West Miami-Dade

Centeno seeks seat in Sweetwater city council

Deborah Centeno, candidata a la alcaldía de Sweetwater, habla sobre su plataforma de trabajo el pasado 30 de abril.
Deborah Centeno, candidata a la alcaldía de Sweetwater, habla sobre su plataforma de trabajo el pasado 30 de abril. el Nuevo Herald

Deborah Centeno, a contender in the recent mayoral race in Sweetwater, now seeks to fill the seat that current Mayor Elect Orlando Lopez will leave vacant on the City Commission.

Centeno recently sent a letter to city officials asking to be considered for the post, pointing out that she obtained just over 35 percent of the votes in the election.

"I'm formally asking for the opportunity to be named to occupy this position, in order to give 35.62 percent of voters the representation they deserve," Centeno wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by el Nuevo Herald.

The seat opened up after the May 12 race when Lopez won with 55 percent of votes for the mayor’s seat. In that election, three others were elected to the commission.

A special meeting will be held Tuesday to fill the commission seat that will be vacated by Lopez.

According to the city's charter, the position could be filled by the candidate who obtained a second place ranking and procured the second highest amount of votes. Commission members also have the option of nominating candidates and granting the seat to the nominee who obtains three out of five commission votes.

The nomination process has been used several times over the past few years.

In 2012, Isolina Maroño — mother of then Mayor Manuel "Manny" Maroño — was given a seat on the commission following the death of a commissioner. In 2013, sitting commissioners nominated former police officer Catalino Rodriguez to another seat left vacant when Jose M. Diaz became mayor, following Manny Maroño's arrest in relation to a fraud case.

At that time, commissioners asked those interested in occupying the seat to fill out an application and background checks were done on the applicants. However, the night of the nomination, some commissioners unexpectedly voted in favor of Rodriguez, who claimed he did not expect to be selected but showed up to the meeting with a resignation letter to his position as a police officer.

Centeno, who has strongly criticized the city’s administration, had asked for special elections for the seat ultimately occupied by Rodriguez. The Nicaraguan activist gathered signatures required to hold special elections but commissioners did not act on the petition.

This time, Centeno said she hopes the selection made by the City Commission is a reflection of voters’ wishes.

"I was a completely independent candidate and that's what people want," said Centeno, who ran for commission seats in 2011 and 2013. "What I've done is fight against corruption. Some of the commission members have told me that they agree with this position, that they don't support corruption. Well, it's time for them to prove it with nominations that reflect what the people want."

Diaz, the former mayor who will now return to the City Commission to occupy the seat he left vacant as in 2013, said on Wednesday that he considers Centeno an adequate candidate for the nomination. After having his mayoral candidacy annulled in Civil Court due to a failure to meet a state electoral law, Diaz threw his support to Centeno.

"I see it as a possibility [to nominate Centeno] but it's a decision that's not solely in my hands," said Diaz. "The council members can nominate different candidates and we’ll vote at the meeting."

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