Two seats on the Wellington Village Council are up for election on March 8, 2022, and even though that is more than seven months away, several challengers are already making plans to take on the two incumbents seeking re-election.
Up for grabs are Seat 2, currently held by Councilwoman Tanya Siskind, and Seat 3, currently held by Vice Mayor John McGovern. Both were initially appointed to the council and won full, four-year terms in 2018.
Local businessman Johnny Meier, a leader in the Wellington Chamber of Commerce and owner of My Community Pharmacy, has filed paperwork to run for Seat 3. Community activist Tony Nelson, president of Premier Family Health, has announced plans to run for Seat 2. He told the Town-Crier that he is putting together a campaign committee and will be filing next week.
Wellington Village Clerk Chevelle Addie confirmed that as of now, only Meier has filed paperwork. However, McGovern and Siskind each confirmed that they are seeking re-election and plan to file soon.
With months to go until filing closes, there is still plenty of time for other candidates to come forward.
Nelson said that he has been thinking about running for public office for years. Perhaps not for all of his 34 years in Wellington, “But for quite a while,” he said.
Nelson has raised a family in Wellington, and his children, now in their 30s, have children of their own. “Between me and my kids and the grandkids, we have three generations in Wellington, and I’d like us to have three more,” he said.
Nelson, who is Black, said he hopes to bring some diversity to the council. “About a year ago, on a Friday, I was talking to the great Village Manager Paul Schofeld, and he encouraged me to someday run for the council, to add some diversity,” Nelson recalled.
He remembered telling Schofield that would consider it. Then an incident with his granddaughter near her home spurred him to action.
“Two days later, on Sunday, someone said to my granddaughter, ‘You don’t belong in this community,’” Nelson said. “I love it here and wouldn’t live anywhere else.”
He believes that the village is changing, and its leadership should change as well.
“The community has grown with diversity and has changed, and the council doesn’t represent the voices that are moving into the community,” Nelson said. “That is not a criticism of the current council. They have done a great job. The time is just right for my skills. I would put my volunteer work up against any challenger.”
Nelson added that he takes things very seriously and has a passion to achieve things. “I will be developing a strategic view and assembling a team in the coming days,” he said.
Siskind, who will be seeking re-election to Seat 2, was appointed in 2016 to fill the vacancy created when Anne Gerwig was elected mayor. She is proud of all that the council has accomplished over the past five years that she has served on the dais.
“I am most proud of how the current council works together,” she said. “We brought us through the pandemic, we have a healthy budget and a sound capital improvements project budget.”
She said that in her next term, she hopes to bring more of the same.
“I want to continue with the council’s plans of smart growth, excellent schools, superior infrastructure and all of the things we have come to expect that make Wellington the community we all love to live in,” Siskind said.
Siskind added that the work of the council has developed and maintained Wellington as a premier community, and she wants to continue that work.
Meier said that in recent years, he has been paying closer attention to the news of the world, the country and he wanted to get involved.
“The place to start to make a difference is on the local level,” he said, adding that he started following and attending Wellington council meetings.
He noted that very few people attend council meetings and closely follow what is going on. “Not a lot of people are paying attention,” Meier said.
What Meier saw when he started paying closer attention was far too much spending on what he believes are questionable projects.
He specifically noted the millions of dollars spent on new sporting fields at Wellington High School that aren’t even owned by the village.
Village officials have described it as an “innovative joint program” between the village and the school district building fields on school property to retain village-owned property for future use. However, Meier called the program a “misappropriation,” adding that the upkeep will be too high for the artificial turf on the fields, and that it was unfair to the other high schools that didn’t have such fields built for them. “They can’t use it, and the public can’t use it,” he said.
A lack of fiscal common sense is Meier’s overall complaint about the current situation. He said that it seemed to him that current officials just wanted to, “See their names on projects before they are termed out.” Citing the new swimming pool discussions that are in the current budget, Meier said, “Most people have their own pool or have one they can use in the HOA. They don’t need to spend $1.5 million on a design.”
Timing is another point Meier stressed. “Concrete and steel are high right now,” he said. “Don’t build now, wait on some of these projects until the prices come down.”
Meier noted that he is a successful businessman and would bring that necessary viewpoint to the council.
McGovern told the Town-Crier that he is seeking re-election to keep voices with experience in charge of Wellington’s future. He noted that in two years, three of the council seats will be vacated due to term limits, with Mayor Anne Gerwig, Councilman Michael Drahos and Councilman Michael Napoleone all replaced by new faces that don’t yet have years of experience on the dais.
“Imagine a council of five people and the longest anyone has been on it is two years,” McGovern said. “It is important, if I can, that I stay for stability and progress.”
McGovern said he is proud of the council’s many accomplishments over the last six years. “We restored collegiality to the council, and [we make decisions] with few to no controversies. I am proud of our record on public safety, the pandemic, hurricanes and the low crime rate. We keep our eye on the ball regarding infrastructure investments and the water utility, so problems won’t happen here,” he said.
McGovern added that he is proud of his role in negotiating the new village manager’s contract, as well as keeping the tax rate consistent. “That’s the record,” he said.
McGovern noted that there will be tough decisions to be made in the near future. “There are major issues on the horizon… a tough decision on the Mall at Wellington Green, which is in receivership, and the entrance on the scene of the Global Equestrian Group, which will have a significant role in the equestrian center. This council has been very careful in expanding and maintaining the equestrian zoning district,” he said.
McGovern noted that early interest in the election may mean several candidates joining the race. “In previous years, there were always several candidates,” he said. “A spirited discussion is good. I look forward to it.”