The candidates for North Miami’s election in May are officially set and the election features a mix of familiar candidates and some newcomers hoping to become mayor and claim a City Council seat.
Mayor Smith Joseph will face opposition from one opponent, Jean Marcellus, and five candidates are competing for City Council Seat 4, which is being vacated by Councilwoman Marie Steril.
Councilman Scott Galvin and City Clerk Michael Etienne will hold on to their positions as they were unopposed. A potential opponent for Etienne, Janet Reed, was disqualified on the final day of qualifying when she attempted to file her paperwork to run.
The candidates for Steril’s seat include: Alix Desulme, a former city clerk; Jessica Alston, a retired guidance counselor; Carline Paul, a political consultant; Roseline Philippe, an education professor and consultant; and Beverly Hilton, a private school administrator.
Joseph, 53, the current mayor, has been on the job since last November when voters chose him to complete the term of former mayor Lucie Tondreau.
Joseph previously ran for mayor in 2013, finishing third behind Tondreau and former Mayor Kevin Burns.
The mayor could not be reached for comment for this story.
His opponent Marcellus, 55, served as a councilman from 2009-13 and said that his years in office give him an advantage over Joseph, who has served as mayor for about five months.
“I think I’m the one who can move the city forward and move it from the instability it’s facing right now,” Marcellus said. “I think I’m in a better position to do some of these things than the sitting mayor.”
Marcellus also said he’s learned from his recent campaign experiences, in the 2013 and 2014 mayoral races he finished in fifth and third place respectively.
“I’ve learned from my mistakes,” Marcellus said.
The field of candidates for Seat 4 includes some candidates who have never run for public office, but think residents know them well enough that they can find support.
Alston, 61, said that she doesn’t consider herself a politician or a community activist. She’s a resident in the Sunkist Grove neighborhood and is often outspoken at City Council meetings, particularly about development on Northwest Seventh Avenue.
“I don’t want to see my community become a red light district,” Alston said. “I want to see the community develop into something like a west Biscayne Boulevard.”
She wants to see more local jobs through small business development in the area and more programming for residents at local parks and community centers like the Sunkist Grove Community Center and Claude Pepper Park.
Philippe, 55, has also never run for office in the city but has served with various organizations in and out of North Miami including the Haiti Cherie Heritage Foundation and the Haitian Youth Community Center of Florida. She said that once Councilwoman Steril announced that she was not running she saw an opportunity to enter the race.
“I said to myself, why not? You know the issues, you know what you want to see in the community,” Philippe said.
If elected, Philippe hopes to use her experience in serving on those community organizations and on various boards in the city — including the board of adjustment, community relations and community redevelopment agency boards — to spur development in District 4.
“We’ve been talking about economic development, but I don’t see real viable business coming in,” Philippe said. “We’ve got to start thinking out of the box.”
Desulme, 37, said he was also inspired to run after hearing that Steril was leaving her post. Desulme last served in North Miami as the city clerk in 2009 but previously ran for City Council Seat 3 in 2001 and for Seat 4 in 2005, losing to Steril.
He also competed for state House District 108 in 2010 and 2012 and lost to Rep. Daphne Campbell in both races, but finished in a close second in the first campaign — losing by 367 votes. Desulme said he’s learned from all of those experiences and said those campaigns and connections have prepared him for this race.
“You do learn as a public servant each time you win or lose you take something from it, you don’t hold grudges you just stay focused and determined,” Desulme said.
He hopes to increase state and federal funding for projects in District 4 particularly through the federal community development block grant program.
Paul, 56, is likely known to many Haitian-American residents for her presence on Haitian radio. She said after 31 years of being active in the community she now wants to serve as an elected official.
“I am coming out of the community to solve problems at another level,” Paul said.
Paul said public safety is something she wants to address along with flooding issues and a lack of bus shelters in District 4.
“There are abandoned houses with children and residents who feel their lives are threatened; constituent safety is a big issue,” Paul said.
Hilton, 58, who lost to Councilwoman Steril in the 2011 race for Seat 4, said she also wants to encourage development on Seventh Avenue, comparing the corridor to Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale and to restaurants and businesses in Aventura.
She also hopes to improve relationships between city staff, the city’s police department and residents.
“The morale in City Hall among the staff and police officers is so low, we need to bring back a more friendly police and resident relationship,” Hilton said.
The election is May 12 with a runoff election June 2, if necessary. Early voting takes place from April 27 to May 10.
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