It was a celebratory event when retiring New Horizons Elementary School Principal Elizabeth Cardozo was asked by Mayor Anne Gerwig to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the Wellington Village Council meeting on Tuesday, June 25. At the meeting, Cardozo was honored for her long career in education.
Cardozo has been principal at New Horizons for 15 years, and she has been an educator for a total of 41 years, with 39 of those years in Palm Beach County. She has been an elementary school teacher, a school counselor, an assistant principal and principal. She steps down this month, handing the reins at her Wellington school to incoming Principal Dana Pallaria.
The council approved a proclamation to honor the principal that read, in part, “The Wellington Village Council hereby recognizes Mrs. Elizabeth Cardozo on her retirement and for her dedication and commitment to Palm Beach County schools and the Village of Wellington, and extends their best wishes as she begins her retirement.”
At the podium, Cardozo addressed the council with her husband seated behind her in the audience, as well as other educators in attendance for the proclamation ceremony.
“I am overwhelmed,” Cardozo said. “It has been my honor to serve the community of New Horizons for the last 15 years as principal. To finish 41 years as an educator just seems like it flew by. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the members of the council, as well as the Wellington Education Committee, for your support of the schools in Wellington over the years. It really does make a difference in the lives of the students. I am looking forward to this new adventure. I know I am leaving the school in very capable hands.”
The council members personally thanked Cardozo and wished her luck in the future.
“Thank you so much for your continued commitment and the fact that you are going to continue to be committed to the community,” Gerwig said.
Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone said that she will be long remembered for her service to the community, including “the legacy that you have left behind, the children who are now adults who you have touched along the way.”
Councilman Michael Drahos said that she will be hard to replace. “I am glad you are going to stay in the community and continue to contribute,” he said. “There are not many Betsy Cardozos out there.”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting was the School District of Palm Beach County’s new central region superintendent, Valerie Zuloaga-Haines. She replaces Dr. Frank Rodriguez, who recently left the post.
“Good evening. I am so happy to be here tonight,” Zuloaga-Haines said. “I grew up in Wellington. I have seen the town grow from a child’s perspective to an adult. My mom still lives in the Village of Wellington. For me, it’s like coming back home. But this time I am coming back home in a different capacity. I am able to make a difference with our community. I am able to make a lasting difference with the students we serve.”
She asked the council to stay in touch with her.
“Dr. Rodriguez has done an amazing job in the years that he has served the Village of Wellington,” she continued. “I intend to work diligently, to make sure the work moves forward, and so that we keep an open communication both ways to move our village forward.”
In other business:
• Planning, Zoning & Building Director Robert Basehart and Development Review Coordinator Cory Lyn Cramer presented plans for amending and modifying Article 5 of the Wellington Land Development Regulations and adopting a resolution to provide forms for planning and zoning application types, submittal requirements, review criteria, and detail the process for development applications, as required in Article 5.
“We are in the process of rewriting the entire land development regulation ordinance,” Basehart said. “The effort is to streamline it, to reduce its size, to eliminate duplications and confusion, conflicts and to make it readable to the general population. People who are not involved in zoning issues every day often have a difficult time interpreting or understanding what the current code says.”
The result will be a much more compact document.
“In the overall effort, we are hoping to get the entire code down from about 1,200 pages to about 400 pages without losing anything,” Basehart said. “We are reducing the number of articles from 14 down to 9. In Article 5, we wanted to streamline it. The development manual has been a big success. It’s a how-to book for anybody using the code and making applications to the village. We have added some pictures to simplify it.”
After the PowerPoint presentation on the changes, the council voted unanimously to move ahead with updating of Article 5 and the review manual.
• Village Attorney Laurie Cohen, Village Manager Paul Schofield and Napoleone are headed to mediation with the Pine Tree Water Control District regarding its ongoing conflict with the village over road maintenance in the western Wellington enclave of Rustic Ranches. The road maintenance issue has been front-and-center in the minds of Rustic Ranches residents since September 2018, when the village discontinued road maintenance after failing to reach an agreement with Pine Tree.
• According to Gerwig, her presidential initiative as leader of the Palm Beach County League of Cities was to reestablish the “Issues Forum.”
“The Issues Forum broke down when there was a lawsuit with some of the cities against the county,” Gerwig explained. “We are getting it back together. It’s not necessarily a place to hold all grievances. It is a part of our comp plan that every city is required to have inter-governmental coordination.”
Many issues in Wellington are issues that other communities face as well, she noted.
“One thing that struck me that we should address is the manure issue,” Gerwig said. “Over and over, we have talked about the fact that it’s not a Wellington problem. The government of Wellington doesn’t even own a horse to produce any manure. But it is a significant problem for the community. It’s a significant problem for our neighbors to the north and south, and particularly the county itself. Honestly, the best place to take the conversation is beyond just Wellington’s obligation to this issue.”
Gerwig explained that the council must vote on any issue to be brought to the League of Cities’ Issues Forum. The council approved bringing four issues to the Issues Forum: manure, septic to sewer conversions, discharges from Lake Okeechobee/blue-green algae and the State Road 80 transportation corridor.