Florida City voters go to the polls Jan. 28 to elect a mayor and two commissioners.
Thirty-year incumbent Mayor Otis T. Wallace is running for reelection against challenger Israel J. Andrews.
Three are vying for two commission seats: Incumbent R.S. Shiver, who says he is the longest, continuously serving elected official in Florida; incumbent Eugene Berry and challenger James Brady.
Florida City has a strong-mayor form of government, meaning the mayor serves as the city’s top administrator. The mayor also has a single vote among the five-member commission.
Commissioners are elected at-large. The top two vote-getters will be elected to four-year terms, and the commission candidate who garners the most votes will be appointed as vice mayor.
Wallace has shrugged off two other challenges by Andrews in 2008 and 2010. Mayoral terms are now four years.
Wallace, 61, works full-time as Florida City’s mayor. He touted the city’s $5.6 million spent on road projects since the last election, as well as the construction of a new gym. He pointed to the construction of a new Hilton hotel as a job-creating project.
“We have to reach out and sell our city as a business-friendly community as a means of getting jobs,” Wallace said.
If reelected, Wallace said he would continue to work for federal grants to pay for home repairs for fixed-income seniors and provide more recreational programs for kids.
Andrews said he served three terms on the Florida City Commission in the 1980s and 1990s. The 54-year-old is a social studies teacher at Killian Senior High School in Kendall.
Andrews said the city is attracting too many low-paying jobs, and should instead focus on recruiting industries that pay living wages. He said the city has focused too heavily on building up U.S. 1.
“We’ve almost created two Florida Cities,” he said.
Andrews said the city should provide more services online, such as bill-paying. He added that, if elected, he would encourage the police department to focus on community policing and would like to see the city provide year-round youth programming.
Shiver was first elected in 1964 and has served on the Florida City Commission ever since. His family owns a local glass business.
“You never know who’s going to replace you and tear down what’s going on,” the 80-year old said. “You’ve got to have a little experience somewhere down the line to run this city.”
Shiver said he’d like to oversee the completion of the city’s road improvements and the hotel. He lauded the city’s work in improving the water and sewer systems, and supports the development of a casino in the city.
“I’m for anything small business,” Shiver said. “You’re going to put these school kids to work. It may be low wages, but at least they can have some spending money.”
Brady, 31, ran unsuccessfully for a commission spot in 2010 and 2012. He said he is a project manager for a Hialeah roofing company.
Brady called his campaign “a calling God has put on me,” and said that he is running to encourage younger people to get involved.
“It’s just time for a change. It’s nothing against my opponents. I just really believe it’s time for an upgrade...to show the younger generation that it can be done,” he said.
Brady has been at the center of an absentee ballot scandal in neighboring Homestead. A family there says that Brady and other men filled out their absentee ballots against their wishes, catching the attention of Miami-Dade police and prosecutors.
“That is not an issue. That’s nothing to talk about,” Brady said. “It’s only allegations. ... I learned this in this race that I fight, in this journey that I am on: You can tell a man’s character by his enemies.”
So, he concluded, the allegations are a “great, great, great sign.” Asked to clarify, he said his statement “speaks for itself.”
Berry did not return calls for comment. He was first elected in the late 1980s.
Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.