Clubhouse, U.S. 1 development key issues for North Palm candidates


Highlights

The seats held by Darryl Aubrey, Robert Gebbia and Mark Mullinix are up for election.

The qualifying period ends 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The next North Palm Beach Village Council will shape the future redevelopment of U.S. 1 and Northlake Boulevards and oversee the construction of a new, $15 million clubhouse at the golf course.

RELATED: North Palm Beach’s future: Retail, houses in, more offices out

Four candidates are vying for two seats in the March 13 election. Councilman Mark Mullinix will face Pride Grinn, whose father Manny Grinn was a longtime councilman. Deborah Searcy is running for the seat held by Vice Mayor Robert Gebbia, who is seeking re-election.

RELATED: What are pros, cons of a new North Palm Beach clubhouse?

Council terms are two years, and members are elected at large.

Grinn, a Realtor and actor, said he’s lived in North Palm Beach on-and-off since the 1970s before moving back more than three years ago.

“This was an amazing place to grow up. All the kids knew each other,” he said. “I want other people to get that great experience I had.”

Grinn said he’s running because he’s seen “mismanagement” of designing the new North Palm Beach Country Club and a lack of redevelopment outlined in a master plan the Council approved in 2016.

The Council directed architecture and design firm Peacock + Lewis to scale back the size of the clubhouse after a preliminary design was estimated to cost between $22 and $25 million, well over the village’s $15 million budget.

The revamped design cost the village an additional $316,000, beyond the initial $962,000 cost, according to village documents.

Mullinix said he wasn’t happy about incurring extra fees and asked the village manager to negotiate as much as possible.

“He did more work. He did a redesign,” Mullinix said of the architect. “It’s not mismanagement.”

The downsizing came at the advice of potential restaurateurs, who told officials that fine dining in clubs is becoming a thing of the past, Mullinix said. It also came after the village ended an agreement with Carl von Luger to operate the steakhouse amid von Luger’s trademark dispute with the famous Peter Luger Steak House over the restaurant’s name.

Mullinix said the Council has held the tax rate the same since he’s been in office. When the village needed to replace the small jitneys trash collectors use to get around, he suggested the village buy Kubota utility vehicles that cost about half as much, he said.

If elected to another term, he said he wants to bury the power lines, have natural gas throughout the village and revisit annexation of unincorporated pockets.

Voters elected Mullinix to the Council in May 2015 to finish a term left open by Bill Manuel, who died that February. Mullinix, who lived in the village for all but 10 years, was re-elected without opposition in 2016. He is the owner of Atlantic Auto Glass.

Grinn said he wants to move forward with the vision laid out in the master plan and bring business back into the village. Living all over the country gives him a different perspective on issues, he said.

Searcy, a resident since 2010 and a member of the village’s penny sales tax oversight committee, is running for the seat held by Gebbia.

“Voters deserve choices when choosing their elected officials,” Searcy said. “I would be a good addition to the village council, and I want to be a choice that voters have.”

She said she wants to reinvigorate business, ensure the village has high-quality facilities for swimming, boating, tennis and golf and see that children know they’re an integral part of the community by keeping the family-friendly atmosphere.

Searcy teaches business and prepares her students for the future as an instructor at Florida Atlantic University. She will apply that experience on Council preparing the village for its future with a new clubhouse and master plan.

As a mom of two children, ages 6 and 4, she’s in touch with her neighbors and community, she said.

Gebbia, a resident since 2003 and a councilman since 2010, said even as the economy tanked and property values dropped, the Council tried not to raise taxes or take away services. The village is still getting its facilities in top shape, including Anchorage Park and the new clubhouse.

“What I bring is a sense of how to run this place like a business, but also be responsive to citizens’ needs,” Gebbia said.

Although North Palm Beach doesn’t have any major issues on the horizon, Tallahassee’s attacks on “home rule” and diminishing sources of revenue pose a challenge in the future, Gebbia said.

North Palm Beach has a “small village feel” that people like. The goal is to continue enhancing that way of life without making any drastic changes, he said. Maintaining the police and fire departments will also be key, he said.

Mayor Darryl Aubrey faces no opposition for a third seat.



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