A tough election race is shaping up in Homestead, where the hardest-fought issues are expected to be development throughout the city and changes to the Homestead police department.
Ten men are in the running for the three open seats on the Homestead City Council — the mayor’s seat, along with council seats 2 and 3. Four candidates are running for mayor, three for council seat 2 and three for council seat 3.
The only female candidate, incumbent Patricia Fairclough, ran unopposed for a third term in seat 6 and was automatically re-elected.
Homestead will have a primary election Oct. 1, with the general election set for Nov. 5.
For the last decade, Homestead development has been in flux. Residential developments have boomed, more than doubling the population from about 33,000 in 2003 to more than 70,000 today.
For some candidates, the boom has brought about traffic congestion. They complain that past city councils showed no restraint in approving high-density, starter-type housing in a city that doesn’t have enough jobs, forcing residents to go to Miami and elsewhere for work.
Other candidates see the opposite. More developments mean more residents, which means more business and a bigger tax base. They want to continue on the same path, completing projects that have been in the works for years, like the old City Hall site.
The old City Hall was vacated in 2013 after tests found cancer-causing radon gas, pervasive mold and asbestos in the structure. At that time it, was 54 years old and too small for a city whose population had grown more than seven times since the building opened.
Now the first floor of the old City Hall is home to the Homestead Historic Town Hall Museum, and there have been talks about renovating the site and other parts of the surrounding historic district.
Changes in policing are another issue most candidates are talking about. Some agree with Homestead Police Chief Al Rolle that the police department needs more officers — Rolle says 40 more, though not all candidates agree with that number.
The most recent data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FBI show the city’s number of crimes have steadily declined and the number of officers at Homestead Police Department has been on a slight uptick. From 2013 to 2017, total crimes have decreased from 4,141 to 3,153, while the number of officers has gone from 105 to 116.
This year’s election will also see candidates with extensive Homestead government experience facing those who have little or no government experience.
The mayoral candidates include two former mayors, a former city council member and a candidate who hasn’t held an elected city government office. The current mayor, Stephen Shelley, is not running for mayor, a position he assumed in January when the previous mayor, Jeffrey Porter, resigned to run for statewide office.
When a new mayor is elected, Shelley will return to his Council Seat 1 position, which he was elected to before Porter’s resignation. Councilman Julio Guzman was named by the council to serve a year in the then-vacant Council Seat 1 and step down after the election.
The Seat 2 field opened up because the incumbent, Jon Burgess, was term limited after 12 years on the council. The race has a candidate who has worked for the city for 30 years. He’s running against a longtime Florida Power & Light employee and a state board member of the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association.
In the Seat 3 race, the incumbent is running against a current school teacher and a retired Homestead police officer.
Here is a look at the candidates who are running in the Oct. 1 election:
Roy “Steve” Shiver
Roy “Steve” Shiver may have the most recognizable name among the 10 candidates.
Shiver, 53, was born and raised in Homestead and served as mayor from 1997 to 2001.
After Shiver left the Homestead council in 2001, he would become Miami-Dade County’s manager later that year. He resigned in 2003 after a rocky period with the County Commission and his boss at the time, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas.
Seven years later, in 2010, a county audit revealed millions of taxpayer dollars, to be used to regenerate Homestead, were mismanaged. The audit tore into the city’s dealings with Shiver, a developer’s representative during this period. Shiver went before the council with land deals.
Shiver returned to local government in September 2015 when he was hired as Opa-locka’s city manager. During his time as manager, Shiver was accused by a local contractor of soliciting a $150,000 bribe in exchange for the city paying his final invoice of $272,000 on a sewer project. But the allegation against Shiver turned out to be entirely false, the Miami Herald has learned.
At the time, Shiver was working undercover as a confidential informant for an FBI corruption probe while serving as Opa-locka’s manager. At the direction of the FBI, Shiver recorded conversations with the sewer contractor, George Howard, and then-Mayor Myra Taylor, according to public records obtained by the Herald.
Both Howard and the mayor pressured Shiver to authorize the $272,000 payment for Howard’s purported additional work on the pump station project, so that the contractor could kick back $150,000 of that money to the mayor to help her husband, the Rev. John Taylor, develop a new church project. Howard and Taylor were never charged in the FBI investigation.
In 2016, Gov. Rick Scott appointed a state oversight board to oversee the troubled city. Additionally, seven people associated with the city’s government were convicted between 2016 and 2018 on corruption charges.
At the end of last year, the Dade County Police Benevolent Association hired Shiver as its executive director, a $140,000-a-year post. By May, he resigned, after an article by the Miami Herald documented Shiver’s history of financial mismanagement.
Shiver has filed for bankruptcy twice and listed personal debts of more than $8 million in one of the bankruptcies.
No criminal charges have been filed against him.
“I put my pants on just like everybody else,” Shiver said Friday. “I’m subject to the market collapses. I’m subject to personal challenges our families face.”
Shiver said he was seeking the mayor’s office because he doesn’t like the city’s direction.
“I’m not happy with the manor in which the city of Homestead has been governed over the last seven or eight years,” he said. “We can not afford this status quo of leadership that turns the other eye and has illusions of running for other offices.”
He said he wants to build a more stable city administration and fix low employee morale.
Shiver also said he wants to build a better relationship with local shops and businesses, bringing jobs to the city so residents don’t have to commute.
“We have to be a welcoming city to the right kind of development that fits with our community,” he said.
Shiver’s campaign has received $41,334.20, the most among the candidates. Most of the funds have come from people or companies connected to real estate development. Other donations have come from lawyers and hotel companies.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has endorsed him.
Jeffrey Porter, 59, resigned as Homestead mayor in 2018 to run for Florida agriculture commissioner. He lost the race, and is trying to get his old job back.
“We’ve got projects that were started when I was mayor. I got an opportunity to come back and be a part of finishing those projects,” Porter said.
Porter wants to improve Losner Park and finish the old City Hall project, which has been in the works for more than 10 years.
Porter also wants to determine whether utility rates should be lowered or raised, and whether the police force needs more staff.
Porter is a Homestead native who sat on the city council from 1997 to 2007. He owns two companies, one resells industrial supplies and the other specializes in outdoor security.
Porter’s campaign has received $20,350 in contributions. Most of these donations have come from real estate firms or agents, construction companies and contractors.
Steven Daniel Losner
Steven Daniel Losner, 58, served on the city council from 2001-2007. He ran for mayor in 2011 against Steven Bateman and lost. Bateman is serving a 22-month prison sentence related to his corruption conviction when he was Homestead’s mayor.
Losner, a Homestead native whose family’s roots date to 1921, said he wants to return to government because he is tired of seeing the same issues not being fixed.
“I’m really frustrated that some of the same issues that existed when I left office 12 years ago are still pending,” said Losner, an attorney specializing in real estate and probate law.
Revitalizing Southwest Homestead, reusing the old city hall and utilizing the land under the recently demolished Homestead baseball stadium are some of the things he wants to see completed.
“Let’s make some real progress; let’s make some good use of city assets,” he said. “We aren’t seeing traditional type neighborhoods with nice yards and space between houses. I think there is a desire for that and it’s not being provided.”
Losner also said the police shortage in the city has not been addressed. The police chief has said the city needs 40 more officers.
“I don’t know if 40 is a true number, but even if it is 25 or 30, that is a huge financial impact that we are going to have to address going forward,” he said.
Losner’s campaign has raised $28,550, with most of the funding coming from law firms and residents.
Bradley Lynn Compton
While the other mayoral candidates tout their government experience, Bradley Lynn Compton, 40, has no background in that area.
“It is definitely going to be a hard-fought race,” Compton said. “I think we’re in a time right now in which the electorate wants to see some people that are not career politicians sitting up there. They want to see some more grassroots campaigns.”
Compton is a vice chairman for the South Dade Venture Community Development District, which handles infrastructure repair and upkeep in the city’s Waterstone community.
Due to the state’s resign-to-run law, Compton said he will resign from that position on Nov. 1, five days before the city’s election.
Compton’s key goals are bringing commercial and industrial jobs to Homestead, increasing the size of the police force, establishing more after-school programs and investing in parks and recreational areas in newly built neighborhoods.
His campaign has received $7,290.58 in contributions, of which $5,369.20 stems from a Compton loan to the campaign.
He’s lived in Homestead since 2005 and is an environmental consultant.
Council Seat 2
Paul B. Wiggins Jr.
Paul Wiggins Jr., 36, is a “fourth-generation Homesteadian,” whose family has had a nursery business in the area since Homestead’s beginning.
“We plant some crops that take 15 years to mature to even be able to sell,” he said. “So I’m going to take that attitude of thinking long-term and try to achieve more long-term change, not initial quick fixes.”
Some of these long-term goals are slowing down development in the city, attracting more jobs, alleviating traffic and creating a community task force that would consist of residents and police, he said.
Wiggins is part of a similar task force that looks at community relations between Florida City and Homestead.
His campaign has raised $4,920 in contributions.
Dennis Ray Maytan Jr.
When Dennis Ray Maytan Jr., 52, was diagnosed with melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer, it changed his life.
Running a campaign and winning a seat have long been a dream of Maytan’s. After treatment, he said his test results have been negative, spurring him to run.
“This is a great opportunity for me to start fresh to the city of Homestead,” he said. “I don’t want to say to myself that I never lived my dream, at least I have a chance to do it.”
He has served about 30 years in the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, including as its director.
“I think that with my knowledge, my career with the city and knowing government, this is a great opportunity for me to serve the city,” he said.
Key points Maytan wants to address: Hiring more police officers and getting them more training and equipment, encouraging job growth, and opening up more parks and recreational areas.
“As a council member you are making the policies and decisions for the residents and the departments that need your help,” he said.
Maytan’s campaign has received $14,975 in monetary contributions, with $6,500 coming from Maytan as a loan.
Wayne Rosen, who was involved in developing Homestead’s Keys Gate community, and companies connected to him, have donated $6,000 to Maytan’s campaign.
“The city manager and council are taking the city in the right direction and I would like to see that continue,” Rosen said. “If I think they are doing the right thing, I will donate. I will get involved. This is my way of getting involved in elections and cities to get the right people in power.”
Rosen has also donated about $3,000 to mayoral candidate Jeffrey Porter, personally and through two of his companies.
Sean Lee Fletcher
With a career in security, Sean Lee Fletcher’s number one priority is public safety.
Fletcher, 47, is the security manager for Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point Nuclear Plant. He’s worked for FPL for 22 years.
He said he wants to put more police on the streets, reduce traffic, shake up the administration and fix low employee morale.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has endorsed Fletcher along with Shiver and William Rea (Seat 3).
Fletcher has also been a reserve officer for the Homestead Police Department since 2004.
“I’ve always been committed to the community I live in,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said that if he’s elected, he would recuse himself from issues involving FPL.
His campaign has received $12,750 in contributions.
Council Seat 3
Kim Hill, a teacher at Homestead Middle School and city activist, wants to focus on police change and an economic lift to the city.
Hill, 55, has been a teacher for 15 years. When the father of one of his students was shot by a Homestead police officer, he knew he needed to find a solution, he said.
He turned his attention to police body cameras.
“For the last three years I’ve been on a crusade, going to every city council meeting, and they won’t even place it on the table for discussion,” he said.
He also wants to bring in drug treatment centers, alleviate traffic congestion and encourage development to parts of Homestead that have been left out, he said.
Hill, who grew up in Homestead, says his campaign is about more than getting the seat.
“This is not just an election for me. It’s a movement,” Hill said.
Hill’s campaign has received $250 in contributions, of which $150 is from a loan in Hill’s name.
Lawrence Leo Roth
Incumbent Councilman Lawrence Roth, 55, is running for reelection. First elected to the city council in 2015, he is seeking a second term.
“It’s not about being on the council for me,” Roth said. “It’s about the ability to show through leadership that it’s more than government. It is about taking care of other people.”
Roth says he is focusing on traffic, population density, crime, illegal dumping, trash pick-up and other issues.
Roth said he wants to work with developers to add more green and open space in projects that are in the works, and look at traffic density.
“We’ve got to work to bring the best solution for everybody,” he said. “It may not always be a win-win, but at least it will be a tie-tie. Everyone goes away happy.”
Roth’s first campaign for a council seat brought up his past, which includes an arrest in 1982, when he was charged as a teenager with burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and grand theft, according to court records. The Miami-Dade Clerk of Court’s website does not specify the outcome of the two cases as the files were destroyed..
Roth didn’t comment on the old cases saying, “I don’t think it’s relevant to today. It was 1982. There’s no reason to talk about that.”
Today, Roth is president and co-founder of This is for The Kids, Inc. a nonprofit that he said has contributed more than $120,000 to local child-related nonprofits since its inception in 2012.
“We’re here to help other people and lift their lives. It’s not about what you have. It’s not about what your neighbor has. It is about what we have as a community,” he said.
Roth has lived in Homestead for the last 30 years and has been a Realtor since the late 90s.
His campaign has received $34,450 in contributions.
William “Bobby” Rea
William Robert Rea’s campaign will focus on an issue that’s been central to his life: public safety.
Rea, 60, worked for 25 years in the Homestead police department.
The city fired him in 2013. Rea contends his firing stemmed from calling the state attorney’s office to report that an employee in the police department’s internal affairs was doctoring records. The city said he was fired for cause.
The city settled the case, paying him nearly $200,000 — the amount he said he would have received had he kept working until his retirement. The case was dismissed.
His record as an officer and his history battling the city has shaped his core platform points.
“What sparked my interest in this campaign has a lot to do with what I view is lack of transparency in our local government,” Rea said.
Rea said residents have told him that they don’t receive records they have requested, or get the wrong records.
Rea’s fight for transparency doesn’t stop at the city council and clerk’s office. He wants to see the police department become more transparent, particularly requiring officers to wear body cameras. Miami-Dade police has about 1,500 officers who wear body cameras.
“I believe strongly that they [body cameras] will protect the officer in probably high 90 percentile of encounters where there’s a complaint or disagreement on what happened in the encounter,” Rea said. “But the good news is everybody involved will be able to see what the officer saw when decisions are being made.”
He also said there have been some “very strong allegations” about the abuse of migrant farm workers.
“Had the officers involved, including officers who had been arrested, been wearing body cams, everything would have been different.”
When it comes to development, Rea says the city needs to consider density when approving new projects.
Earlier this year, the city council approved 770 units to be built in the Keys Gate community, which consists of about 4,000 homes in 15 neighborhoods.
“We need to be smarter about the small amount of developable lands we have left,” Rea said. “We can’t turn everything in Miami-Dade County into a concrete jungle.”
His campaign has received $10,365 in contributions, about $4,000 of which comes from a loan in his name.
Miami Herald staff writer Jay Weaver contributed to this report.