On Tuesday, March 19, Wellington voters will choose from among four candidates seeking to replace Councilman Michael Drahos on the dais.
Drahos is vacating Wellington Village Council Seat 1 due to term limits after eight years in office. Seeking to replace him are Bob Margolis, Marcella Montesinos, Amanda Silvestri and John “Jay” Carl Webber.
The election will be held on the same day as Florida’s presidential preference primary. If no candidate gets more than 35 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff on Tuesday, April 2.
Also on the March 19 ballot will be two candidates seeking the position of mayor (Michael Napoleone and Bart Novack) and five candidates seeking Seat 4 (Shelly Lariz Albright, Maria Antuña, Carol Coleman, Karen Morris-Clarke and Michael Partow).
Margolis served on the council from 2003 to 2009, and then served as mayor from 2012 to 2016.
“As soon as I moved into Wellington, I started volunteering to make it a better community,” said Margolis, who has lived in Wellington since 1983.
This included volunteering as a coach and running sports leagues, up to chairing the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board before he first joined the council.
“I have always believed that it is very important to give back to the community, and I have never stopped doing that,” Margolis said. “This has enabled me to gain a lot of experience. This experience is important because I believe that Wellington is at a crossroads.”
Acting on the advice of close friends, Margolis decided to run for a vacant seat to continue his decades of community service.
“Experience matters, whether you are going to the doctor or seeking a lawyer,” he said. “When you apply for a job, they ask for your résumé. I believe my résumé sets me far apart from the other candidates in this race.”
Regarding his accomplishments, Margolis points to the many park projects he has championed.
“When I got on council, I was known as the parks and rec guy,” he said. “If you look on the plaques on most of the infrastructure we have here in the village, my name is on them.”
He noted that he has already dealt with many of the issues still salient today.
“There are the same issues with the equestrian preserve we had when I was mayor,” he said. “It was a tough battle, but we found a solution.”
Meanwhile, there are other issues that now affect him personally.
“I’m now proud to be part of the senior community,” Margolis said. “I would be the only senior on the council. I want to be their voice for affordable senior housing.”
He wants to host a “senior summit” to find out what’s on their mind. He also wants to be part of the discussion on the future of the K-Park land, which he had a part in purchasing shortly after he first joined the council.
Margolis is opposed to the current equestrian proposals. “I am not in favor of taking land out of the Equestrian Preserve Area,” he said. “The owner of the property has development rights, but I believe that if you start to take the 96 acres out of the preserve, it will open the door.”
His vision for the future is to keep a focus on homes and parks.
“To me, Wellington has always been a bedroom community,” Margolis said. “A place where families can raise their children in a safe environment with good schools and be able to feel comfortable in their homes when it comes to safety. Additionally, parks and recreation are one of the major reasons why people move to Wellington.”
Margolis does not support Wellington’s proposed Southern Blvd. annexation.
“I don’t believe a handful of electors should decide on a lifechanging event in the Village of Wellington,” he said. “If they want to do that, there has to be a way that the entirety of the village votes.”
When it comes to growth and traffic, Margolis feels that all council action must consider those issues specifically.
“That is where experience matters. We must work with experts on the solutions. I have not seen that done in recent years,” Margolis said. “If you make Wellington a place where people want to live, that’s what happens, more cars on the road.”
Margolis was surprised by the current council recall effort, but in retrospect, people should not be. “When people don’t believe that the council is listening to them, they look for options, and this was an option open to them,” he said.
Margolis feels that it all comes down to experience. “I have heard in the community that I should not be running because the village wants to move forward, not backward,” he said. “That is insulting. It tells me that certain people don’t value experience.”
He looks at Wellington with the long view of four decades.
“I am proud of the way the village has grown and the way it has maintained its ability to attract people who want to raise families here,” Margolis said. “I have kids who I coached in basketball come up to me with their families. I am proud to have touched people’s lives.”
An active community volunteer, Montesinos grew up in Wellington. She met her husband, podiatrist Dr. Tyson Tabora, while they were attending Wellington High School. They remain in Wellington, raising their three daughters.
“I would love for them to still have that sense of community where we can all meet in the middle and live together,” said Montesinos, who works at Palm Beach State College as the director of the honors college. “I’m familiar with working for the government and working with budgets.”
In addition, she serves on Wellington’s Education Committee, is a supporter of Wellington Cares, which helps senior citizens, and is the board chair of the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club. “I get to see a lot of the different facets of Wellington,” she said, adding that she will bring her skills in education and leadership to the council.
Montesinos chose to run due to her opposition to the controversial equestrian proposals.
“I feel strongly that I can serve and have enough leadership background to be a voice not only for the equestrian community, but also people who are not able to attend meetings,” she said. “Communication is going to be key. We have to grow in a way that serves everybody in Wellington.”
Montesinos noted that her extended family lives in Wellington. In working with her husband, who operates his podiatry practice on the campus of Palms West Hospital, she also brings an understanding of the small business community.
“I want to preserve Wellington for what it was and what it should be,” she said. “I will be able to step in and understand what is going on.”
Montesinos is proud of her work with the Boys & Girls Club, raising money to make sure that summer camp programs are free to those who need them. She also enjoys being involved in her children’s schools.
Her top priority on the council will be to bring the community back together after a divisive period.
“Whatever happens, if the [equestrian] proposal passes, it will be my job that every condition that was put in place happens,” Montesinos said.
She also wants to make sure Wellington’s schools are the safest they can be, police and fire are supported, and that the equestrian community has a voice on the dais.
“I’d like nothing more than to live in Wellington my entire life,” Montesinos said. “My vision is to ensure that the village is the No. 1 destination for anybody who wants to live here, move here or vacation here.”
To do this, Wellington must properly manage growth.
“The growth is going to happen. Everyone sees Wellington as a place to raise their families. We need to focus on smart growth,” she said. “We must work with every pocket of the community to understand what we all want.”
The constant battle against traffic is a tricky issue, she said.
“There is no magic wand except to work with our engineers and get a good understanding on how to minimize our traffic,” Montesinos said. “Wellington will continue to develop, and hopefully that new development will be added in a way that doesn’t increase traffic.”
She is concerned that Wellington’s proposed annexation on the north side of Southern Blvd. could lead to more school overcrowding. “If we get the land, at least we would have a decision on what goes there,” Montesinos said.
She is very supportive of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in Wellington. “Our statistics speak for themselves. We are the safest community in Palm Beach County,” she said, adding that she works closely with the PBSO at the Boys & Girls Club.
She does not support the current recall effort against four sitting council members. “The decisions they make are tough. Doing a recall just adds more chaos to something we all care about,” Montesinos said.
She is most proud of the schools in the Village of Wellington.
“I can send my kids to a Wellington school and know that they are receiving the best education,” Montesinos said. “Coming from Wellington High School, I am so proud of the school that I graduated from.”
Silvestri, who ran unsuccessfully for the Palm Beach County School Board in 2022, has been an active resident in Wellington for more than 13 years. She considers raising her two children as her top accomplishment.
“My husband, Richard, and I are successful small business owners of Silvestri and Associates Insurance,” she said. “I am deeply committed to our community and enjoy my involvement on the School Advisory Council and the PTO at Wellington Elementary School and Wellington Landings Middle School.”
Silvestri added that she is passionate about the environment and loves nature, particularly dogs and butterflies.
“I strongly believe in conserving Wellington’s unique way of life, parks and recreation, and small-village feel that make our community truly special,” she said. “With my dedication to family, community, and environmental conservation, I promise to be a positive force in the Wellington community.”
Silvestri chose to run this year because the timing was right for her family.
“I have the flexibility with my local small business to dedicate the time needed to serve Wellington,” she said. “I’ve listened to friends, neighbors, and school and soccer parents across Wellington with concerns on issues related to resolving traffic, safety and protecting our unique way of life in our special village.”
Silvestri said that she will bring “honesty and strong leadership” to the council.
“I will always listen and ensure that the residents of Wellington feel heard and well-represented,” she said. “We plan to grow old in Wellington, and I am dedicated to ensuring that Wellington remains the most incredible place to live.”
Her top priorities over the next four years are to support world-class public safety, stop overdevelopment and overcrowding to reduce traffic, combat the affordability crisis, keep taxes low, and preserve parks and green space.
“The future of Wellington is bright. To keep our village’s charm and uniqueness, we can’t become a rubber stamp for overdevelopment that threatens our parks, recreation and green space,” Silvestri said.
To respond to growth and ease traffic issues in Wellington, Silvestri wants to “stop overdevelopment and work together with local, county and state government to focus on finding solutions to our overcrowded roads.”
Silvestri does not believe that Wellington’s proposed annexation on the north side of Southern Blvd. will benefit the village.
She is supportive of the PBSO’s efforts in the community. “I fully support the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and look forward to working with them to ensure that Wellington remains a safe village,” Silvestri said.
She does not support the current Wellington Lifestyle Partners proposal for the equestrian area.
“I am as frustrated as the many in the equestrian community and the hundreds of Wellington residents who have passionately presented their concerns, providing data and reasoning, yet continue to be ignored,” Silvestri said. “Our current council insists on prioritizing this new development over existing needs in our village.”
She believes that the current effort to recall four council members regarding their votes on this project should be taken seriously.
“It’s not right that our elected officials are ignoring this groundswell of opposition, including 8,000-plus online petitions and over 2,000 petitions for a recall,” Silvestri said. “I stand with the impressive efforts of the thousands of residents and grassroots leaders in opposition to removing the land from the Equestrian Preserve Area.”
Silvestri said she is most proud of Wellington’s strong recreation facilities.
“My children have played recreational soccer on our amazing fields for several years,” she said. “Wellington has the best soccer fields and programs around. We love our beautiful parks, where we have countless memories of playing with our children. The feeling of watching beautiful horses galloping around our village never gets old.”
An attorney, Webber is a 15-year village resident. He has served on Wellington’s Education Committee for eight years, including seven as chair.
“I have also served as chair of the Palm Beach County Bar Law-Related Education Committee for the past three years,” he added. “I’m a member of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce and served on the school advisory committees at Binks Forest and Wellington Landings.”
A married father of three boys, Webber was a Little League baseball coach while they were younger, and he currently serves as an umpire. In addition, he serves as church counsel at St. David’s in the Pines.
“There are going to be two open seats, and Wellington is facing a lot of change, so we need someone who has experience working in the village and standing up for the needs of residents,” Webber said. “Some of the important issues coming up are things that I have been able to observe first-hand. While I don’t agree with everything that the council has done, I think they have done a relatively good job, and I hope to continue the success of the past eight years.”
On the council, Webber said his focus will be solely on what is best for the village.
“For example, as chairman of the Education Committee, we were part of the fight against the redistricting and keeping Wellington students from being moved out of Wellington schools, and we were successful with that,” he said. “I have also overseen the administration of the Keely Spinelli grants. I have witnessed how important and successful those grants are to Wellington schools and Wellington students.”
His top priorities on the council would be to continue and perhaps expand the school grants and lower the overall village tax rate. “It has stayed the same over the past several years, but due to higher property values, the net effect has been higher property taxes,” Webber said. “I also want to continue to promote the safety of Wellington’s neighborhoods. We have a very safe community in comparison to other places in Palm Beach County, but that does not mean we don’t have any crime. Crimes such as car break-ins can affect the feeling of well-being of people in their homes.”
He also wants to work with the equestrian community to keep Wellington the “equestrian capital of the world.”
Webber’s vision for the future is for “Wellington to remain the best place to live, raise a family and work in Palm Beach County.”
To do so, the village must remain vigilant regarding the growth going on around it.
“I am in favor of the proposed annexation on Southern Blvd., if the residents there approve,” Webber said. “That allows us to have a greater say over development. It is also important that when developers make promises, the village makes them keep those promises and puts safeguards in place to make sure that we do not become an overdeveloped area.”
To ease traffic issues, Webber would “work with the county to improve the known bottlenecks, especially in the equestrian areas. Making sure we don’t become overdeveloped is another way to reduce the number of cars on the roadways.”
He is supportive of the PBSO. “I believe the sheriff’s office does a very good job here in Wellington,” Webber said. “The village should better promote its neighborhood watch programs. That brings residents together and creates an added feeling of community.”
He does not support the current recall effort against four sitting council members.
“As a lawyer, I looked up the statute, and do not believe that the council has met the standards of malfeasance,” Webber said. “I don’t think a recall election is appropriate over policy disputes.”
He considers Wellington the best place to live, raise a family and work in Palm Beach County.
“The schools, recreational opportunities and the equestrian community have only improved over the years, and I want to make sure that all of those things continue to create a thriving community that we can all be proud of,” Webber said.