Shh… hear that?
It’s the political winds of change blowing strong over 7 North Dixie Highway in Lake Worth, otherwise known as City Hall.
While Tuesday’s election results didn’t exactly represent a seismic shift on the City Commission, it came pretty close:
- Three-time incumbent Christopher McVoy lost his District 2 seat to Omari Hardy, a Roosevelt Middle School civics teacher.
- Herman Robinson, a longtime community activist who has served on several city boards, captured the District 4 seat Commissioner Ryan Maier vacated.
Several residents were overjoyed, saying both Robinson, 71 and Hardy, 27, — both political novices — will bring a new perspective and fresh ideas to a commission many felt was too divided.
“We needed this,” said Tammy Pansa, 44, who is self-employed. “As a Lake Worth resident for 10 years, I have grown to hate the word ‘divisive.’ For the first time I really think we have a chance to take that word out of the L-Dub vocabulary.”
Peter Atkinson, a building maintenance worker, called the results a “breath of fresh air.”
“Sometimes those commissioners stay too long and become ineffective,” Atkinson said.
Bob Lepa, a 58-year-old financial advisor, said the results proved Lake Worth is growing more business savvy.
“Herman has a construction background that I believe will be invaluable as the Park of Commerce is developed,” Lepa said, referring to a 375-acre site and connector along Interstate 95 north of Lake Worth Road that has been the subject of upgrades for nearly 20 years. “And I believe Mr. Hardy will also have an open mind for controlled growth and progress of the city.”
Critics have often charged McVoy of “monkey-wrenching” and standing in the way of progress, as evidenced by his vote against putting the $40 million road bond on the November ballot and voting down a key zoning change in January 2016 that allowed The Gulfstream Hotel renovation project to move forward .
“There was a lot of unnecessary debate,” Commissioner Andy Amoroso said of McVoy. “We had certain electeds who didn’t do their research, they come in 10 minutes before a meeting and then spend two hour pontificating.”
McVoy said if residents want change, they should target the commission majority — Mayor Pam Triolo, Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell and Amoroso.
“The majority has run the city for six years and their vision is for Lake Worth to become just like the rest of South Florida,” McVoy said.
Not everyone, however, was pleased to see McVoy, 59, voted out of office.
“I’m concerned that the city commission may lack sufficient skepticism in its dealings with fast-talking business interests with grandiose development schemes,” said Steve Ellman, a retired journalist. “The Hudson Holdings fiasco showed us a commission majority that is easily gulled.”
Hudson Holdings’ $70 million plans to renovate the historic Gulfstream Hotel remain in limbo as the company decides if it wants to sell the site.
Before the election, City Manager Michael Bornstein said he met with three candidates — Robinson, Hardy and Maryann Polizzi, 59, a consultant fundraiser who ran for the District 4 seat against Robinson and Ellie Whittey, 63, a former office manager and assistant to Triolo.
“All three had a good grasp of the issues, where the city was heading and the role they wanted to play in it,” Bornstein said.
As for if the commission will become less fractured with Hardy and Robinson on it, Bornstein, choosing his words carefully since he’s being asked to comment on the commissioners he reports to, said that remains to be seen.
“You never know until a legislative body gets together,” he said.