More than 1,500 Homestead voters elected two members of their city council during the primary elections Tuesday evening. Incumbent Jeffrey Porter was reelected as mayor and newcomer Lawrence Roth was elected as councilman for Seat 3 for the city of about 65,000 residents.
Both candidates defeated their two opponents by more than 50 percent of the vote, a requisite per the city’s charter to seal their spot on the seat at the primary election stage. This means they won’t have to run again during the general elections on Nov. 3, and will be sworn in on Nov. 4.
On Tuesday, Porter won 74 percent of the vote (1,236 votes) in race. Ramiro Orta got 261 votes and Stephen McDuffie tallied up 178 votes.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Porter said. “The pressure is off and it’s going to be a very quiet November.”
Roth won 58 percent of the vote (970 votes). Mervin Waldman won 413 votes and Willie Wamble got 284 votes.
“It’s nice to know you don’t have to do campaigning anymore,” Roth said, adding that “it’s always an honor to be faced with competition.”
Leading up to the primary elections, candidates were very vocal about the city’s infrastructure, its developing downtown and crime prevention. There has also been drama on the dais that could possibly turn the city’s decrepit, city-owned bowling alley and turn it into a state-of-the-art Hyundai dealership. It’s set to be decided on Oct. 13.
Mayor Jeffrey Porter
Not much will change with Porter’s reelection, he says, stating that he plans to keep “moving the city forward like it has been in the last two years.”
“I believe we have a very aggressive and bold council,” Porter told the Miami Herald. “This council, in two years has done a lot, and I plan to continue on that same track. People are obviously pleased with the direction.”
Porter, 56, said his efforts will remain on revitalizing the city’s historic downtown area as well as bringing in new modes of transportation into a scarce South Dade. In May, Homestead passed a resolution calling on the County to fund rail expansion.
With a new City Hall, police station and theater in the works, Porter says he’s aiming to to “reinvest in the city’s infrastructure.
“Water, sewer, garbage, electricity, utility — we need to make sure they are up to speed,” he said. Homestead is one of the few municipalities with its own water, energy and sanitation services.
Porter added that he wants to come up with fresh, creative ideas on how to bring more businesses into Homestead.
“It’s kind of unique for a city in Florida to have such a historic downtown.” he said. “It’s a jewel.”
Porter said he plans on not supporting turning the city’s abandoned bowling alley into a car dealership.
“I was never for this project,” he said. “People are not happy that there was not going to be some sort of entertainment coming back into the city. Nobody is really looking for a car lot. I’m voting no, and that’s what our residents want.”
Porter was born in Homestead and moved to Mississippi when he 10. He returned to Homestead when he was 18 and attended Miami Dade College and has lived in Homestead since. Porter is the owner and president of Worldwide Supply Solutions in Homestead, a supplier of building materials he founded 12 years ago.
Councilman Lawrence Roth
Although it will be Roth’s first time on the dais, the local real estate agent and charity man says he delights in having served the city as a citizen since Hurricane Andrew destroyed the municipality in 1992.
After being a vocal citizen, he decided to run for office, he said. His main focal point has been preventing crime and lowering utility rates.
“I want to work on creating avenues on where we can increase our police presence,” he said. “Our utility rates are a big concern as well. Some consider it higher than what FPL charges and I think they need to be examined more.”
He added that fuel charge adjustments can be explored considering the current dip in gas prices.
Roth says he is adamant about giving outsiders a reason to reconsider Homestead.
“We need to create an awareness of Homestead and start uplifting our citizens for positive changes, and positive reputation for the city of Homestead,” Roth said, noting that the quiet city has been luring people in from the busy metropolis.
“People want to want to live here because of the hustle and bustle of Miami. They find peace here,” Roth said. “We have a huge agricultural area in deep South Dade. Many people come and visit the fresh farmers markets. We are planted between two national parks, and we are the last stop before the Florida Keys. Tourism is picking up. Hotels are busier than ever.”
Roth, 51, was born and raised in South Dade. He served as the chairman of South Dade Chamber of Commerce Special Events Committee from 2009 to 2014. From 1992-1999 he owned two restaurants.
In 2012, he helped spearhead the birth of “This Is For The Kids, Inc.,” a 501 C 3 not-for-profit corporation that helps raise funds for other charities. It also hosts the annual Homestead Rock ‘N’ Rib Fest fund-raising event. In the past three years, the organization has helped raise $40,000 for children in need.
Roth, however, has had his problems with the law.
In 1982, Roth was charged with burglary and grand theft. The charges were later dropped, according to the Miami-Dade County Clerk of Courts.
In December 2000, Roth was charged with a DUI, reckless driving and unlawful installation of radio equipment in Monroe County, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Records show the DUI charge was reduced to a reckless driving charge. He plead guilty and the misdemeanor was withheld.
In January 2001, Roth was put on probation. But months later he violated it and was released on bail, records show.
In 2008, Roth filed for bankruptcy. In the past five years, Roth has been sued by several banks for credit card debt and unpaid fees. In 1988 he was sued and evicted by his mother, records show.
The general elections will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Running for city council are:
▪ Seat 2: Larry Meno vs. incumbent Vice Mayor Jon Burgess.
▪ Seat 6: Current councilwoman Patricia Fairclough