Republican Rick Roth and Democrat Robert Simeone are vying for the opportunity to replace Republican State Rep. Pat Rooney in District 85.
District 85, a northern Palm Beach County district that includes most of The Acreage, trends Republican. Rooney’s decision to step down set up a primary race between Roth, a well-known Palm Beach County businessman, and Andrew Watt, Rooney’s legislative aide.
In the Aug. 30 primary, Roth easily secured the Republican nomination, taking 6,662 votes (62.02 percent) to Watt’s 4,077 votes (37.96 percent). Roth moved on to face Simeone, a retired Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputy who founded a local nonprofit organization serving injured veterans, in the general election on Nov. 8.
Rick Roth — Owner of Roth Farms in Belle Glade, Roth is a Palm Beach County native with many traits that he said would help him be successful in Tallahassee.
“I think the most important trait you have is that you’ve had years of experience — business experience, and other experience, where you’ve been dealing with a lot of people and you have had to accomplish a lot of things and make a lot of decisions,” he said.
He considers his business experience a key asset.
“One of the advantages of being a business owner is you spend your own money. You learn from your mistakes, and I think that’s one of the things that’s missing in politics today — people have to be willing to admit their mistakes and move on,” Roth said. “There are things that work and there are things that don’t work, and when they don’t work, we have to change them.”
Common sense and wanting to get things done, while understanding that everyone wants the same thing, means that people have to work together, Roth explained. Working together means realizing that other people are just utilizing different means to achieve the same goals.
Roth said that his experience as a business owner has helped him focus on long-term and short-term goals, as well as how to be a team player, leading and directing people.
“I’ve learned to direct people without micromanaging them. Let them do their job, and let them tell you how to do their job. You evaluate them, and you evaluate what you’re doing,” he said. “It’s really important to be outcome-based. You need to do things in order to achieve a certain goal. If you’re not achieving that goal, you have to do something different.”
For 40 years, Roth said, he has worked to put the right tools with the right environment for his employees, which is an approach that he said would also work for government.
His top issues are education, the environment and jobs.
“If we continue to improve our education, if we attract better teachers, if we pay teachers more, Florida will be the best state in the union to live,” Roth said.
Education is the key to creating jobs and a better lifestyle, he added.
Protecting Florida’s unique environment in a manner that follows common sense is key, he said.
Roth describes himself as conservative.
“Conservative means that I want a stable environment for everyone to prosper. Conservativism, to me, means stability. Changing the regulations and changing things all the time makes it hard for businesses to grow. I want businesses to prosper so everybody does better,” Roth said. “If businesses do better, then more taxes are raised. City government can pay policemen better, school teachers can make more money. The secret to everybody doing a little bit better is economic growth. That’s what I’m good at.”
Roth stressed that he isn’t a politician but an outsider. His first goal upon being elected would be to understand what the government is doing, what is occurring with regulation and education, and creating small changes to help make things work better.
“I’m looking at the world from the outside of government. What I see, I don’t like. I don’t see government being accountable to the people. I don’t see the government doing things the way they should do them. They want to do the right thing, but a lot of the time, they don’t know how,” he said.
For more information, visit www.rickroth.org.
Robert Simeone — A retired U.S. Navy veteran and retired PBSO deputy, Simeone believes that his diverse background, sitting on numerous boards with elected and appointed positions, is his best asset for public office.
“Knowing and dealing with budgets and line items really taught me a lot about how to deal with money and budgets,” he said.
Additionally, he added, his PBSO experience has prepared him for how to act diplomatically. His current business, with 22 employees, has taught Simeone about job creation.
Simeone spent eight years on the Hamal Community Development District board, overseeing a budget of more than $2 million, which he said is directly related to the legislative work in Tallahassee.
The top three issues of his campaign, he said, are the environment, protecting the water and focusing on options for Lake Okeechobee discharges and algae blooms; higher salaries for teachers and teaching beyond tests; and veterans issues.
“I bring to the table a life of service. I’ve been serving my country. From military experience, when I served six years in the U.S. Navy, I was with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for 10 years, and I’m also a small business owner — I understand creating the jobs aspect and taking care of our employees,” he said.
In 2011, Simeone founded the Children of Wounded Warriors, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that children of wounded veterans continue to have access to extracurricular activities after their parent’s injury to ensure normalcy and happiness in their lives.
With his wife Vivian, Simeone owns and operates Epiphany’s Recovery Treatment Center. He is also an adjunct professor, has completed his master’s degree and is in the middle of earning a doctoral degree.
Simeone believes that he is a stronger candidate because his experience varies beyond business. He is also a longtime resident of District 85. “In my opinion, the choice is clear,” Simeone said.
If he wins, Simeone plans to bring what he calls “R&R” — respect and relationships — to office.
“I’m a very moderate, center-line guy. I have the gift of gab — I like to call it verbal judo — my intentions are to cross the aisles and make the arrangements to propose these bills,” he said. “My hopes are to garner respect and relationships with the other side. Let’s come up with some common-sense [solutions to] the issues that are on top of my platform and try to get something done, and not argue. I hope to just communicate and hopefully get things done by good communication.”
For more information, visit www.voterobertsimeone.com.