Incumbent Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay (D-District 6) was automatically re-elected to another four-year term last week when no one challenged her by the time filing closed on Friday, June 22.
Having been first elected in November 2014, McKinlay is currently serving as mayor of Palm Beach County, a largely ceremonial position that rotates among the commissioners each year.
“My goals will not change much from what they have been the last four years,” McKinlay said. “Infrastructure in the Glades area and tackling the need for affordable housing there will remain [top goals] for me.”
Although she is proud of the progress already made in the Glades, McKinlay hopes to continue putting her energy toward getting the right type of funding necessary to enhance some of the more disadvantaged areas of the district.
“[Palm Beach County’s] Economic Sustainability Office has been monitoring the progress of the investment going into the Glades, infrastructure wise, and it reported this month that, since January 2015, there have been more than $370 million invested into the community,” she said. “There has been a lot of work put into building the necessary relationships and making all [of the change] happen, because it really is a great amount of work that goes into getting the necessary funding. But now we have more than 600 new affordable housing units in the Glades.”
Along with her determination to support the Glades area, McKinlay has put forth and plans to continue putting a large amount of her energy into finding solutions for the opioid crisis affecting South Florida.
“In these past four years, I have also put my energy toward the opioid crisis, because there are a lot of people who need our help,” she said.
McKinlay is pleased with the improvements that she has started to see evidenced in South Florida recently, but she is cautious and aware that the issue remains difficult and will take a long time to fix.
“We are definitely starting to see a reduction of the overall reported opioid overdoses in our area, and I am so happy to see those numbers, but I also think the number is still too high,” she said. “People still have too much access to these drugs. There is still a lot of work to do and a lot of people who will continue needing our help.”
In her first four years as commissioner, McKinlay has also worked closely with some of Palm Beach County’s school board members, and she looks forward to continuing to work with school representatives in order to make a difference for the students of Palm Beach County.
“I am very much looking forward to continuing working with Marcia Andrews,” she said. “We’ve seen her fight for things for our district. For example, when the only local IB program was in Pahokee, Marcia pushed to bring it into Royal Palm Beach, and then the rest of the majority of the district. She has brought in and encouraged the diversity we see in our schools, and it’s amazing. Marcia is a great partner, and we work together hand in hand.”
Andrews was also re-elected without opposition last Friday, as were fellow school board members Karen Brill and Erica Whitfield. “I love that us four women are returning to serve together,” McKinlay said.
McKinlay is aware of the rarity of winning re-election to the county commission unopposed, having gone through a hotly contested election process four years ago.
“I think running unopposed means that the majority of my constituents think I’m making progress and truly see that I’m doing my best, even if there are disagreements,” she said. “I have been really accessible to my constituents, and I think that really goes a long way. The most important thing I can do is make myself available to people, and I believe it has [resulted in] my constituents being able to trust me and feel comfortable with my position.”
When asked what in her first term as commissioner she was most thankful for and had learned the most from, McKinlay said she continues to learn from her constituents.
“I’m thankful for the number of people who have continuously reached out to me searching for education on subjects that they want to know more about,” McKinlay said. “I’m also honestly thankful for my critics. My critics are honest people, and they always take their time to educate me on their personal views. This really has and will always keep me balanced. I hope to keep this balance in the district and the county for the next four years.”