With a voter turnout of nearly 96 percent, the tiny industrial town of Medley elected Edgar Ayala and Lily Stefano to the Town Council.
Ayala, the incumbent, won a third term with 264 votes, or about 38 percent, while Stefano garnered 247 votes.
Karina Pacheco, whose husband already serves on the council, came in third.
A newcomer to Medley, Stefano, 54, faced an uphill battle. She self-funded much of her campaign because, she told the Herald in September, local businesses favored the other candidates. In 2016, she ran for mayor but lost to current Mayor Roberto Martell, who had unsuccessfully sued to remove Stefano from the ballot, claiming she didn’t move to Medley in time to qualify.
Stefano is executive director of the nonprofit Santana Moss Foundation, named for the NFL star who started the charity to help South Florida communities. In 2014, Medley contracted with the foundation for help applying for social service benefits and grants, but Martell canceled the contract the following year.
Still, the charity work made Stefano fall in love with Medley, she said. She provides residents with supplementary food through the foundation and has distributed windows, doors and tiles to help residents fix up their homes. As councilwoman, she said she plans to continue and expand the town’s social services, particularly those for the elderly.
Ayala, a former Sears air-conditioning technician, left Honduras for the United States in 1993 and has lived in Medley ever since. The 49-year-old is now working towards an associate degree in political science at Miami Dade College.
Ayala was first elected to the council in a 2012 special election for a two-year term, after three unsuccessful runs.
In September, he told the Herald that, if reelected, he would continue the town’s social services for children and the elderly, like a program that helps pay for kids to join sports teams in neighboring areas.
Pacheco’s 187 votes weren’t enough to win her one of the two open council seats. If she had won, she and her husband, vice-mayor Iván Pacheco, would have been the first known case in Florida of spouses serving simultaneously on the same council or commission. Pacheco received more than $11,000 in campaign contributions, out-raising both her opponents by several thousand dollars.
Ayala and Stefano will serve four-year terms and earn an annual salary of just over $53,000.