Four Terms Is Enough For Lox Groves Mayor Dave Browning

Loxahatchee Groves Mayor Dave Browning.

Loxahatchee Groves Mayor Dave Browning announced this week that he will not seek re-election to Seat 4 on the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council in March after serving 12 years.

Browning, 68, was elected to the inaugural council in 2007 in the first municipal election after the town incorporated. He has been re-elected three times. Browning has served as mayor, a position appointed annually from among council members, all 12 years. As such, he is the only mayor that the Town of Loxahatchee Groves has known in its short existence.

Before the town incorporated, Browning also served 11 years on the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Board of Supervisors.

In the upcoming election on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, Browning’s Seat 4 and Vice Mayor Todd McLendon’s Seat 2 will be up for three-year terms, as well as the remaining two years of Seat 3, currently filled temporarily by former LGWCD Chair Anita Kane. Kane was appointed to the council this week to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Councilwoman Joyce Batcheler.

“Todd will be running again, but I will not,” Browning told the Town-Crier on Wednesday.

As the only remaining member of the originally elected council, he recalls the highlight of his work as being chosen as mayor all 12 years and working with other council members to put details of a new town government together.

When Browning was first elected, he got the highest number of votes of any candidate, which compelled the council to choose him as mayor.

But Browning said the pleasure of serving has diminished over the years.

“It has gotten to the point that it’s just not as much fun anymore,” he said. “There’s a lot of conflict and people who don’t understand. I decided to step back and let someone else, all these people who have the great ideas, let them step in there. I think the town’s in great shape right now. We have established the assessment and taxes, so there’s going to be finances that are beginning to come in. As long as everything is done correctly, we will be fine.”

Browning said that the big issue before he leaves is to get the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office back on board for law enforcement. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw sent a letter to the town recently indicating that it would not renew its contract when it expires on Oct. 1, 2019.

“I hope I can get it resolved before I leave in March… and continue to use the sheriff to provide our law enforcement,” Browning said.

Another of his goals is to complete the integration of the LGWCD into the town.

“Now that the water control district is dependent to the town, we will be able to use those resources and be able to work together to make the roads and drainage better,” he said.

In his retirement, Browning said he is going to enjoy the extra time to visit with two of his sons who live in Orlando and Columbus, Miss.

“I’m retired, and it will free me up more to go see the grandkids whenever we want, and stay a little longer and not have to coordinate all that around the meetings,” he said. “I don’t believe I’ve missed more than a couple of meetings my whole time in office.”

His youngest son is a C-17 pilot and trainer in the U.S. Air Force.

“We don’t know where he’s going to end up because he’s thinking about leaving and staying in the reserves and going into airlines,” Browning said. “We’ve got friends we’ve put off seeing over the years, so, hopefully, we’ll be able to do a little traveling and see them.”

Browning said his wife, Sharyn, who usually attends all meetings, is on board with his retirement.

“She has been a great supporter for me all these years on the council, and we’re both in agreement that it’s time to step down and let someone else try their hand at it,” Browning said. “I’ve always tried to be a peacemaker and try to keep everything on an even keel and keep moving forward.”

Browning noted that even before his time on the LGWCD board, he served as president of the Loxahatchee Groves Landowners’ Association.

“I’ve been involved a big part of the 40 years we’ve been out here in one way or another,” he said.

Before he retired, Browning worked as a bricklayer for 45 years, largely on commercial projects that took him as far away as Miami. “I used to say I’ve built buildings where I didn’t want to live — high rises and things like that,” he said. “I worked seven years in Palm Aire in Pompano, and then I worked on the tallest building in Miami.”

Browning also worked on schools, prisons and hospitals. All that time he was commuting from his home in Loxahatchee Groves.

“It wasn’t bad,” he said. “I’d jump on the turnpike and go down. This was an oasis. I’d fight through the traffic in Miami or Fort Lauderdale, and you come home. It used to be a real pleasure to hit the dirt roads because I knew I was home.”

Browning said that the town’s landscape has changed dramatically over 40 years.

“The people who live out here have changed,” Browning said. “Those [people] 40 years ago had more of a pioneer spirit. Now it seems like more and more of the people buy land but don’t live here. They have businesses, or horse operations, but they choose to live somewhere else.”

Browning said he plans to remain in Loxahatchee Groves as long as he can maintain his five acres. “That’s my therapy,” he said. “I get out there and work on the property, and I enjoy that.”

Browning said his house is holding up well after Tropical Storm Isaac in 2012, which had water come into his house.

“We had a lot of people come in and help, and pulled out the drywall that got wet, so there were no problems with the mold or anything,” he said. “When we replaced it, we didn’t put drywall back in. We put metal panels along the bottom, or wood, and if it ever happens again, God forbid, we’d be in better shape.”

Aside from Isaac being an unusually intense rainstorm, Browning said the canal levels had not been drawn down sufficiently.

“We didn’t have that initial capacity,” Browning said. “The South Florida Water Management District thought it was going to bring very little rain, so they did not release the water… We had 22 to 24 inches of rain in 24 hours. It just had no place to go, so we ended up with water in our house.”

Browning said the county has since cleared the culverts on Okeechobee Blvd. to reduce the possibility of flooding.

As for the future of the town, he hopes that the council can work together and put aside personalities and conflicts.

Browning agreed that his retirement marks the end of an era in the community. “The few people I’ve told, they’re a little bit shocked,” he said. “I told them I’m not going to stick around like some of the other mayors and get very old in the job. I didn’t want to do that. I just thought it was time.”