Two incumbents and one challenger are running for two council seats in Golden Beach, a 1.8-square-mile town just south of Broward County.
Incumbents Bernard Einstein and Judy Lusskin are on the ballot with 26-year-old newcomer Jaime Mendal. The three are running for two council seats. The two candidates with the most votes on Tuesday win; there will be no runoff.
Einstein, who built his “dream home” in the affluent oceanfront town, said he was surprised to learn that Mendal, who doesn’t own a home in Golden Beach, is running for office.
“He lives with his parents, so he doesn’t pay property taxes,” he said. “I only saw him at one city meeting, and it was the one when he announced he was running for the election.”
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For his part, Mendal said he has lived in the town for 14 years and that his family pays significant property taxes.
He said he has been meeting with residents to assess their needs.
“It’s very important to get involved especially when you don’t believe your current representatives are representing their constituents’ views,” Mendal said.
Here are brief profiles of the candidates:
Einstein, 64, said Golden Beach has changed since he and his wife of 32 years moved to the town in 1994. He was infatuated with the ocean view and the small cohesive community, but the infrastructure was problematic.
“There was flooding in our streets, spaghetti utility lines, cable outages and a beach that doesn’t look how it looks today,” the 18-year council veteran said.
Since 2007, the council has replaced the 80-year-old water distribution system, moved all overheard utility wires underground and renovated bridges and sidewalks. The work, he said, has dramatically increased property values.
“I am proud to say that in a small way, I played a part in a vision that we have converted into to a reality,” he said.
Einstein has worked as an attorney with a focus on financial, commercial and contract law for 40 years. He said his legal training helps him analyze complex municipal issues.
“With real estate and zoning issues, I can offer my perspective on what people can do legally,” he said. “Many contracts go before the city and my legal background helped me negotiate the best possible outcome for the city.”
Lusskin, 67, who has lived in Golden Beach for 22 years and served for 12 on the council, said there is nothing she loves more than serving her community.
“In Golden Beach, we are more than neighbors,” she said. “We are like family.”
Lusskin created and heads the Golden Beach Youth Leadership Group, serves on a handful of the town’s committees and said she coordinates almost every event in town, including the annual Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day tributes.
“I love Golden Beach and that love is reflected in the long list of accomplishments that the town has made since I was first elected back in 2005,” she wrote in a campaign letter to residents.
She said her biggest accomplishment on the council was helping to implement the Capital Improvement Project in 2007. The seven-year, $42 million plan improved infrastructure, landscaping and created a citywide video-security system. The project saved the city nearly $1 million in taxes, according to Lusskin.
“It’s always an ongoing pleasure that everything is maintained well, especially the improvements that we have implemented,” she said.
The councilwoman also represents Golden Beach on the Miami Dade League of Cities’ board of directors.
Lusskin prides herself on having an “open-door policy” where she encourages residents to call her cellphone at any time “with any questions or comments.”
Mendal says he will re-energize the Town Council as a new face with a fresh perspective.
“The elections are the only time to hold the incumbents accountable,” he said. “I am of the opinion that Golden Beach should be run in the most efficient manner, welcoming the best candidates to administer the town while taking care of its residents.”
The candidate said his bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and an internship working with U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on the Foreign Affairs Committee prepared him for the position.
For the last four years, he has supervised his family’s manufacturing facilities in Colombia and Mexico, overseeing several hundred employees and managing company budgets. He believes his business sense will help him run the city.
“Because of my experience, I see the government through new lens,” Mendal said. “The city has a large budget that needs to be overseen a little better. Unlike Town Hall, I understand that the money they use is not theirs but the residents’, and because of that I will make sure it is used in the most efficient way possible.”
Mendal acknowledged the capital improvements have been beneficial to the quality of life and safety of the residents, but “there is still more work to be done.”
“One goal would be to establish capital improvement projects that our residents desire. Some of these new projects may include the creation of a town gym/recreational center, the expansion of tot-lots in the north and an increase in beach amenities,” Mendal said in a campaign letter.