Vice Mayor John McGovern is seeking a full four-year term on the Wellington Village Council on Tuesday, March 13.
An attorney, McGovern was appointed to Seat 3 to fill a vacancy three years ago. Two years ago, when the seat was also up for election due to the vacancy, no one filed to run against him, and McGovern returned to the council without opposition.
This time around, McGovern faces a challenge from frequent Wellington critic Bart Novack.
McGovern was raised in Wellington. A graduate of Wellington High School, he returned to the community to raise his family after earning his bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Florida.
He prides himself on being the first sitting council member to have been a product of the Wellington public school system.
“Having grown up in Wellington, my parents brought my family here because this is what they believed was the premier place to raise a family,” McGovern said.
His ultimate goal is for Wellington to continue to be the family-oriented village he was raised in and is raising his two daughters in with his wife, Michelle.
“I want my children and my children’s friends to have the opportunity to choose to bring their families back to raise them in Wellington just like I’ve done,” McGovern said. “That can only be done if we plan for that foundation today and tomorrow.”
McGovern cited the development north and west of Wellington as a top issue in his campaign and for the future of Wellington.
“We have to make sure that we are ready to, one, in a residential sense, compete with those neighborhoods or developments and, two, that we are also ready to seize the moment and take advantage of their existence,” McGovern said. “Meaning, when those developments start to come online, slowly, over time, their residents are going to need places to go for activities, for dining, for healthcare, for general business, and we want Wellington and Wellington businesses to be the place that they come and do that.”
McGovern said that will require strong marketing of what Wellington has to offer.
“We want those people to come to our village and seamlessly help to take us to the next level and help to ensure the success of our next 20 years, right along with our own residents,” he said. “We also have to plan in regard to roads and logistics, because we can’t have that kind of influx and additional traffic that just arrives one day that we haven’t incrementally planned for over time.”
McGovern wants to see reinvestment and improvements to older Wellington neighborhoods.
“It’s important to me that we put policies in place that are going to support the continued vibrancy of the neighborhoods in Wellington in which I grew up,” he said. “The neighborhoods in Sugar Pond, along Birkdale, those types of neighborhoods. That’s a top priority for me.”
Future development within the village includes the longtime, village-owned property known as K-Park at the corner or State Road 7 and Stribling Way. McGovern does not believe there is a strong consensus on the future use of that property, and he wants to be cautious moving forward.
“K-park is the last significant, continuous, sizeable piece of land in the village,” McGovern said. “As such, it is very important that if anything is done there, whether that be in the near term or the long term, that we know very clearly exactly what it’s going to be and how it’s going to fit in great with our community in the long term.”
McGovern wants to see the village continue providing high-quality services to residents with a lean budget.
“I think it is important that we continue to be fiscally responsible such that we shrink the size of the village work force, but we do it in a way that is responsible,” McGovern said. “When I tell you that we have increasing property values and lower millage rates and the financial success of the village is very strong, that then means that our residents deserve to have the people planning and securing their future to be high-quality, highly trained, highly educated individuals, and that does come at a cost.”
McGovern said that the council needs to be mindful and work alongside village staff in each department.
“One of the things that does concern me is that we have a senior staff in the village that is aging, and we need to make sure that we are both grooming internal talent to serve our residents and that we have a human resources philosophy that says if we need to, we can recruit the best and brightest talent at a moment’s notice,” McGovern said.
McGovern considers the village lucky to have Paul Schofield as its manager. He believes that he has a close working partnership with Schofield.
“His knowledge is second to none. I think that his ability to plan is second to none,” McGovern said. “I give him great credit for having led us successfully and quickly through hurricanes. I support Paul Schofield, and I’m proud to have voted for the extension of his contract.”
McGovern considers the village’s relationship with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office very strong. He would like to see continued investment in the PBSO in the form of a hurricane-safe substation. The current PBSO building on Greenbriar Blvd. is not hurricane rated, McGovern noted.
“We had to essentially move the PBSO out of that facility and operate them out of the Wellington Community Center because there was flooding risk in that area,” McGovern said. “In the long term, that is not good for the village.”
McGovern said when you think Wellington, you think equestrian. He said he continues to support the success of the equestrian industry in Wellington.
“My philosophy is that the equestrian industry is an economic engine for Wellington, and it must be treasured as such,” McGovern said. “But it’s a complex engine, and we need to make sure that we are supporting the overall success of the equestrian industry in Wellington, but it needs to be in accordance with our overall philosophies as a community, not in replacement of them.”
McGovern stressed that he has the track record necessary to serve the next four years on the council.
“I have a record of accomplishment. I am proud to have every single endorsement in this race. I am proud to be supported by our local firefighters, by the Police Benevolent Association, by Sheriff [Ric] Bradshaw, by State Attorney [Dave] Aronberg, by Commissioner [Melissa] McKinlay, by a majority of our school board and by our Realtors.”
He said it means a lot to him to have endorsements from community leaders and to have a close working relationship and friendship with leaders and visionaries who came before him in the community.
“I’m proud to call them friends and to have the chance to build on the legacy that they have left,” McGovern said. “I think that those people have all chosen to support me because I have the temperament, the judgment and the forward thinking to not allow Wellington to rest on its laurels, but to assure that we continue to be the premier place to raise a family in Palm Beach County.”