Phillis Maniglia, a regular at Loxahatchee Groves Town Council meetings, is challenging incumbent Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel in the race for Seat 1. Fellow challenger Neil O’Neal III is also on the Tuesday, March 13 election ballot.
Maniglia, a real estate professional specializing in horse farms, said she has acquired strength and skills through equestrian sportsmanship and has gained other skills through her day-to-day endeavors.
“I have acquired public relations skills from retail and hospitality, problem-solving and deadlines from my construction experience, and negotiations, compromise and conflict management from my real estate job,” she said.
Maniglia feels that she is the best qualified candidate because she has been very active in town issues and public speaking at meetings, and was sent by her peers to the Neighborhoods USA conference in 2014 to learn about government and collaborative leadership skills.
She lists her top accomplishments as overcoming the tragedy of a car accident in 1991 that left her incapacitated for a time and almost rendered her homeless. A former drywall finisher, she was unable to work for years.
“I almost lost my life, my leg and my home,” Maniglia said. “I turned it around to become a self-made businessperson.”
The top three issues of the campaign are getting enough money for the town to continue to function, improving and maintaining the roads, and clearing the town of trash and stopping illegal dumping, she said.
“Town financing is definitely number one,” Maniglia said. “Roads is only number two because of number one, and trash. I’m finding in my campaigning that the citizens of this town are very upset about the trash, debris and dumping in this town.”
She believes there are services not provided by the town that should be, including hiring staff to conduct regular cleanup and maintenance on the roads and canals.
“I feel that we should have a daily maintenance program, a daily maintenance entity for roads and trash, including our canals,” Maniglia said. “That would include potholes and picking up trash that has been dumped on the side of the road that normal residents are unable to pick up. Definitely, somebody needs to clean these canals.”
She would improve the town’s roads with the help of higher government sources, with matching funds from the town.
“I would like to see upgraded, safe roads and an implemented maintenance regimen, and we would seek matching funds from the federal, state and county entities,” she said.
Maniglia strongly supports the current effort by the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Board of Supervisors to become a dependent district to the town. The local bill initiated by the board passed its final legislative committee on Tuesday. If passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, it will go to a referendum.
“We do not need two governmental bodies and their expensive staff,” she said.
Maniglia envisions the future of Okeechobee Blvd. as being made safer for local drivers who feel threatened by speeding pass-through traffic, with low-impact uses that encourage residential enterprise that allows for an orderly flow of traffic.
She supports commercial uses along Southern Blvd. that are designated in the town’s comprehensive plan. “Southern Blvd. is currently the commercial corridor for Loxahatchee Groves,” Maniglia said.
She hesitated to comment on the job Town Manager Bill Underwood is doing until she has the opportunity to work with him, but she has ideas for changes to code enforcement and the building department.
“It would be irresponsible of me to comment prior to working with the town management in a professional capacity,” Maniglia said. “I would like to see some changes to the code enforcement and the building department, and I do have ideas for that as well.”
She has commented often at meetings about inequities of “selective code enforcement” in the town, and improvements needed in the process to improve equity.
“[Selective code enforcement] is still going on with the signs,” Maniglia said, referring to recent citations received by owners of commercial property over allegedly illegal signs. “I think it’s ridiculous, but I would like to see an end to selective code enforcement. I think that by changing our council, that’s going to start happening, but I think that I would like code enforcement, that when somebody comes in and files a complaint, that it’s in a four-copy document where one copy goes to the town, one copy goes to the code enforcement officer, one copy goes to the complainer and one copy goes to the [receiver of the complaint]. That’s only one suggestion regarding code enforcement. You know I’ve had a problem with code enforcement for a long time in this town, and I’m going to have a say, because I’m getting elected.”
Maniglia is concerned about the town’s budget, which required a unanimous vote to approve the tax rate increase needed to fully cover the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office budget that almost doubled. The proposed increase failed by a single vote, which has left the town short on funds this year.
“Since there are no funds currently, I believe the budget may need more trimming, and we need to make more sacrifices until we’re back in the black,” she said.
Her vision for the future of Loxahatchee Groves is a clean, green and prosperous community-minded town.
Maniglia said voters should vote for her because she will always be interested in hearing the concerns, suggestions and complaints of the residents and landowners.
“I will always be respectful to my fellow council members, the management, and especially to the residents and landowners of the town we love, whether we agree with them or not,” she said.
She added that she is thankful that this campaign does not appear to have the drama of the past. “I thank my fellow contestants for that,” Maniglia said. “We’ve had a lot of drama in our town.”