Two political novices compete in Aventura City Commission race

Business owner Gladys Mezrahi, 53, and FIU student Joshua Mandall, 20, are vying for an at-large seat on the Aventura City Commission.
Business owner Gladys Mezrahi, 53, and FIU student Joshua Mandall, 20, are vying for an at-large seat on the Aventura City Commission.

A small business owner active in the Aventura arts scene is running against a college student for an at-large seat on the Aventura City Commission.

This is the first time that Gladys Mezrahi, 53, and Joshua Mandall, 20, have run for public office.

The seat is open because Enbar Cohen resigned in August after she took a job in the legal department at Jackson Memorial Hospital, which did not allow her to hold office simultaneously.

Aventura, in northeastern Miami-Dade County, is home to about 38,000 residents. About 36 percent of the residents are Hispanic, according to 2015 information from the U.S. Census. The city is known for upscale condo developments, the Aventura Mall and traffic congestion.

Mezrahi has more community experience and longer roots in Aventura than Mandall. She owns Indigo Events, an Aventura-based events and public relations company. She won the Woman of the Year award from The Organization of Women in International Trade in 2016. The firm is not a city vendor.

Mezrahi, who emigrated from Colombia, has lived in Aventura for about 17 years. She emphasizes her ties to the Latin American and Jewish communities and the work she has done through her company and the community.

“I think the city has changed a lot, the diversity of the city has become more known, and I want to connect, I want to build a bridge and connect all of the Hispanic and Latin community that has come in that is actually not involved in the city,” she said.

Mezrahi serves on the advisory board for the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center. She is a member of Netive Ezra, Sephardic temple and has been endorsed by some politicians, including Commissioner Teri Holzberg, and community leaders.

Mandall, who grew up in Miami, has lived in Aventura for about two years. He is a junior at Florida International University studying political science. He volunteered on Democrat Joe Garcia’s congressional campaign in Miami-Dade in 2010 and is active in Hillel, a Jewish student group, at FIU.

Mandall says that if elected, he will implement body cameras for the police, start a climate advisory board, launch an international arts festival and a tax credit for small businesses that adopt green initiatives.

“I am already motivated to want to bring a vibrancy into the city and bring progress to the city,” Mandall said.

Both Mandall and Mezrahi are Democrats seeking a non-partisan seat.

Mezrahi has raised about $2,000 and loaned herself $2,000 as of Aug. 31, according to her campaign finance report. Mandall put in about $180 of his own money.

When Cohen resigned, the commission appointed Linda Marks to fill the seat through the Nov. 8 election. Marks filed to run for the District 1 seat, was unopposed and therefore won automatically, while Commissioner Howard Weinberg was re-elected for the District 3 seat without opposition. The rest of the seats on the seven-member commission, including the mayor, are not up until 2018.

The four-year terms begin in November. City commissioners earn $7,500 and receive $8,059 annually for expenses, which can include travel, car and cellphones.

Aventura will also vote on a ballot measure related to the scheduling of voting on future charter amendments.

Under current policy, charter amendments that arise from the Charter Review Commission have to be voted on within 150 days. That can force a special election, which costs about $30,000.

The ballot question on Nov. 8 would give the City Commission the option of scheduling such votes on ballot measures during a special election or at the next general election with the goal of saving money.