And in 2012 when Hay, a commissioner, was appointed to fill former Mayor Jose Rodriguez’s seat after Rodriguez’s arrest on corruption charges, McCray was asked to take his place.
But they have never run against one another until now.
Hay said running against his friend is “awkward” but something he had to do.
“Lately I just don’t like the direction that I see things going so I just felt that it was time for me to get back in office,” he said, citing recent shootings, development and the makeup of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s board.
McCray and Hay are joined in Boynton Beach’s one race Tuesday by a political novice, Dr. Jim DeVoursney, a dermatologist who says his participation in public discussion about a controversial project called Casa Del Mar made him aware of a passion for city government that he previously didn’t know he had.
Only residents in District 2, which runs from Boynton Beach Boulevard to south of Hypoluxo Road and covers mainly the east portion of the city, will decide Tuesday who should represent them. One candidate must receive 50 percent plus 1 of all votes cast to win; otherwise the city will hold a runoff election March 28.
McCray, 67, doesn’t want the residents to see him running against Hay as problematic.
“I don’t want Boynton to think they are splitting votes because they have two African Americans running against one another. They do it in Delray, it’s done in Broward County, other cities. It’s the first time that Boynton really had to pay attention. It’s not the first time that I had an African American running against me,” he said.
Boynton’s District 4 seat was also up for a vote this year. However, incumbent Joe Casello won the seat because he was unopposed.
The terms for both seats are three years. The annual salary is $18,711 for each seat.
Of the three District 2 candidates, McCray, a licensed funeral director who works in Broward County, has raised the most money in his campaign so far, records show. As of Feb. 24, McCray had raised about $29,000. DeVoursney, 55, had $17,700, $10,000 of which is his own money. Hay — who is retired and volunteers with the city’s police department as a chaplain, had raised about $9,600.
McCray and Hay, 72, attend St. John Missionary Baptist Church and live in the Heart of Boynton community, which is home to some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. The area is part of the Community Redevelopment Agency district and commissioners for years have been working to bring in development.
In some places their efforts have worked: Ocean Breeze West, a neighborhood of 21 single-family homes; The Family Dollar store, which opened in 2015 and is the first commercial development in that area in about 45 years; and the Model Block, a community known as Poinciana Gardens that will have single-family homes and new utilities and give its surroundings a fresh appearance.
But across from Ocean Breeze West, Ocean Breeze East has remained empty for about a decade. Plans for redevelopment there and along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard have failed time and time again.
The three candidates came up with different approaches of attracting development there. DeVoursney thinks the CRA should sell properties they own, with the hopes of more single family homes, instead of trying to bundle land for one big project. Hay wants to clean up the area to make it more attractive, and try to get the properties contiguous so developers have enough land to build on. McCray said the commission needs to look at what has gone wrong with the failed development attempts and learn from them.
DeVoursney lives at the city’s north end on the Intracoastal Waterway. But he said that doesn’t mean he can’t properly represent the Heart of Boynton residents.
“I’m not an outsider because even though I don’t live in the Heart of Boynton, I live in District 2. I drive Seacrest. I drive MLK Boulevard. That’s my community, too,” he said.
DeVoursney sits on the advisory board to the CRA and is president of the Inlet Cove Association, an association of residential communities along Federal Highway. He said residents asked him to run for commissioner.
All three candidates say they want more regulation of sober homes, are happy with the police chief’s work, and want residents be more involved and know what’s going on in the city.
One of the ways for residents to be involved is by sitting on an advisory board to the CRA, which was only recently created.
Commissioners in 2015 decided they wanted to be the only ones to sit on the CRA board, so they removed the two public seats, occupied by Hay and James Buck Buchanan. But to keep residents involved, the commission created an advisory board to the CRA board.
The reason for the change is still not completely clear, but had to do with Hay and Buchanan disagreeing with McCray and Commissioner Joe Casello about the performance of former CRA director Vivian Brooks. Casello and McCray criticized Brooks while Hay faulted the commissioners.
“I thought the whole thing was ridiculous,” Hay said.
The advisory board has brought on mixed reactions. Hay said it needs to be able to have more “teeth.”
McCray said there’s no need to change the current commission.
“We have a lot of things on the plate. We have right now a group of individuals elected officials who work together now. It seems no one has a hidden agenda we’re there for the betterment for the citizens of Boynton and I want to continue to be a part of that cohesiveness that we have formed here in the city,” he said.
- One in a series about the candidates in Palm Beach County’s municipal elections of March 14.
- Series will run daily through Monday.
- Get all The Post’s municipal election coverage at PalmBeachPost.com/munielections