Three seats will be up for election on the Wellington Village Council next March, and in all three races, incumbents first elected to their current posts in 2016 plan to ask voters for a second term.
Incumbent Mayor Anne Gerwig, Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone and Councilman Michael Drahos have all opened campaign accounts and begun their re-election bids.
The election will be held Tuesday, March 17, 2020, on the same ballot as Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary.
Candidates used to have until February to qualify for the ballot. However, due to changes in state law and corresponding requests from the Supervisor of Elections Office, the qualifying period is now two months earlier, with candidates needing to decide by late this year.
Gerwig served for six years on the council before being elected mayor in 2016. She is now seeking a second four-year term.
“I’m most proud of the fact that the village council is functioning in a way that benefits our residents, and I’m proud to be a leader in the community,” Gerwig said. “I’ve been encouraged by the residents the entire time I’ve served. That’s one thing I have to say about Wellington — even if people don’t agree with every single point, they are really thankful to have leaders who care about the community.”
Gerwig said that she is all about the big picture and looking at the village as a whole, instead of catering to any one specific sector. She sees the current council as a respectful team that works well together.
“I still have a focus on Wellington to be a live, work and play community. That is one of the concepts I have always believed strongly in,” she said. “We want people not to have to travel out of the village just to work. I’d like to see us encourage more businesses and office space. We need to build the economic diversity that protects the village in the long run.”
Gerwig said the goal should be to encourage more economic and business growth in the area in ways that give back to the community and boost the local economy, keeping the progress local.
She encouraged all residents to become informed on the issues and vote during the March 17 municipal election. “Our races quite often have a good turnout from the community on election day,” Gerwig said. “It’s a very good thing.”
Seat 4 incumbent Napoleone was elected to the council in 2016 without opposition. If he draws an opponent in 2020, it will be his first time facing the voters.
He said that he has enjoyed his time serving on the council far more than he expected.
“What we have right now is a really strong council that works well together. We respect each other’s opinions. We don’t always agree, but we can disagree without being disagreeable, which is important,” Napoleone said. “We’ve done a lot to continue to make Wellington the great hometown we tell everyone it is. We’ve managed to keep the millage rate at close to historically low levels, while still delivering high-quality services that everyone living in Wellington has come to expect.”
Napoleone said that his goal is to support initiatives that help build Wellington’s future. For example, the overhaul of Wellington’s water utilities system is a big step in the right direction, but not the only step needed in protecting the community’s valuable resource.
“Water drives Florida, so we’ve got to make sure and do our part to keep the water system clean, and part of that is looking at a reuse system and using that water differently — whether it means better conservation, evaluation of our septic system or partnering with other municipalities who might need what we have to offer,” he said.
Part of Napoleone’s goal of keeping Wellington a great hometown is to keep the community working together. Events like last winter’s Day for Autism picnic is a particular source of pride.
“We have to always be looking to the future because the actions we take today will resonate for our children,” he said. “Complacency is not an option. You don’t fix what isn’t broken, but also, you look where things can improve and be forward-thinking. A primary goal is to keep Wellington great and not do anything that’s going to diminish the quality of life that we all came here to enjoy.”
Seat 1 incumbent Drahos is also seeking a second term after winning his seat on the council in 2016. A Wellington resident since 1986, Drahos grew up in the community and has a deep love for the village.
“I’ve got 30 years of my life already invested in this community, and it is just as important to me now that I’m raising my family here,” Drahos said. “I want to make sure that they have the same kind of experiences that I had growing up, and as a matter of fact, we are trying to do a little bit better.”
After seeing a bitterly divided council in the past, Drahos finds that the team in place has ironed out its kinks and is busy working for the community.
“It has been a great four years, and I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished. I love working with this council. We have really progressed, and I think we are a lot more united today than we were four years ago,” Drahos said. “That wasn’t by accident. The five of us on this council have worked really hard and really well together to formulate a vision that everyone can get behind. I feel like the community has really supported us and followed our vision.”
While he is inspired by key projects, including the upgrades planned for Wellington’s utilities and the building of a new park near Wellington High School, his personal connections matter, too.
“My favorite thing is being able to show my kids the importance of being involved in the community,” Drahos said. “All four years on the council, every event on the weekend that I go to — especially the ones where I have to give a speech — my daughters are there with me. My daughter, Julia, has actually found an interest in it, and she’s now the seventh-grade class president at her school. I’m really proud of that.”
The qualifying period to officially run for a council seat opens at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 3 and closes at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 17.
For more info., call the Village Clerk’s Office at (561) 791-4000 or visit www.wellingtonfl.gov.