servicing business.
“The last four years with the city of Homestead have been good,” said Maldonado. “You see the good you do in the community and I want to continue with that.”
Maldonado is the chairman of the council’s Education Committee and the council liaison for Development Services Technology.
He is challenged by Maycol Enriquez, 40, and Nazy Sierra, 47.
Enriquez is an administrator with the county public school system’s maintenance branch that oversees proper upkeep of school buildings. He oversees the design, inspection, renovation and remodeling of county school board-owned and leased buildings, according to his resume. He is a member of Homestead’s Centennial Steering Committee. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 2001 to 2005.
Sierra was a Homestead councilwoman from 2007 to 2009 when council members were limited to two-year terms, she said. At the time she created a Voter Registration Team that worked to address the low voter turn out in Homestead by campaigning to get people to register to vote.
After retiring from teaching art, Spanish and Exceptional Student Education, Sierra founded and owns a teacher-training company, Sierra’s R Us, which conducts workshops and develops school curriculum for Florida school districts.
She co-chairs the Education Committee for Homestead’s Chamber of Commerce and represents Homestead for the Citizens Oversight Committee for the county public school system.
At the general election, which is scheduled for Nov. 5, a separate ballot will list all council candidates’ names under the vice-mayor ballot. The candidate with the most votes, who also wins the election seat he or she is running for, will become the vice mayor.
Voters also will have four candidates to choose among for vice mayor.
Early voting for the general election will be from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. All early voting, for both the primary and general election, will be at the Homestead public library branch, 700 N. Homestead Blvd.