Westlake Council Hears From Four Applicants For Empty Seat

The Westlake entrance sign.

The Westlake City Council held a workshop Tuesday, April 19 to interview the four residents who submitted applications to fill the council’s vacant Seat 3. The seat was vacated in March when JohnPaul O’Connor left it to become mayor.

Seeking the position are:

• Bianca M. Abrams, a licensed private investigator, insurance fraud specialist and business owner.

• Charlotte Price Leonard, regional director of operations for Promedica, one of the nation’s largest owners of nursing and rehabilitation facilities.

• Tammy C. Thomas, program director at Gulfstream Goodwill Industries in West Palm Beach.

• Jacob Wheeler, who works as a sales engineer/business development for W&O Supply of Fort Lauderdale, which services and maintains cruise ships and other large commercial vessels.

“All are very qualified,” Vice Mayor Greg Langowski said. “Any of them would do a great job for the city.”

Abrams, who owns Identifax Investigative Services in North Palm Beach, said that she is very invested in the community, having moved to Westlake in 2018.

“We took a leap of faith that the city would become what everyone said it would be, and it has become so much more than that,” said Abrams, who lives on Whippoorwill Circle.

Asked about the assets she could bring to the council, Abrams said they would include her 12 years of experience as a business owner with 20-plus employees and more than a million dollars in annual sales, and her close ties to her neighborhood.

Securing access to some of the city’s amenities, such pools and recreation areas, will be among the key challenges faced by Westlake in the future, she said.

Leonard, a Palm Beach County native who grew up in Pleasant City, overseas 11 nursing homes with a total of 1,700 employees and annual revenue of almost $100 million.

An ability to balance people with the hard decisions often needed in business is a key asset Leonard said she would bring to the council, along with an ability to understand and deal with government regulations due to the highly regulated nature of nursing homes.

If chosen, Leonard said her focus in the first year would be on listening and assisting with the “people part” of running the city. Westlake residents want to be able to “live and work here, and not be overtaxed,” she said.

The married mother of two adult children, moved to Westlake in May 2021. She has a master’s degree in healthcare law from Nova Southeastern University.

Thomas, a native of Broward County, has a background in public health administration in New York City and Massachusetts. She moved to Westlake more than a year ago with her husband and two young sons, and recently joined Gulfstream Goodwill to oversee its shelter services. She has a master’s degree in public health from Nova Southeastern and is pursuing a doctorate in the subject from Loma Linda University.

“Healthcare access is really my passion,” Thomas explained.

Thomas said that if she were chosen, her emphasis would be on bringing “more clinicians and physicians to the area” and on affordable housing while creating more awareness concerning homelessness.

“I believe I would qualify as a strong candidate due to my vast experience, education and, most importantly, my personal commitment to public service,” she explained. “I have 12-plus years of experience as a public health professional, former government official and various other roles in the public sector.”

Wheeler, a married, soon-to-be father who moved to Florida as a teenager, is a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy and now in the Navy Reserve.

“I do not look at the council seat as a political seat,” he said. “I’m not a politician, and I don’t ever intend to become one… [But] now that my family is growing, I want to be on the front line here locally and see the difference the council can make and be part of that difference.”

Wheeler said that he is “a numbers guy, a business guy” and pointed out that he oversees a $10 million budget for his division of W&O Supply. If chosen, Wheeler said his priority in his first year would be getting a good grasp of the city budget with an eye toward sustainability and encouraging some level of housing affordability in the community.

Wheeler, who has a master’s degree in international business and operations from Florida Atlantic University, said he and his wife are excited about the future of Westlake as a “golf cart community” with close and easy access to schools, recreation and shopping.

The council is scheduled to vote on filling the council vacancy at its meeting on Monday, May 9.