Palmetto Bay

Palmetto Bay mayoral, council races headed to Nov. 25 runoff

In the Nov. 25 runoff for mayor, Palmetto Bay residents will choose between two very familiar faces: incumbent mayor Shelley Stanczyk, or her predecessor, Eugene Flinn, the village’s first mayor and a key player in the village’s incorporation effort.

On the ballot for Village Council District 3 are first-time candidates Larissa Siegel Lara and Henry Clifford.

Flinn came out about ahead of Stanczyk in the general election, with about 30 percent of the vote to her 25 percent. Retired business executive Peter England and incumbent District 1 council member Patrick Fiore got 24 and 20 percent of the vote, respectively.

For District 3, which represents the southern part of the village, Siegel Lara came out 9 percentage points ahead of Clifford with 44 percent of the vote. But James Archie Shedd, who missed the runoff, but took in 20 percent of the electorate’s vote, has since endorsed Clifford.

A political committee appeared late on the scene, releasing an attack mailer just days before the general election against Stanczyk for sponsoring an ordinance that would have made it easier to fine pet owners whose dogs wouldn’t stop barking. The item has been deferred indefinitely.

The committee — called Progress Now — is registered with the county, but so far hasn’t declared a single contribution or expense. Its registered address and phone number are for the law office of Ernesto Martinez in Coral Gables. Martinez didn’t return calls for comment.

Even with two other challengers in the race, Flinn’s campaign was always aimed squarely at his successor: With Stanczyk choosing “I keep my promises” as her slogan, Flinn went with “A proven record of accomplishments, not promises.”

“I’m focused on my record, and that’s what I’m campaigning on,” Flinn said Friday.

His campaign has played on the council’s dysfunction under Stanczyk’s tenure, and implied heavily that it’s led to a less productive village government.

Flinn has promised more traffic calming initiatives, expanded park programming, a village personnel audit, and a clearer timeline and goals for the village’s redevelopment efforts to create a commercial district in the southern area known as the Franjo Triangle.

Stanczyk has said she’s running to complete projects begun under her tenure — including canal restoration, redevelopment efforts in the Franjo Triangle, and securing two new fire stations in the eastern parts of the village with a coverage gap.

Stanczyk has responded to Flinn mostly by amending her talking points. While Flinn repeatedly noted the “millions” in grants he helped bring during his eight years as mayor, she has highlighted those the village has picked up recently. With Flinn making noise about too few public-use hours at the Thalatta Estate earlier this year, she’s pointed to new public programming there. She’s also promised to fight for more traffic calming initiatives from the county.

“I think I’ve been more productive. He’s gotten some things done and moved in a positive direction, but we are no longer a startup,” Stanczyk said Friday.

In District 3, Siegel Lara, an industrial engineer and former manager at the Burger King Corp., credits her lead on billing herself as a fresh face — and making her opponent’s record of activism in a community heavily divided by the issue of private school Palmer Trinity’s expansion a liability.

“I think people are ready for change, and I think that they value my background and my experience,” she said Thursday.

As for Clifford, a retired firefighter, he says he’s going to keep highlighting his “long history of advocating for the citizens” decades before the issue of Palmer ever came up. But he also says that this time around, he’ll highlight how much more specific he thinks his platform is compared to hers.

“I’m running against almost a phantom,” he said. “I haven’t had anything to work with, because she has not made any commitments.”