Ballot boxes beckon and South Miami voters will decide this week who will become the city’s next mayor and vice mayor.
Incumbent Mayor Philip Stoddard is facing off against former Mayor Horace Feliu and first-time candidate Claudia Hauri. And although Commssioners Bob Welsh and Josh Liebman are running unopposed, the election will decide which one will be vice mayor.
Early voting is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at South Miami City Hall, 6130 Sunset Dr. Polling places throughout the city will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Election Day.
Stoddard, a biology professor at Florida International University, has been mayor for six years. He points to declines in crime levels and the property tax rate in the city, as well as the rise of South Miami’s emergency reserves during his tenure on the dais.
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“As mayor of South Miami for the next two years, I will continue my history of fiscal responsibility that reduced property taxes by a third and strengthened our city’s reserves,” Stoddard said. “I will continue supporting our excellent police department and our community policing program that lowered South Miami’s crime rate by 32 percent. I will continue drafting neighborhood protection ordinances and will continue working with regional transportation planners to find solutions to local traffic and parking problems. I will continue my successful fight to keep FPL’s above-ground high-voltage transmission lines and towers off of U.S. 1.”
As of Jan. 29, Stoddard, 58, had a total of $10,195 in campaign contributions.
He received contributions from Miami-Dade County District 8 Commissioner Danielle Levine Cava, Kyle Saxon, Joseph Serota, Chad Friedman and Stephen J. Helfman. Friedman, a lawyer with Weiss Serota Helfman Pastoriza Cole & Boniske, P.L., was a registered lobbyist in South Miami in 2013 and 2014. Saxon was a registered lobbyist in 2014. The mayor said he would continue to promote affordable housing options, maintain the parks system and improve a walkable downtown.
Feliu, 61, was South Miami’s mayor from 2002-04 and 2006-10.
“[I want] to use my years of experience and leadership in making South Miami first again by placing an emphasis on public safety in order to lower crime and prevent the recent embarrassing scandals involving our police department,” Feliu said. “Four city managers and three police chiefs in a five-year period creates instability.”
He also wants to prevent the sale of City Hall property, the outsourcing of the public works department and the violation of city charter and zoning laws affecting single-family residential areas in the city.
Feliu was arrested a day before the 2004 election on a charge of accepting an illegal campaign contribution as mayor, but was later acquitted. He then sued the state, county and city officials for false arrest. A federal judge dismissed his case.
The adjunct algebra and biology professor at Fortis College had $3,750 in campaign contributions as of Jan. 29.
Political newcomer Hauri is a licensed nurse who wants to prioritize the health, safety and welfare of South Miami residents.
Hauri, 73, has a doctorate in education and serves on the women’s committee. She wants the issue of a possible sale of City Hall property put on the ballot for residents to vote.
“A second issue is density,” Hauri said. “More buildings like that on U.S.1 and I believe 72nd Street and the building opposite City Hall are not congruent with a hometown feel and add increased traffic and congestion to the area, choking the atmosphere in more ways than one. Safety, security, favoritism of the parking in the city garage needs resolution. Businesses, including those in Sunset Place have told me customers don’t feel safe parking in that garage, either. More parks are needed to meet the green-space quota. The pool should have solar power so public and possible other use could be all year.”
Hauri had $7,700 in campaign contributions as of Jan. 29.
Welsh, the uncontested Group III commissioner, loaned $350 to his own campaign.
Liebman, the uncontested Group II commissioner, raised $500 in campaign contributions.
Philip Kraft Stoddard
▪ Age: 58.
▪ Occupation: incumbent mayor, South Miami; professor, biological sciences department at Florida International University.
▪ Education: bachelor's degree in biology, Swarthmore College; doctor of philosophy, psychology, University of Washington; post-doctoral fellow, neurobiology & behavior, Cornell University.
▪ Other: member Governance Coordinating Committee of the National Ocean Council (appointed by the White House); co-founder, Citizens Allied for Safe Energy; member of the Miami-Dade League of Cities Energy and Environmental Committee.
Horace Gaspar Feliu
▪ Age: 61.
▪ Occupation: adjunct professor, algebra and biology, Fortis College; president, SterilQuip, a biomedical engineering company.
▪ Education: master’s degree, education, FIU; bachelor’s degree, biology, FIU, bachelor’s degree, mechanical engineering, FIU.
▪ Other: mayor, South Miami, 2002-04 and 2006-10; environmental review and preservation board, 1996-98.
Claudia Martha Hauri
▪ Age: 73.
▪ Occupation: business owner, Educated Health Care Choices 2008 - present.
▪ Former occupation: registered nurse, staff & head nurse; nursing instructor; associate, professor & director of nurse practitioners.
▪ Education: bachelor’s of science, nursing, Barry University; master of science in nursing, maternal/child nursing curriculum & instruction, University of Colorado School of Nursing; family nurse practitioner (FNP) certificate, University of Miami School of Nursing; doctorate in education (Ed.D), Educational Leadership, University of Florida College of Education.
▪ Other: South Miami planning board, 2014; women's committee 2013 to present; arc nurse, nurse consultant, 1980 to present; numerous university committees.
Robert Cooper Welsh Jr. (unopposed)
▪ Age: 62
▪ Education: bachelor’s degree, political science, FIU.
▪ Other: Environmental Review and Preservation Board
Joshua C. Liebman (unopposed)
▪ Age: 41
▪ Occupation: real estate
▪ Education: University of Florida - undergrad (1992-96) - Business Major, Communications/Advertising Minor; University of Florida grad school (2000-01) - MBA