José Rodriguez is the most familiar name that won’t be on the ballot for mayor.
His arrest and suspension more than a year ago began a parade of infighting, deadlock, strife and incrimination, and led to calls for fresh air in Palm Beach County’s third-largest city.
But of the four people vying to replace him, two names are nearly as familiar: sitting District III commissioner Steven Holzman and interim District I commissioner — and former mayor — Jerry Taylor. The other two: retired undersheriff, and frequent candidate, Cliff Montross, and registered nurse, and newcomer, Sophonie Lacombe.
The winner actually will take over for Woodrow Hay, who has been interim mayor and who will return to his District II commission seat.
Holzman and Taylor aren’t strangers to each other, and they don’t mince words.
“If Jerry (is) elected, the city would take a huge step backward,” Holzman said at a Feb. 4 candidates’ interview with the editorial board of The Palm Beach Post.
Taylor, in his Feb. 6 interview, said of Holzman: “He has a bit of arrogance. Talks down to people. Talks down to staff. Lacks management skills and people skills.”
Taylor cites his record as mayor, but Holzman said that’s the reason not to vote for him.
“Taylor put developers over citizens,” Holzman said. “He thinks it’s Monopoly money he’s playing with.”
Taylor insists he’s not still beholden to disgraced former Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty.
“I’m my own person,” he said. “I worked for Mary. She’s a friend of mine. She made mistakes. And paid for it.”
Taylor has said he would vote to settle the wrongful termination suit by former Community Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Lisa Bright. He says he supported her during her tenure but also says he believes she has a strong case and the city could lose big. Holzman said Taylor’s views are colored by his ties to Bright.
Holzman expressed confidence in longtime interim, and now outright, City Manager Lori LaVerriere.
“She’s grown as a city manager and together we can lead the city,” Holzman said, “We have been able to work together.”
Holzman defended his policy of not talking to her for the past year. He said he began after Rodriguez was arrested in January 2012 on charges he pressured LaVerriere and police chief Matt Immler to stop a child abuse investigation of Rodriguez that later was closed as unfounded.
At the time, Holzman and then-commissioner Marlene Ross said they believe Rodriguez was a victim of misinterpretation by LaVerriere and they didn’t want the same fate. He said that’s why he communicates only by email.
At a March 7 candidates’ forum, Taylor replied, “I don’t know how you can operate not talking to the city manager, running the city, on a daily basis.”
On a potential Palm Beach sheriff’s takeover of the city police department, Lacombe opposes it but would listen to another pitch. Holzman is willing to listen but wants more specifics. Taylor said “maybe financially, that might be the best way to go” but wants to hear details. Montross proposes making the deal and using the projected $5 million in savings to convert the old 1927 high school building into a police complex and youth center.
A group currently is undertaking a private renovation of the complex into an events center. Taylor has doubts it will happen, saying the developer “is struggling.” He acknowledges “some emotional attachment” but has said in the past that if this effort fails, the city should raze the building for city government buildings, perhaps a new city hall complex, and maybe even sell the prime property along Boynton Beach Boulevard that houses city hall. Holzman supports the private development of the school. Lacombe said she’d support a project with the right developer.
Holzman would not have supported the 2007 vote to allow a height variance for the proposed Holiday Inn near Congress Avenue and Boynton Beach Boulevard. He said the city should give a variance “only when legally necessary.” But he wants to work with the developer to reach an agreement acceptable to all.
Montross said the city should not have granted a variance and, as a resident of nearby Leisureville, would vote no in an overall up-or-down vote for the hotel. Lacombe said she was not familiar with the issue.
Taylor said he would not have approved the variance for Holiday Inn on Congress Avenue and would vote no on an up-or-down vote on the entire project. But he also said that, in that 2007 commission meeting — and minutes confirm this — that Leisureville residents in attendance supported the variance. Minutes also say the developer promised $25,000 to Leisureville once the hotel was finished.
Term: Until March 2016. Salary: $25,926 annually
Personal: Age 34. Married. One daughter. Education: Graduate, University of Florida, University of Florida law school.
Professional: Attorney, president of legal-recruiting firm.
Political: Elected District III city commissioner in March 2010. Previously served on historical preservation board.
Issues: “I want to be the candidate that takes Boynton Beach to the future.” Often the sole “no” vote on issues, especially financial. Says city shouldn’t take on projects it can’t afford, or let in non-taxed entities. Had opposed interim City Manager Lori LaVerriere’s appointment as outright manager.
Personal: Age 29. Married, no children. Education: Graduate, Fort Lauderdale Art Institute.
Professional: Registered nurse
Political: First attempt at public office
Issues: No preference on other candidates; “I am ready to work with whomever wins the vacant seats to move Boynton Beach forward to a better and brighter direction.” Supports vote to make Lori LaVerriere city manager outright. Would not change current makeup of CRA board.
Personal: Age 87. Married, four grown children (one of those deceased). Education: Attended Rutgers University.
Professional: Retired New Jersey Bell lineman. Retired undersheriff, Somerset County. N.J.
Political: Served five years on township committee, Warren, N.J. Unsuccessful bid for Palm Beach County Sheriff, 2004; Boynton Beach mayor, 2010; Palm Beach County Commission, 2012.
Issues: Can’t say if would have made Lori LaVerriere city manager outright. Wants commission meetings televised. “We have 26 vacancies on the volunteer boards. People are resigning every day. Nobody wants to help. Everybody’s fed up.”
Personal: Age 77 . Married, five children (two of those deceased). Education: U.S. Air Force management schools.
Professional: Retired newspaper executive. Administrative assistant to Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty, 1992-2006
Political: Mayor 1995-1999, 2003-2010. interim District I commissioner, December 2012-March 2013.
Issues: “I know how to do this job. I’ve done it before.” Opposed allowing a church complex inside the Boynton Beach Mall. Would not oppose reverting to an independent CRA board. With lending rates now low, would move police headquarters to the fire-rescue complex at Gateway Boulevard and High Ridge Road. Supports District I city commission candidate David Merker.