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Seven in running for South Miami City Commission



Seven people are running for three seats on the South Miami City Commission.

Friday was the last day for candidates to get their names on the Feb. 11 ballot.

Three of the five commission seats are up for grabs, including those of the mayor, commission groups I and IV. Voters can choose one candidate in each of the three races.

For the mayor’s seat, incumbent Phillip Stoddard will face current commissioner Valerie Ann Newman and Rodney Williams. Donna Shelley and Gabriel Edmond will compete for Newman’s seat in Commission Group I. Incumbent Walter Harris will face former Mayor Horace G. Feliu to retain his seat on the commission in Group IV.

“People have told me, when I was mayor, the city was not in chaos,” Feliu said. “The only thing that has been accomplished are lawsuits. It hurts me to see the city go down in a spiral like the last 4 years. There is a lack of leadership and lack of common sense.”

Early voting is set for Saturday, Feb. 8. Residents can vote at City Hall, 6130 Sunset Drive.

The South Miami mayoral term is two years, while other commissioners get four years. Current Vice Mayor Josh Liebman and Commissioner Bob Welsh don’t come up for reelection until 2016.

Williams, a South Miami barbershop owner, originally planned to run against Harris and Feliu but changed his mind after hearing feedback from the community.

“I decided to run for mayor,” said Williams, 41. “I bounced around and attended the last few meetings and noticed that there was a lot of politicking going on. This is an opportunity to change the commission. Looking at the commission as it currently is, (it’s a chance) to put two people in those seats that can actually change the community.”

Stoddard, 59, is a biology professor at FIU. He was elected mayor in 2010 and re-elected in 2012. Stoddard serves on the Miami-Dade League of Cities and co-founded Citizens Allied for Safe Energy.

Newman was first elected in 2009. She declined to be interviewed after a recent City Commission meeting and didn’t return phone calls.

Donna Shelley, 64, spent most of her career in management of museums and non-profits. Shelley managed funds as a budget officer for Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Shelley worked for Collier County before becoming a grant writer for the city of South Miami from 2006 to 2009.

“I’m focused on trying to have a better operating efficiency in the city government,” Shelley said. “I have had the chance to really observe the city for the last 8 years. I think five-hour meetings are too long. Be a little more fiscally responsible and make sure everyone sticks to what it is that they are there to do.”

Gabriel Edmond, 44, served as an aide to former U.S. Senator Bob Graham. Edmond, a high school history and government teacher, also ran for commissioner two years ago. Edmond‘s top three areas of concentration are education, good government and public safety. Edmond has served as a board member on the South Miami Neighbors Association and Alliance of Youth.

Walter Harris, 70, has been a commissioner for four years. Harris was president and vice president of the former South Miami homeowners association, now the South Miami Neighbors, for eight years and owned a photography studio in South Miami for 40 years. Harris is also on the board of directors for the Miami-Dade County League of Cities.

“My vision for the city hasn’t changed,” Harris said. “To make our city a community. I put together a citywide get-together in the early part of the decade. I always bring the city tighter. It’s the same thing I’m trying to do now. I like to make my streets and my city a safe and open environment.”

Horace Feliu, 60, served South Miami as mayor, vice mayor, and commissioner for a total of 10 years. Feliu teaches algebra and biology as an adjunct professor at Fortis College and is the president of SterilQuip Inc., a Biomedical Engineering Company. As mayor, Feliu was arrested and charged with three counts of campaign violations, all misdemeanors of which he was later acquitted.

“I wanted to run for a commission seat that would make a difference,” Feliu said. “I found that you can be just effective as a commissioner as you can a mayor. The city has had increased crime, unprecedented lawsuits and four city managers in less than three years.”

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