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Three incumbents fight to keep seats on North Miami Beach council; mayor runs unopposed

May 5, 2015, is Election Day in North Miami Beach.
May 5, 2015, is Election Day in North Miami Beach. North Miami Beach, via Facebook

When North Miami Beach voters go to the polls next Tuesday, they will decide whether to keep three incumbent council members. George Vallejo will retain his mayorship since he ran unopposed in Election Group 1.

Election Group 3

Incumbent Phyllis S. Smith has been a realtor for 35 years and is running for her third consecutive term in office, despite having voiced support for term limits for council members — which would have barred this campaign. Smith has suffered some credibility issues in the recent past. Last year, she recused herself from a controversial vote claiming she was involved in a real estate deal even though the developer in question denied knowing her. Smith, who drives a yellow Hummer with Montana license plates, raised the ire of residents when she claimed not to know anything about various family vehicles with out-of-state plates. Smith was not available for comment, but on her campaign website, she lists her top notable accomplishment: a resolution she sponsored that created a city policy to treat everyone respectfully.

Michael Joseph is an attorney specializing in immigration law and currently is vice chairman of the Miami-Dade County Small Business Advisory Board. In his campaign literature, Joseph lists his Master’s degree in Public Management from Florida International University and a law degree from St. Thomas University, which he earned while working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. His website lists job creation, fiscal responsibility and crime prevention as his top issues. Last year, Joseph ran and lost to incumbent Rep. Barbara Watson for state House District 107. Joseph says that his experience remodeling his home in North Miami Beach gave him the experience of navigating through the city building department’s permitting process.

Bruce Lamberto is a longtime resident and works for the city of Miami Beach as a contracts manager. Lamberto has served on the Redevelopment Advisory Board and continues to be involved with the city’s beautification board and many other activities, including getting recognition and plaques to honor the city’s deceased veterans. Lamberto said crime prevention goes hand-in-hand with hiring more police officers. Lamberto said the money would not come from raising taxes but from new economic development through private/public partnerships. Lamberto has been a vocal critic of council members Smith and Frantz Pierre and enjoys the support of the mayor and three council members.

Margaret “Margie” Love is running for a third time and said she won’t give up until she has won a council seat. Love is an elementary school teacher at Ojus Elementary. Her main issue is to improve safety in the city. She wants to restore the police department with more jobs and said the council made a very bad decision to downsize the department to save money.  

Election Group 5

Incumbent Frantz Pierre, a teacher, is running for his third term in office despite voicing support for term limits of two terms. Pierre is the only Haitian-American councilperson and is facing a bitter foe and rival, Ketley Joachim, for the second time. In the 2011 elections, the campaign turned ugly with accusations from Pierre that Joachim threatened to harm his family. Pierre, who did not respond to inquiries for this article, supported protesters who claimed the city’s police department used racist tactics in their police training. Recently the city adopted new ethics policies and procedures for city-funded travel after Pierre used city funds to travel to Haiti for a leadership conference. Although it was not illegal, the situation caused uproar among residents and council members.

Ketley Joachim said creating jobs (without raising taxes), promoting investments in the city and crime prevention are her main issues. Since 1995, when she moved to North Miami Beach, Joachim has been involved with the city’s police department as a volunteer and promoting community patrolling. Joachim, a Wells Fargo financial coach, said she would like to see the police department regain some officers that were lost due to budget tightening in years past. Joachim has been an active member of several boards, including for Caribbean affairs, and the city’s Beautification and Code enforcement boards.

Election Group 7

Incumbent Marlen Martell is a professor in the Public Administration Department at FIU and is running for her second term. Recently, Martell spearheaded a transparent ethics policy for city-funded travel and helped develop stronger commitments to improve schools with the Miami-Dade Public School District administration. Martell said she wants to continue the good work the city achieved in developing private/public partnerships, such as with the Boca Juniors soccer training center. Public safety is an important issue for Martell, and she supported new vehicles for the police department. Martell said she wants enhancements for the public parks and has supported efforts by city officials to overhaul zoning and land use laws to encourage more growth and development in the city.

Paule Villard is a newcomer to North Miami Beach politics. According to her Facebook page, Villard recently retired as a Miami police officer after 28 years of service and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration, Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education with Minor in pre-k Primary from Barry University. Villard did not respond to requests for an interview but did announce her candidacy at the last city council meeting, in which she was reminded that campaigning on the dais was illegal.

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