Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert faces two challengers in reelection bid

Mayor Oliver Gilbert delivers the state of the city address outside Miami Gardens City Hall in May 2015.
Mayor Oliver Gilbert delivers the state of the city address outside Miami Gardens City Hall in May 2015. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Four years ago, Miami Gardens elected the first mayor in the city not named Shirley Gibson — Oliver Gilbert. He now faces at least two competitors in his reelection bid, including a former city council member.

Gilbert’s competition includes former Councilman Ulysses Harvard and former Opa-locka Police Chief James Wright, a security supervisor.

Harvard served on the council when he was appointed to seat 3 in 2005 replacing the late Audrey King. He lost the race to keep his seat in 2006. He has since competed in three elections and most recently ran against Councilman Rodney Harris in 2012 for council seat 3, but lost in a runoff election that November.

He said he’s running for mayor because he wants to get residents more directly involved in government.

“The mayor’s just a title for me, being a public servant would be my engagement with the people, to let them know that government belongs to them and not to the government,” Harvard said.

Wright last made a bid for public office in 2004 when he unsuccessfully ran for a Miami-Dade commission seat eventually won by Barbara Jordan. Wright said he learned from that experience and also from his time as police chief in Opa-locka.

“As I began to have conversations with people on the state of the city, I believe I have a value to offer to the position of mayor and to the people of Miami Gardens,” Wright said.

He lead the police force in Opa-locka for about three years and wants to focus on combating crime and the perception of crime in the city to attract development.

Gilbert, an attorney, served for four years as a city council member before he was elected mayor in 2012. He said he wants to focus on what the city has accomplished in his four years as mayor and looks forward to speaking with residents throughout the campaign season.

“Elections are the opportunity our process provides for us to discuss where you were, where you are and where you want to go,” Gilbert said. “I’ll have that conversation with the voters of Miami Gardens.”

Residents will also vote for city council seats 1, 3 and 5. Harris currently has no competition for seat 3 and Councilwoman Lillie Odom has not yet filed for reelection.

Councilman David Williams so far has one opponent for seat 5: Kevin Brown, president of the Miami Gardens Bulldogs youth football team and a member of the city’s progressive youth advisory board.

The election will take place Aug. 30 and voters have until Aug. 1 to register. The official candidates qualifying period begins May 27 and lasts through June 2. A runoff election will take place Nov. 8, if necessary.

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