The field of candidates for the Coral Gables election is officially set.
With three more people joining the pool of candidates last week before the Feb. 24 deadline, there will be races for mayor and two commission seats. Commissioner Vince Lago drew no competition and was automatically reelected.
The last three candidates to file are Serafin Sousa, a political newcomer; Marlin Ebbert, a retired teacher; and Wayne “Chip” Withers, a former longtime commissioner.
Withers is looking to jump back into politics after spending 20 years on the dais from 1991-2011 and will compete against Commissioner Patricia Keon for her group 3 seat. He said he wrestled with the decision before he filed on the last day of the qualifying period.
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“I felt that after 20 years I felt very good and comfortable about [stepping down],” Withers said. “I just wanted a little more perspective up there on how residents feel about things.”
After two decades in office, Withers thinks he can bring historic context to the dais, particularly as it relates to city zoning codes and ordinances that were written while he was on the commission.
“I really thought it was important that I bring back to the leadership the perspective of what we did and what worked and what didn’t work,” Withers said.
Ebbert has been a civic and arts volunteer for years and sits on the board of the Coral Gables Arts Cinema. She previously competed for a commission seat in the 2013 election but lost to Commissioner Vince Lago. After that defeat she thought she might be done with politics but she remained active in the city and wanted to take an additional step in her work.
“I have cared about this community for a long time and would like an opportunity to do more,” Ebbert said.
“I just sort of started to get involved and it opened my eyes to what’s going on in other neighborhoods,” Ebbert said. “Somebody recently said if you don’t like what’s going on, grab your clipboard, put on your running shoes and run.”
Sousa, an engineer with CFC & Associates, said he’s running because he thinks the commission should place a greater focus on residents in the downtown area.
“I think it’s a major source of tax revenue but it’s not a big voting bloc,” Sousa said. “I think the citizens are serving the city instead of the city serving the citizens.”
The other group 5 candidates are attorney Michael Mena and Randy Hoff, vice president of the Coral Gables Fraternal Order of Police.
The mayoral race will be a two-person contest. Slesnick is running against former mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli. Valdés-Fauli was mayor from 1993-2001 and was succeeded by Don Slesnick, Jeannett’s husband, who served from 2001-2011.
Residents have until March 13 to register for the April 11 election. A runoff election, if needed, would be held April 25.
Here are the candidates:
▪ Mayor: Jeannett Slesnick, Raúl Valdés-Fauli
▪ Commission Group 2: Vince Lago
▪ Commission Group 3: Patricia Keon, Wayne “Chip” Withers
▪ Commission Group 5: Randy Hoff, Michael Mena, Marlin Ebbert, Serafin Sousa