Voters in Palmetto Bay have their pick of nine candidates to fill the three seats — including the mayor’s — up for grabs on the Village Council this fall.
Also on the ballot: a charter amendment lowering the percentage of voters necessary to approve expansion of nearby private schools from 75 percent to a simple majority of those living within 2,000 square feet of the school.
In the Mayor’s race, incumbent Shelley Stanczyk is fighting to keep her seat against challenges from her predecessor, founding Palmetto Bay mayor Eugene Flinn, as well as retired business executive Peter England and incumbent council member Patrick Fiore.
Stanczyk told the crowd at a candidate’s forum on Sept.30 that “we’ve gone through some struggles, but let’s talk about the accomplishments of the past four years.”
The “struggles” are a reference to Palmer Trinity, the private parochial school in a residential part of the village whose plans to expand led to years of expensive litigation between the village, the school and even residents against expansion.
The issue has been intensely divisive in the village and on the dais, with Stanczyk typically seen as leading the charge against the school. The village gave final site-plan approval to the school’s expansion in July and removed some contentious conditions in September, but one lawsuit filed against the village by Palmer remains outstanding.
Most of Stanczyk’s opponents in the race — and many running for council seats — have made uniting a divided village a top platform item. Stanczyk, on the other hand, has tried to refocus away from Palmer, pointing instead to growing reserves, a steady and relatively low millage rate, the launch of the village’s Downtown Redevelopment Task Force — which hopes to redevelop a small commercial district in southern Palmetto Bay — and the village’s involvement in the PACE program, which helps homeowners finance energy-efficient home improvements.
Stanczyk also is pitching her record on public safety, citing the two new fire stations in the works for the village that would fill long-standing gaps in coverage. But that, too, has been controversial.
The Palmetto Bay Village Center, the private office park that owns a 1.5-acre plot in the southern part of the village where the Miami-Dade County fire department wants to build a station, has so far only been willing to apply for the necessary rezoning in a package that would also give them the right to develop about 20 acres of forested land. Stanczyk came under fire for sponsoring that package — she eventually withdrew her sponsorship — and the item has been indefinitely deferred while the property owner consults with environmental groups.
Jim Araiza, who unsuccessfully ran twice for Palmetto Bay’s council, sued Stanczyk in 2012 for allegedly defaming and slandering him on her now-defunct website PBcheckstherecord.com. She called the suit “frivolous” and said it was settled by her insurance company this year for its “nuisance value.” Araiza declined to comment.
Stanczyk has been endorsed by Democratic state Sen. Gwen Margolis, Democratic state Rep. David Richardson, outgoing Palmetto Bay council member Joan Lindsay, former Palmetto Bay vice-mayor Brian Pariser, and the gay rights organization SAVE.
She has raised a total of $13,802, including $250 from Pariser and $250 from the Richardson’s Floridians for Better Government PAC.
Flinn has campaigned on his record as mayor for two terms between 2002 and 2010, as well as his leadership role in the village’s incorporation effort. But he has also played heavily on the dysfunction of a divided council.
“I’m proud that we brought in millions, millions in [grants] for capital improvements. We built the skate park, we brought in two new parks, we bought bayfront land, we tried to preserve Thalatta, we built a library,” he said at the Sept. 30 forum. “You know that wasn’t done by any one person, that was done by something that I’d like to bring back to this council, and that’s a team approach.”
He promises more traffic-calming initiatives, more park programming, a personnel audit of village staff, committees for special events and youth programming, improving the village website, setting goals for downtown redevelopment, and roundtable meetings with stakeholders at the county, state and local level.
In 2010, Flinn ran for the District8 County Commission seat but lost to Lynda Bell.
He has taken in $15,575 in contributions.
England is running on a platform of public safety and transparency — he spoke at length in the beginning of the campaign on the need for more fire stations in the village — but is also talking about the Palmer bitterness.
“After a strong start, we’ve kind of descended into the politics of divisiveness, and a rift has been created,” he said on Sept.30. “My intent is to bring everybody back under the big tent.”
England has raised a total of $23,475 and picked up endorsements from Don Slesnick, the former mayor of Coral Gables; the Miami Association of Realtors; Becky Matkov, the executive director of the Dade Heritage Trust; and former Palmetto Bay council member Paul Neidhart.
England ran for the District8 county commission seat against incumbent Katy Sorenson in 2002 and faced Stanczyk in a runoff for Palmetto Bay mayor in 2010 but lost both times. In St. Petersburg, he served two terms on the city council, including one as vice mayor.
Fiore also made reference to Palmer, telling the Miami Herald in May that “inclusivity is key, not exclusivity.” But in his bid for the mayor’s seat, he has mostly campaigned on being what he calls “a public works commissioner” and getting user fees waived for local groups at village facilities. He also has expressed “cautious reservations” about the feasibility of redevelopment downtown.
A Palmetto Bay councilman since 2010, Fiore has raised $10,505.
Two candidates, Karyn Cunningham and David Zisman, are battling for Seat1 — which represents the northern part of the village between Southwest 136th and 152nd streets.
Candidates must live in the districts they represent, but residents villagewide can vote in every district.
Cunningham, a former teacher who now works for the United Teachers of Dade union, is running on overall improvements in the village — from cutting government waste, expanding park and senior programming, and building green — but has made the creation of a five-year strategic plan developed in conjunction with village residents the central focus of her campaign.
“I want to create an environment here in Palmetto Bay where all of our neighbors like yourselves can be heard and share their vision,” she said on Sept.30.
Cunningham ran in 2012 for the vice-mayor’s seat but came in third in a three-person race.
Cunningham has brought in $43,101 and picked up endorsements from Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, Slesnick, Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard, former Republican state Sen. Alex Villalobos, Miami-Dade School Board members Raquel Regalado and Larry Feldman, and former Palmetto Bay council member Howard J. Tendrich.
Zisman has made the village budget the main focus of his campaign, calling spending “bloated” and saying that taxes were “out of control.”
“This council has tried to raise taxes twice over the past couple council meetings. I’m here to pledge to you tonight: I’m never going to raise taxes,” he said at a Sept. 30 candidate forum. “We don’t need to raise taxes, we just need to manage our finances. We need to bring a business point of view to this council — and that’s what I bring. Forty years of business experience.”
Zisman ran for mayor in 2010 but did not make it to the runoff.
Zisman has out-raised all other candidates with a whopping $47,000 — although at least $20,000 of that money came from Zisman himself.
Three first-time Palmetto Bay candidates — Henry Clifford, Larissa Siegel Lara and James Archie Shedd — are contesting the District3 seat, which represents the southern part of the village between Southwest 168th and 184th streets.
Clifford says he’s been working behind the scenes in Palmetto Bay for 35 years now — about as long as he’s lived in the area — helping to get others elected and sitting on six village committees.
“I’ve been walking the walk for a long, long time,” he told the crowd on Sept. 30.
It was District 3 incumbent Joan Lindsay deciding not to run for reelection, and there not being any other candidates he was willing to back, that made him decide to finally run himself, he told the Herald in July. Lindsay has since endorsed Clifford.
He has said that while chiefly concerned with preserving residents’ “quiet enjoyment of their homes,” he also wants to speed along development in the village’s commercial district. He also says he wants to reinstate the village committee once in charge of visioning for the future.
Clifford has raised $14,215 and also picked up endorsements from former Palmetto Bay vice mayor Brian Pariser, the Hialeah firefighters union and the gay-rights group SAVE.
Siegel Lara is touting her experience as an industrial engineer and business executive at Burger King Corp. — which she went to work for in order to move to the area — as evidence of the skills necessary to ensure the village’s “fiscal sustainability.”
“Fiscal sustainability about having the forward vision about what we need to do to make sure we have the right money coming in and that we’re spending the money properly — allocated according to the right priorities. It requires leadership and problem-solving skills to figure out where the right revenue sources are and what are the best ways to grow them,” she said at the Sept. 30 candidate’s forum.
She also promises more park programming, civil and inclusive leadership, and accountable government.
Siegel Lara has raised $13,065 so far and picked up endorsements from John Chidsey, the former chairman and CEO of Burger King, the Miami Realtors Association, and former Palmetto Bay council member Paul Niedhart.
Shedd has made security and quality of life his campaign’s main pitch and frequently cites his career in the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Asked what he had done for the community in the Sept. 30 forum by Clifford, Shedd jumped on the question.
“It gives the impression that people like me, who all of a sudden just came into the game, haven’t really been involved in the village of Palmetto Bay,” he said. “But again, I remind you that up until 2005 I was up here, where you didn’t see me, because I was wearing my invisible paint, we were running and gunning all over this place arresting big-time dopers.”
He says he wants civility at village hall, more police presence on the streets, adequate fire and rescue coverage, and a transparent village government.
Shedd has run for office once before, in 2008, when he ran in Miami-Dade’s first election for property appraiser. He didn’t make it to the runoffs.
He has raised $11,345, including $100 from former Coral Gables mayor Don Slesnick, and $300 from Arsol Investment Group LLC. Former South Miami vice mayor Armando Oliveros, who was served nearly seven years in federal prison for money laundering, is a managing partner with Arsol.
The election’s biggest donor by far has been developer and major Republican fundraiser Wayne Rosen, who has given at least $15,000 personally or through his companies. England received at least $4,000; Fiore $2,000; Cunningham $4,000; Zisman $3,000; and Siegel Lara $2,000. Rosen frequently donates and does business in Palmetto Bay.
Election Day is Nov.4, and a runoff, if necessary, will be held Nov.25.
About the candidates
OCCUPATION: Owner, Antique Mall Y’all, an antique mall in Palmetto Bay.
EDUCATION: Master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Miami; bachelor’s degree in education from SUNY Fredonia.
OTHER: Palmetto Bay mayor since 2010, council member from 2006-2010; chair of the Green Corridor/PACE board; member of the South Dade Municipal Coalition.
OCCUPATION: Retired government relations director at homeless non-profit Camillus House, former chief marketing officer for Florida Power and Light and Florida Federal Savings.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in marketing, St. John’s University, New York City
OTHER: Board member of the South Miami-Dade Economic Development Council; Deering Estate Foundation trustee; Downtown Redevelopment Task Force member.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in politics from University of Miami; law degree from the University of Miami.
OTHER: Founding Palmetto Bay mayor; former chair of the Palmetto Bay Steering Committee; former chair of the Palmetto Bay Municipal Advisory Committee.
OCCUPATION: Gives vocational counseling at homeless non-profit Camillus House; former investigator at the Florida Department of Children and Families.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in education, University of Scranton, Pa.
OTHER: Former commissioner on the West Kendall Community Council.
OCCUPATION: Owner of Evening’s Delight, a fireplace, BBQ and jacuzzi retail company.
EDUCATION: High school diploma from Palmetto Senior High; Florida contracting licenses in air conditioning, roofing, and sheet metal.
OTHER: Board member of the South Florida Touchdown Club;, Chairman of the Palmetto Bay Planning and Architecture Committee; former Palmetto Bay Charter Review Committee member.
OCCUPATION: Government and Community Engagement Specialist for the United Teachers of Dade; former teacher.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida; state certifications in elementary education and psychology; Urban education certification from FIU.
OTHER: Board vice president for the Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment; former village Educational Advisory Compact Committee member.
LARISSA SIEGEL LARA
OCCUPATION: Former Vice-President, Management and Training, at Burger King Corp.; former engineer at IBM and Motorola.
EDUCATION: Master’s degree in manufacturing engineering from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York; bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Puerto Rico.
OTHER: Former vice-chair, Burger King’s Women Leadership Forum.
OCCUPATION: Retired Hialeah fire-rescue lieutenant.
EDUCATION: Master’s degree in plant pathology from the University of Florida, bachelor’s in biology from Florida International University.
OTHER: Chair of the village Tree Advisory Committee; infrastructure subcommittee member for the Downtown Redevelopment Task Force; Alternative Master Plan Committee executive board member; served four years in the Air Force.
JAMES ARCHIE SHEDD
OCCUPATION: Security consultant and owner of Scoba Investigation Inc., a Miami-based security consulting firm; former Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s in criminal justice from Florida International University.
OTHER: Served two years in the Army.