After being appointed to the Wellington Village Council to fill a vacancy in 2016, Councilwoman Tanya Siskind is seeking a full four-year term in Seat 2 on Tuesday, March 13. She faces a challenge from former Wellington Utilities Director Frank Ferrano.
A longtime advocate on education issues in Wellington, Siskind has spent the last two years on the council connecting with ways to achieve a balanced village with a diverse population. “I absolutely love working with the council,” she said. “We have a council now that works very well together. We don’t always agree on everything, yet we take in everybody’s perspective, which is important.”
A 17-year resident of Wellington, Siskind grew up in Maryland. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s of business administration from Pepperdine University. She and husband Jeffrey have been married 28 years and have three children.
“We chose Wellington to raise our family like many families who fall in love with the community. It is a great place to raise a family,” Siskind said. “I got involved with the schools, education and volunteering to help the schools. I’ve done a lot of work with the Junior League and just anything to give back to the community.”
She enjoys her role interacting with village staff on behalf of residents. “They do excellent work,” she said. “I love representing the residents on a variety of issues, and I am out there every day with people approaching me all the time. I want to represent the people on their issues — and we have very diverse issues in Wellington.”
Wellington’s schools are important to Siskind. “It’s all connected to the community because of the schools. They affect property values, and they attract new families to Wellington, and we work hard to keep our schools A-rated,” she said. “We need to invest in our schools. They are all really strong, solid schools.”
She helped to increase the Keely Spinelli Grant Program, a village grant that aids the schools’ funding for programs, materials and equipment needed to help students in the lowest 25th percentile in reading or math. “We have increased the grant further this year from $295,000 to $400,000 for fiscal year 2018 because education is a priority of ours in Wellington,” Siskind said.
Siskind is proud of her accomplishments on the council.
“The millage rate has gone down the last two years that I have been on the council. We work hard to keep taxes low, monitoring spending and contract renewals. We scrutinize each contract task to make sure it is the best choice for Wellington. This is a way to keep our taxes low through smart decisions,” she explained.
She is also proud of technical advancements making things easier to do business in Wellington. “The building department changed to online permitting, which has made a huge difference,” Siskind said, “reducing the walk-in traffic to the government building by 5,000 people. We are working smarter and not harder.”
A similar change is being made to the village’s information technology system, she said.
“It’s going to be a major cost, yet in the long run, it will reduce costs because it will be more effective and it will provide transparency to our residents with features our current system doesn’t have,” Siskind said.
She also cited the many recent improvements in Wellington. “Many features like Hawthorne Park were finished, and the Aero Club multipurpose path,” she said. “There have been a lot of projects like the Saddle Trail improvement project, resurfacing all the basketball courts and finishing up many neighborhood projects.”
Siskind said she integrates within both of Wellington’s worlds. “We have people with horses as their way of life,” she said. “And we have people on the other end of the spectrum who don’t care if they ever see a horse. I am somewhere on the in-between because my daughter rides.”
She has only good things to say about how the village operates, giving credit to Village Manager Paul Schofield.
“I think that the village runs very smoothly. We have excellent management, staff and leadership. I don’t think there is anything I would change,” Siskind said. “If you look at other municipalities, they are not all functioning quite as well as we are. You find other issues that we don’t have here in Wellington, and to me, that says that the operations are well-run.”
What she would like to see improved in her next four years as a councilwoman?
“One of the items I would like to see addressed is additional field space for open play and sports practices,” Siskind said. “Lacrosse or any sport would be at the forefront that we need to have fields programmed for. The lacrosse parents have shown us that their sport is growing here, and we want to make sure… that we make fields available to them.”
While the village’s financial director has warned that it might become harder to balance the books in the future without additional revenues, Siskind believes that the village is in very strong financial shape, particularly when compared to other municipalities.
“We do everything we can so we can pay as we go, which is not a normal way that cities function,” she explained. “We know that we have some infrastructure projects that are going to be very costly yet necessary for public safety and health. We will never trade off public safety for savings.”
However, she does not believe that tax increases will be necessary in the near future.
Siskind strongly supports the village’s contract with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
“We have an excellent relationship with the sheriff’s office. We have added one or two officers this past year. We like to think of them as like a family. We don’t see that as just a contract. We treat them as if they are our officers,” she said. “I just went on a ride-along with Sergeant Kennedy, which was an excellent and eye-opening experience. They are hard-working. We have the Operation Wild Stallion [DUI enforcement program] going on. That is something we came up with together so that we could solve some of the DUI issues.”
Siskind said that Wellington will work with the PBSO to keep the community safe.
“Wellington prioritizes public safety in our community, and I would like to see that continue,” she said. “We have always put that first. We have very low crime in Wellington. If we needed to add officers, we certainly could.”
Asked about Wellington’s current relationship with horse show promoter Mark Bellissimo, whose company owns the three largest equestrian venues in the village, Siskind feels that there is a good working relationship.
“I have always enjoyed what Mark has done with the horse show. He has done some great things in Wellington,” she said. “I think that family is extremely generous to the community, the Great Charity Challenge being one major example of that.”
However, there will also be some tension between government and developers, as with a pending project Bellissimo has proposed at the International Polo Club.
“Mark has an application, and anybody has the right to put in any application as a resident of Wellington,” Siskind said. “And the council will give it a fair hearing, like any other applicant.”
Recent Wellington elections have pitted candidates supported by Bellissimo against those supported by the Jacobs family, representing another equestrian faction. Siskind, however, feels she breaks that mold.
“I have support from the Jacobses and the Bellissimos, and they don’t tend to agree on much, and I am happy to have both of their support. That is a vote of confidence,” she said, adding that the Jacobs family, owners of Deeridge Farms, have also been very generous to the community. “They just gave iPads to the high school, and they have done a lot of grants like that throughout the community. There is room for everybody.”
Siskind’s goal is to protect the future of the equestrian industry.
“Equestrians are very important to us in Wellington. We understand they are an economic driver,” she said. “We love to have the world-class riders come from all over the world. It’s great for us. Otherwise, we would just be another bedroom community. We want to take care of it.”
Regarding the K-Park property on State Road 7, Siskind is in no rush to see it developed.
“There is nothing urgent that needs to happen with K-Park. They’ve had some town hall meetings and some resident meetings in the past… most people would like to see a mixed-use project done there,” she said. “The land is extremely valuable, and I wouldn’t want to see it divided up, thereby devaluing the land. Something will happen to it eventually. The reality is that there is no rush.”
Siskind said that whatever happens at K-Park will include plenty of community input.
She has a future vision for a well-maintained Wellington.
“What we are going to see in Wellington is reinvesting in the community and neighborhoods, like we are doing now,” Siskind said. “We will be taking care of our infrastructure and updating it. We hope that our kids will grow up and go to college and come back and raise their families in Wellington.”
She urged voters to go to the polls on election day and asked for their support.
“I am always here for the residents, to hear their concerns and to advocate for them, and that is what I would like to continue to keep on doing,” Siskind said. “That is why you should vote for me.”