Challenger Phillis Maniglia narrowly defeated three-term incumbent Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel in the race for Loxahatchee Groves Town Council Seat 1 on Tuesday, March 13.
According to unofficial results released by the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office, Maniglia edged past Jarriel by four votes, taking 255 votes (43.15 percent) to Jarriel’s 251 votes (42.47 percent). Also on the ballot, candidate Neil O’Neal III received 85 votes (14.38 percent).
The town’s charter does not call for runoff elections if no candidate gets a majority of the vote. According to the charter, in the event no candidate for an office receives a majority of the votes cast for such office, the person receiving the largest number of votes cast will be elected.
“I want to thank Ron Jarriel and Neil O’Neal for running a nice, clean campaign,” Maniglia told the Town-Crier on Wednesday. “I’d like to thank the voters who voted for me, and I’m hoping to earn the support of the people who did not.”
She pointed out that if she had won by only three votes, Jarriel could have called for a recount.
“I got four,” she said. “I got in by my chinny chin chin.”
Maniglia said she plans to follow up on promises she made during her campaign.
“I’m going to continue my community meetings once a month,” she said. “I’m going to look into the [Comprehensive Plan and the Uniform Land Development Code], which need to be updated to protect and preserve our unique rural lifestyle.”
Cleaning up the roads and canals, improving code enforcement and making the roads safer are also top priorities, she said.
Manigilia said she enjoyed seeing several equestrians riding to the polls to cast their votes.
“I’m pleased with the turnout, and it was fun having our equestrians coming to vote by horseback in true Loxahatchee Groves style,” she said, adding that she also wants to support residents of the town who make their living growing produce and nursery plants, and making crafts. “I want to promote the unique and eclectic community of all the home-grown products and crafts we have in our town. We have a great group of people here who are entrepreneurs. I’m looking forward to a safe, clean and green future for Loxahatchee Groves.”
Maniglia credited a large group of supporters for helping get her elected. “I’m hoping that I thanked everybody who helped me and my campaign,” she said. “I’ve got a couple of contacts in my e-mail, so things are happening here in the Groves.”
Jarriel was glad that the election had one of the largest voter turnouts in the history of the town.
“We set a record,” he said. “We had a final 591 votes. I lost the election by four votes, but we had the highest number of votes and the closest election.”
He credited Maniglia with working hard on her campaign, and O’Neal for entering the race at the young age of 21.
“I’m very impressed, and I do want to thank him for running a clean campaign and holding his ground and making that effort,” Jarriel said. “I believe his heart is in this town, so that young man has a lot of potential for the future.”
He said he has high hopes for the two new incoming council members, both Maniglia and Joyce Batcheler, who will replace Councilman Ryan Liang, who chose not to seek re-election.
“My main thing is the quality of life for the residents of the Groves, and roads and drainage, that they can do more than we have this year,” Jarriel said. “Both made promises, and I hope their service is beneficial to the residents. The only way we’re going to know that is to see them perform. Now they are going to have the opportunity to give back to the residents of Loxahatchee Groves.”
He added that the outcome of the election shows that every vote counts. “I hope next year, we can get more voters to come out,” Jarriel said.
He added that he is very proud of his nine years of service on the council.
“I thank all the council members who were involved these past nine years, that we’ve done some good things for the benefit of the residents,” Jarriel said. “The learning experience has been very rewarding. I’ve got a lot of learning and knowledge in my head, and if anybody wants to pick it, I’m there to give it to them. All they’ve got to do is ask.”
He said he intends to express himself as a resident at council meetings.
“My wife and my son are very happy that I’m finally retired,” Jarriel said.