Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14 for this year’s municipal elections. Here in the western communities, voters will head to the polls in Royal Palm Beach and Loxahatchee Groves with several important decisions to make.
ROYAL PALM BEACH VILLAGE COUNCIL, SEAT 2
The race for Seat 2 on the Royal Palm Beach Village Council features two familiar faces: Councilman David Swift and former Councilman Richard Valuntas. Both are longtime public servants, and both are candidates who the Town-Crier has endorsed on multiple occasions in the past. As such, both are worthy of council seats and bring vast experience and knowledge with them.
Valuntas narrowly lost his seat to Councilwoman Selena Smith last year after six years of council service. He brings with him his strong legal background and negotiation abilities, and a record of working to keep the village’s tax rate low, bringing business to the village and looking out for the needs of residents. Valuntas, who served on the village’s Recreation Advisory Board before he was elected, has also long been an advocate of the village’s strong parks and recreation programs.
Swift brings with him 29 years of service on the council, not to mention his 34 years of work with the South Florida Water Management District. As such, he is the institutional memory of the council, routinely bringing up what has happened previously when similar issues have come up. Yes, over the past two years, Swift has ruffled a few feathers, as he had the two years before that, dating all the way back to his time as a young village rabble-rouser in the 1980s. Our opinion of him has not changed over the past two years. He remains a longtime public servant with a firm command of the issues and a strong desire to help the community. Swift continues to advocate for residents and is often the first to suggest compromises to bring disparate groups together.
While choosing either candidate will be placing the council in good hands, Swift’s experience and sometimes contrarian point of view are useful for the council. While it may be true that the council needs new blood and fresh ideas, we’re not convinced that Valuntas — with his six years of council service — is the best person to carry that particular message. In this race, given this choice, Swift comes out narrowly ahead. The Town-Crier endorses the re-election of David Swift to Seat 2 on the Royal Palm Beach Village Council.
ROYAL PALM BEACH VILLAGE COUNCIL, SEAT 4
As in the race for Seat 2, there are two very interesting and qualified candidates in this race. Education Advisory Board Member Renatta Adan-Espinoza is challenging Councilwoman Jan Rodusky.
Espinoza is a native Floridian and a 15-year resident of Royal Palm Beach. Throughout her 20-year career as an educator, she has been actively involved in programs that support students by trying to keep them in school and achieving success in life. Her knowledge of education issues, coupled with her take-charge attitude, would bring a different perspective to the council. One of Espinoza’s concerns is what she feels is a lack of communication by Royal Palm Beach with its population, noting that there are many residents who are unaware of important things taking place within the community. While we agree there are many living in Royal Palm Beach who are not always up to speed, we believe the village provides multiple media avenues, including its up-to-date web page, signage, newsletters and other forums to communicate. In fact, Royal Palm Beach does more outreach to residents than most municipalities. The sad truth is, residents do not engage until something upsets them.
While Rodusky is the incumbent, she has not faced the electorate before. She was appointed to the council last spring, after Seat 4 was vacated by Fred Pinto upon his election as mayor. Rodusky has a master’s degree in public administration and has worked for more than 20 years with nonprofits in grant writing and project management. She is currently the chief grants writer for the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, where she oversees $4 million annually that goes to 70 cultural organizations. With the additional one-cent sales tax that Palm Beach County voters passed in November, Rodusky has experience that will help the village handle the money, and perhaps even find more through the use of grants.
While we believe both candidates are worthy of election to the Royal Palm Beach Village Council, we have not seen anything from Rodusky that suggests that she should not be afforded the opportunity to serve a full two-year term and begin to make her mark on the village. The Town-Crier endorses Jan Rodusky in the race for Royal Palm Beach Village Council Seat 4.
LOXAHATCHEE GROVES TOWN COUNCIL, SEAT 5
In Loxahatchee Groves, two longtime residents are vying for the only council seat up this year: Vice Mayor Tom Goltzené and former Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Supervisor Dave DeMarois. Both have the best interests of the community at heart, but both come with a different vision for future of Loxahatchee Groves.
DeMarois served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam and later worked for 30 years with Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue. He spent much of his service with PBCFR working in the western communities. He also spent 33 years as a reserve deputy for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and served 19 years on the LGWCD board. DeMarois believes that new management is needed in Loxahatchee Groves, noting that this has been an ongoing issue since the town incorporated some 10 years ago. He believes that the town’s current direction is not a good one when it comes to relations with the LGWCD, fiscal management and road issues.
Goltzené, on the other hand, has a goal of building the town to a point where it no longer needs to contract out for key employees, which would mean bringing in town employees who are not dependent upon a pact with a management company. He also believes that the LGWCD should control water and deal with canals, while the town handles the roads and all other necessary government functions. This, he believes, would reduce the overlapping of services and the confusion of residents.
We believe that one of the biggest problems in Loxahatchee Groves since its incorporation has been the lack of consistency in its management and direction. With four town managers in 10 years, the only consistent thing in Loxahatchee Groves has been change, and there’s been nary enough time to maintain focus in one direction. Every time there has been a management change, the entire town operation moves as well. More than anything else, it’s this lack of consistency that has held back Loxahatchee Groves, more than anything. While Goltzené is not a perfect candidate, his end game is a better future for the town, and having a council that flip-flops direction every year or so will continue to get Loxahatchee Groves nowhere. The Town-Crier endorses the re-election of Tom Goltzené to Seat 5 of the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council.
LOXAHATCHEE GROVES BOND REFERENDUM
Voters in Loxahatchee Groves also face a $6 million bond decision to finance the costs of roadway improvements. As structured, the bond would provide an up-front financial boost from which the town could put together several large road improvement projects, without the need to raise taxes. The bond would be paid off through gas tax revenue and, perhaps, money from the one-cent sales tax referendum passed by county voters last fall. This has been an issue for years, and this proposal is forward-looking in its approach. Unlike a previous proposal, this bond idea is specific and limited in scope. We believe the proposal is worthy of passage, and will pay huge dividends for the community. The Town-Crier endorses a YES vote on the Loxahatchee Groves bond referendum.
Whether you agree with our opinions or not, be sure to go to the polls and vote on Tuesday, March 14. Our communities are stronger when more people vote, and so is our democracy.