For the first time in Wellington history, an entire election cycle has been canceled. The village will forego its March 17 election because no candidates filed to run against the three Wellington Village Council incumbents up for re-election.
Mayor Anne Gerwig, Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone and Councilman Michael Drahos, who were gearing up to run re-election campaigns, were deemed elected to new four-year terms on Tuesday, Dec. 17 when the filing deadline passed with no challengers coming forward.
“The Village of Wellington will not have an election because the closing was at noon Tuesday, Dec. 17, and no one came in to qualify except the incumbents,” Village Clerk Chevelle Nubin told the Town-Crier.
Wellington voters will still go to the polls on March 17 for Florida’s presidential primary.
Mayor Anne Gerwig said that there have been individual positions that have been filled unopposed, but never an entire election cycle.
“This is the first time there has been no election at all. It’s shocking really,” she said.
Gerwig believes it is because voters are fairly satisfied with the current council.
“A lot of people tell me that this is their favorite council,” she said. “They think that we work well together, and we genuinely like each other, which is nice to have in government. That doesn’t come along very often.”
Gerwig said that one benefit to not having an election is that the continuity of the team can move forward right away.
“It lets us get a jump-start on next year’s budget and decide on the type of projects that we want to work together on, instead of waiting for April for a visioning workshop. We know where we want to go.”
This upcoming term will be Gerwig’s second and final as mayor.
“I am term-limited at this point, so it does kind of put me on a path trying to get a few projects done,” she said.
Gerwig noted that she is working on the Town Center plan and will be sitting down with the planners to see what kind of ideas they have for the master plan on that site.
“I continue to push for further discussion on a performing arts venue in Wellington, along with a small convention space, so we could get some offseason use of the hotels. This would spur economic development,” Gerwig said, adding that Wellington has always been a great place to live and go to school. “It is a great place to have a family, and we have great recreation, but we need that one piece: the performing arts. I think the arts would bring economic benefits.”
Gerwig said that there will be many other issues sure to come up.
“Something that constantly comes around in the [equestrian] season here is the horse manure issue,” she said. “I would like to get that settled once and for all and make sure we are environmentally sustainable and doing everything right.”
Gerwig added that the lack of a campaign means she will have more time to spend with her new granddaughter. “Being a grandma is the best part-time gig I’ve had this year,” she said.
Napoleone is in a unique situation in that he ran unopposed for a vacant seat four years ago, so he will have the distinction of serving eight years on the council and never actually being in a contested election. He attributes the lack of another candidate to residents appreciating the work that he has done and the fact that he always solicits a large amount of input from his constituents.
Napoleone said that he is looking forward to continuing the work that the council has been doing, including the upgraded utility system, the Town Center plan and new recreational amenities designed to proactively keep the community happy.
He said that he feels residents are satisfied with the way things are and the direction the council has been heading in. “Our tax rate is low, our crime rate is low, and we will continue to improve,” Napoleone said.
Napoleone expects development issues to be at the forefront over the next four years, even though the village is near build-out.
“There will be a push for development,” he said. “More apartments will want to come in. I don’t yet know if our residents want that.”
He said that there will need to be action taken regarding changes at the Mall at Wellington Green, which is facing redevelopment issues due to the shifting nature of retail in today’s economy.
“We are improving our Town Center, and we need to decide which direction that will go regarding the logistics and the benefits for the village,” Napoleone continued, referring to the master plan that has yet to be approved.
“While we don’t have pet projects because we vote on everything, I am proud of the work that has been done to create ‘A Day for Autism.’ It will be in March again this year, and it is a great community event. We work well with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office,” he said.
Looking toward the future, Napoleone said that he is enthusiastic to see the new fields soon to be built near Wellington High School.
Drahos — the first person who grew up in Wellington to serve on the council — had a personal view of his time on the dais. “I love the job,” he said, adding that he is happy to have the opportunity to serve the residents. “I’ve never taken it for granted for a single moment.”
Drahos agreed with Gerwig and Napoleone in attributing the lack of other candidates to satisfaction within the community and that residents are comfortable with the makeup and direction of the current council.
“I believe the residents know who and what we are, and they like the way things are going,” he said. “We are a great community, and we will get even better. The schools are all A rated.”
Drahos promised more of the same from the current team. “We have some exciting initiatives we will be continuing to work on in the next four years,” he said.
He agreed that the lack of an election gives the council a head start on 2020. “We can work together on our top priorities,” Drahos said.