Royal Palm Beach’s municipal election planned for March 17, 2020 was canceled this week when the qualifying deadline passed Tuesday, Dec. 10 without other candidates coming forward to challenge the three incumbents up for election.
As a result, Mayor Fred Pinto, Councilwoman Selena Samios and Councilman Jeff Hmara will retain their seats for another two-year term.
It was the second year in a row that Royal Palm Beach’s municipal election was scrapped for the lack of challengers. Voters, however, will still go to the polls on March 17 for Florida’s presidential primary.
The three incumbents expressed gratitude to village residents for the opportunity to continue in their positions and told the Town-Crier that they plan to continue with their current goals to serve the village.
Mayor Fred Pinto said that he is looking forward to several already initiated projects in Royal Palm Beach, including the voluntary annexation of Palms West Hospital.
According to Pinto, the hospital becoming an official part of the village will be mutually beneficial.
“By them coming to the village, we get to partner with them and be able to support them,” Pinto said. “And their government will be the local government here. The village council would then be able to have the oversight to make sure that they can get the things that they want to get done. So, it’s a tremendous opportunity for them, as well.”
Along with the practical benefits, Pinto also sees it as another opportunity for residents to take pride in their village.
Pinto expressed a desire to maintain a “Mayberry-esque” quality in Royal Palm Beach. In referencing the fictitious small town from The Andy Griffith Show, Pinto explained that he wants to see the village exist within a state of community and familiarity.
While Pinto expressed excitement regarding the new initiatives taking place in Royal Palm Beach, his main goal goes beyond new ideas.
According to Pinto, his primary goal is to sustain the level of excellence that residents have come to expect from the village.
“We’re at a good place, and now we all have to work hard to make sure that we stay there, and stay on the right track,” Pinto said.
Samios is now wrapping up her second term on the council and looks forward to the future.
“I do look forward to serving the residents and representing them over the next two years,” she said. “So, I appreciate the opportunity.”
As the liaison to the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Advisory Board, Samios has a passion for community involvement and said she loves the fact that with development coming on, they have land dedicated for public use, and there are plans to increase the number of village parks.
“Each neighborhood has its own public park,” Samios said. “And it’s great that each park has its own elements that attract people to go there.”
Samios also listed her other key issues: local businesses, the village’s senior population and transparency within local government.
She has an inherent passion for the senior population, as she was raised by her grandparents while her parents were living in the West Indies. Currently, she serves as the marketing coordinator for Wellington Cares, a nonprofit organization that enlists volunteers to assist seniors who still live at home but need a little extra help.
Samios said she sees Royal Palm Beach community involvement as an important practice because it helps to promote both togetherness and a hometown feel.
“I personally think it’s a great idea to get to know each other,” Samios said. “I think you have that sense of security and camaraderie and familiarity when you get to know your residents and your neighbors.”
Likewise, Hmara also encourages community fellowship and connection within the Royal Palm Beach community.
“Everything we do, really, has that thread of connectedness running through it,” Hmara said.
As a U.S. Army veteran, Hmara has a particular passion for helping veterans acclimate back into society. He is specifically sympathetic toward the struggles post-9/11 veterans face.
“A lot of our young veterans feel disconnected, and so there’s a lot of work to be done, and I’ve had some ideas,” Hmara said. “So hopefully, we’ll at some point in time — maybe using existing organizations like the American Legion and the VFW — get them connected again, and then get our civilian society to understand what they bring — the leadership, the commitment, dedication and reliability.”
While Hmara said he believes the nation as a whole could improve in its treatment of young veterans, at least within his sphere of influence, residents can make a difference in veterans’ lives.
“I keep looking for that connection that will reach out to them effectively, that will let them know that they’re not alone,” Hmara said.
But Hmara’s desire for community connection reaches well beyond veterans.
“I really like to help build a greater sense of community, a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership, a sense of connectedness,” he said. “And what I found is, you do that one program at a time, maybe one volunteer at a time.”