Opa-locka voters will choose a new mayor and two commission seats this fall.
All of the candidates have either been in office or run before.
In the race for the mayoral seat, incumbent Myra Taylor, 67, will face current commissioner Dorothy “Dottie” Johnson, 63, and Rose Tydus, 66, retired managing partner of the Deal Group Realty.
Facing off for two available commission seats are: current commissioner Timothy Holmes, 71; Deborah Sheffield Irby, 63, owner of the Irby Group; Andre Faustin, 56, owner of A&F Roofing; and Terence Pinder, 41, marketing director of the Opa-locka Flea Market.
Current mayor Taylor has been in office since 2010. She was elected mayor for the first time in 2002 but was removed from office by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2004 after being indicted for defrauding the Internal Revenue Service by allegedly trying to use several family-run schools as a coffer to pay $140,000 in personal expenses. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
In 2011, she paid a $1,500 fine and accepted a public reprimand from the Miami-Dade County Ethics Commission for several allegations, including allegedly using city resources in 2009 and 2010 to benefit a nonprofit corporation she was involved in.
“I don’t have a comment about those two issues, it’s in the past,” she said, and instead talked about the things she has accomplished during her term, like the restoration of City Hall, securing money from the state for infrastructure development, and lowering the property-tax rate to $8.50 per $1,000 in taxable home value.
If elected for a second term, Taylor said, she hopes to complete plans to bring an urgent care center to the city, receive approval to expand the city’s borders and introduce a teen court, a system by which first-time juvenile offenders are judged in a courtroom by their peers.
“I have a proven track record of doing what I’m doing,” she said. “I’m moving the city of Opa-locka from great to grand.”
Johnson has been in the commission for 12 years and served as interim mayor in 2004 after Taylor’s removal from office, and as vice mayor in 2010. She is a retired postal worker and has been living in Opa-locka for the past 20 years.
“I feel the citizens, the community and the children deserve more,” she said about why she was running for mayor. “It’s time for a change.”
Johnson said she would like to balance the budget without reducing services, and will not allow the city to be run by elected officials during her term. She wants to improve the city’s image by attracting businesses and working with homeowners to increase property values.
She said she knows the city had a bad image, and estimated it would take her about two years to turn the city around.
“I will step down if I can’t turn the city around in two years,” she said. “Within two years you will see a different Opa-locka, I assure you.”
Tydus was the first African-American city clerk in Miami-Dade County, serving from 1976 to 1984. She served as commissioner from 2000 to 2012, when she lost her commission seat to current Commissioner Luis Santiago.
She said that if elected, she wants to focus on beautification programs, boosting citizen morale, and bringing economic development to the city, which she said she thinks is likely to happen now that the city is improving its infrastructure.
“I think the success of the city depends on it being run like a corporation,” she said. “I want to take the politics out of the administration.”
Tydus has had financial problems. In two cases, in 2007 and 2009, creditors obtained default judgments against her. She filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2013. That case remains open.
She said her financial problems would in no way affect how she serves the city.
“Business people do it all the time,” she said. “Donald Trump has filed for bankruptcy several times.”
Holmes has been in office since 1994 and is well-known for sponsoring his “saggy pants” initiative, which banned saggy pants in the city of Opa-locka.
He said he is running again because being in the commission for the last 20 years allows him to know exactly what has to be done for the community.
Irby was city clerk for 18 years until the commission fired her without cause in 2012. She said one of the elected officials told her she had been there too long and needed to leave. She ran unsuccessfully for a commission seat that same year.
Irby says she is a “matron” of Opa-locka. She was born and raised in the city and is running for the people of the community.
“Being in City Hall for nearly 20 years, I know the things that people do behind closed doors,” she said. “I am a proud product of this community and I know that I have the expertise to bring things around.”
Faustin, originally from Haiti, is running for commission for the third time, after running unsuccessfully in 2008 and 2012.
Faustin said that if elected, he would like to improve city services, and eliminate wasteful spending. He would also like to develop programs to unite the community, because he believes it is racially divided.
“I’ve been a leader all my life,” he said. “I would like to serve this community with dignity, respect and honesty.”
Pinder was a commissioner in 2004 until Gov. Jeb Bush removed him from his seat after his arrest in 2006 on charges of theft and official misconduct for illegally using his city-issued credit card. Pinder was arrested again in 2007 under charges of bribery and unlawful compensation, linking him to lobbyist Dante Starks. He pleaded no contest to Miami-Dade County ordinance violations and was fined $2,500 and placed on probation.
“All good leaders have been arrested,” he said. “I’m wiser now and I understand that sometimes bad things happen to good people.”
Pinder said that if elected, he will focus on reducing spending, and improving safety.
“We are ready to move on and get back to where the city was when I was in office.”