This fall, voters in Pinecrest will chose from four candidates to fill the two seats up for grabs on the Village Council.
Early voting starts Monday; Election day is Nov. 4.
The at-large seat is being contested by first-time candidate Cherilyn Ball and perennial candidate Germaine Butler.
Ball was a longtime local Parent-Teacher Association leader and has volunteered to advocate for education legislation in Tallahassee. She wants to put the skills she has learned to work as a Pinecrest council member.
“I think that between my legislative experience and advocacy across the board and boots-on-the ground community activism, I think that this would be a good fit,” she said.
Ball also worked on getting Evelyn Greer elected to the school board in 2004, and then spent two years in her office. She’s since been in the community working with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and sitting on village education and transportation committees.
For Ball, a major priority would be finagling money from the state or federal governments to get the 20 percent of Pinecrest residents still on well-water hooked up to county lines, as will be informing residents about the possibility of a fire department for the village.
Because of a long-standing coverage gap in southeast Pinecrest, the village commissioned a study on the feasibility of starting its own fire department. Miami-Dade County’s recent moves to site a fire station in northeastern Palmetto Bay should finally resolve the coverage issue, but the study, released in June, found that the cost per resident for contracting with the county was much higher in Pinecrest than elsewhere, and that savings in the long-term might be realized by contracting with other municipalities or establishing a fire department in the village.
Ball says she wants to get resident input about what they want to do next, and maybe put the question up for a vote.
“I’m really concerned about communication and sharing ideas with people, and a lot of what I’ve had to do over the last 20 years is not just program development, but the education of issues,” she said. “In Pinecrest, we do a really nice job of providing really good services, but I do think we need to strengthen our communication with our residents.”
Ball has picked up endorsements from Greer – also Pinecrest’s first mayor – and the Miami Association of Realtors.
As of Oct. 7, she had raised $18,900, including $250 from Greer.
Butler is a self-described “soil activist” and the current marketing manager at Galloway Farms Nursery. She is hoping to distinguish herself with her no-contributions, minimally self-funded campaign.
“My campaign takes no contributions, therefore no ‘Vote for Germaine’ signs will litter Pinecrest lawns,” she said.
Her major issue, she said, is “resident protection,” with more police patrols and more crime-watch groups. She also wants an open forum period at council meetings.
But her platform also includes non-traditional elements. Butler also says she wants the village to “consider some sort of tax-break” for older, longtime residents in the village.
Asked about Save Our Homes, the Florida constitutional amendment that already rewards longtime homeowners by capping how much the taxable value can increase on homes that remain under the same ownership, she said that the issue just needs to be “explored.”
“I don’t know, I’m learning so much, and there’s a lot more to learn. I’m just trying to gain enough knowledge and insight to make suggestions like this,” she said.
She also wants to “explore” abolishing all residential impact fees and reducing permitting fees.
Butler also says the village needs to disclose the costs of all surveys, consultants, and master plans before it decides to go ahead with them. Village spokeswoman Michelle Hammontree Garcia says that’s already village policy.
Butler insists the village does this “sometimes, not all times.” Asked to provide an example of when the village failed to do so, Butler said she would have to consult her records.
Butler is also the founding president of the Pinecrest Garden Club. As an inaugural member of the Pinecrest Gardens committee, she helped establish the Farmers Market at the gardens.
Butler has run for council twice before. In 2012, she challenged incumbent Bob Ross for Seat 2 on the council and came in third in a three-person race. Two years before, she went up against incumbent Joseph Corradino for council Seat 4 — the same seat she now hopes again to win. Term-limited, Corradino cannot seek re-election again.
As of Oct. 8, her contributions totaled $1,000 – a loan from herself.
Chiropractor and businessman Jeffrey Solomon is running against retired firefighter Doug Kraft to the seat being vacated by Jeff Cutler.
Solomon wants to put his “life experience as a businessman and as a father” to bring “consensus amongst people and measure up risks against benefits” on Pinecrest council.
Solomon has served as president of the Florida Chiropractic Association, vice-chair of the Miami-Dade Sports Commission, and currently sits on the Pinecrest planning board, to which he was appointed by Mayor Cindy Lerner.
Solomon has run for political office before, in 2010 and 2012, in failed bids to become a Democratic state representative.
Solomon has picked up endorsements from Lerner, Miami-Dade School Board member Larry Feldman. The International Association of Firefighers in Miami-Dade have endorsed both Solomon and Kraft.
As of Oct. 10, he had raised $8,966, including $300 from Lerner and $500 from Michael and Katherine Pappas of the Keyes Company, the Miami-based real estate company.
Kraft said his priority is “to continue to make sure that all residents have a safe place to live – make sure that their lives and properties are protected.”
He has served on the Miami-Dade Special Olympics Committee and management team for the past five years. Two years ago, he was appointed by incumbent council member Jeff Cutler to the Pinecrest zoning board – which typically hears minor variance requests. He also sits on the Pinecrest Gardens committee.
Both Solomon and Kraft say they’re against a fire department for the village, although Kraft insists he would want the voters to decide the issue directly.
Council races are non-partisan, but both candidates have attacked each other for their attitudes on government spending along typical partisan lines.
Kraft has gone after Solomon for initially indicating support for the $12 million in capital improvement projects the village was considering, and Solomon has attacked Kraft for being for “not wanting to spend any money at all.”
Solomon has also gone after Kraft for his signs, saying that they bear an intentional resemblance to the Kraft Foods logo, and that constitutes some sort of intellectual property theft.
Kraft insists the signs were never meant to make a reference to Kraft Foods.
“It has nothing to do with Kraft Foods, it’s my name,” Kraft said. “I’m for running a clean campaign. And if he wants to run a negative campaign, let him.”
As of Oct. 10, Kraft had raised $16,601, including $500 from the law firm Bercow, Radell, and Fernandez PA, whose shareholder Michael Radell, is a registered lobbyist with the village, and $500 from Pioneer Inter Development, a residential contracting firm based in the village.
About the candidates
EDUCATION: Associate’s degree from Miami-Dade Community College
OCCUPATION: Former administrative aide to Miami-Dade School Board member Evelyn Greer
OTHER: Former executive board member of the Miami Dade County PTA/PTSA, former PTA Legislative committee representative to Tallahassee, former event chair for the American Cancer Society’s Pinecrest Relay for Life.
EDUCATION: Diploma from Norman High School, Norman, Okla.
OCCUPATION: Sales and marketing manager at Galloway Farm Nursery; former skin-care consultant at the Dr. Fredric Brandt Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute in Coral Gables.
OTHER: Founding president of the Pinecrest Garden Club; former executive board member of Pinecrest Gardens Botanical Committee/Pinecrest Gardens Advisory Committee; former columnist for the Pinecrest Tribune on community gardening.
EDUCATION: Doctor of Chiropractic from Life University in Marietta, Ga.; Diplomate in Sports Injuries from New York Chiropractic College
OCCUPATION: Chiropractor, president of Mobile Chiropractic Inc., a mobile chiropractic practice and Mobile D.O.T. Doc Inc., a mobile provider of certified medical examinations for truck drivers
OTHER: Past president of the Florida Chiropractic Association, member of Leadership Florida, past Vice-Chair of the Miami-Dade Sports Commission
EDUCATION: Graduate of Boone Valley High School in Renwick, Iowa; state paramedic license, now-inactive, state fire-fighting certification.
OCCUPATION: Retired paramedic and firefighter in Pembroke Pines.
OTHER: Management team member for the Special Olympics Miami-Dade, Sunday school teacher at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Pinecrest Zoning Board and Pinecrest Gardens Advisory Committee; served four years in the Air Force.