Westlake Councilwoman Charlotte Price Leonard and Councilwoman Pilar Elena Valle Ron were appointed to fill vacant seats, but they may be going in different directions when it comes to seeking full terms in the March municipal election.
Leonard said this week that she definitely will stand for election to a full, four-year term, while Valle Ron said she is still undecided, weighing the race.
Candidate qualifying in Westlake will be held from noon on Tuesday, Nov. 7, to noon on Tuesday, Nov. 14. Candidate packets became available on Oct. 2. Candidates must have lived in the City of Westlake for at least one year.
Leonard was chosen for the council on May 9, 2022, on a first-ballot, 3-1 vote by the other four members of the council. Valle Ron cast her vote for one of three other applicants. Leonard replaced Councilman JohnPaul O’Connor, who ran unopposed for mayor and stepped into that position in March 2022, vacating Seat 3.
The appointed terms expire in March 2024.
“Two years is not enough to have the sort of impact I’d like to have,” said Leonard, a healthcare executive with a master’s degree in healthcare law from Nova Southeastern University.
She is also a certified coach, teacher, trainer and speaker through the well-known John Maxwell leadership program.
“I want to help make this a vibrant community for kids, middle-aged people and seniors,” Leonard said. “I know it’s a cliché, but I want this to be a city where people can live, work and play.”
Valle Ron, a nurse, was selected by council members 4-0 from a pool of three applicants in December 2021 to fill Seat 1, which was left vacant by the resignation Councilman Patric Paul.
“I’ve seen a lot of good things and a lot of disappointments,” Valle Ron said about her time on the council. “It has been eye-opening.”
She said her biggest frustration has been the number of regulations and legalities she’s had to deal with, including the state’s stringent Sunshine Law that does not allow council members to talk with each other outside of meetings.
“I wanted to take advantage of my position to help people,” she said. “But that’s not easy.”
Valle Ron, a mother of three, said she would like to see to completion the regional park being planned on the west side of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road as a joint project with the Seminole Improvement District.
“It’s going to be amazing… very, very nice,” she said. “It’s a great investment for everyone in the area.”
Still, that may not be enough to get her to place her name on the ballot. “I’m putting it in God’s hands,” Valle Ron said.
Leonard said, “God has definitely ordered my steps” — helping her to find the time for a challenging work schedule, to serve as vice president of the Greater Palm Beach County Habitat for Humanity board, enjoy life as a wife, mother and grandmother, attend Miami Dolphins football games with her husband, and serve on the Westlake council.
“It’s a seven-day-a-week job, but somehow it all fits… it flows,” she said.
Leonard said the biggest issue facing Westlake is managing its rapid growth and making sure that the city has a sustainable business tax base.
“I’d love see hotels here… and more restaurants that will bring people into the city to spend those dollars,” she said. “And I’d love to see some sort of senior facility, perhaps an assisted living.”
The election will be on Tuesday, March 19, concurrent with Florida’s presidential primary. The council terms will run until March 2028.
To learn more about running for one of the two available seats on the Westlake City Council, call City Clerk Zoie Burgess at (561) 530-5880.