Monday, September 25, 2023

Elections Starting Early for Boca and Delray

Elections in Boca Raton and Delray Beach remain nine months off, but the fields are already taking shape.

Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer is on the ballot. So are two open city council seats. Andrea O’Rourke is term-limited in Seat B. Seat A incumbent Andy Thomson is running for the Florida House, so he must resign the council post by November, win or lose. The council may choose someone to fill Seat A on an interim basis until the March election.

Only Fran Nachlas has filed paperwork to run for Thomson’s seat. She is a retired nurse who grew up in Delray Beach and moved to Boca Raton in 1996. She is married to Nathan Nachlas, an ear-nose-and-throat specialist who is on the staff of Boca Raton Regional Hospital.

fran nachlas
Fran Nachlas

Most of her community involvement, Nachlas said, has been volunteer work. Most notably, she started a foundation called SafeSun. Its mission is to raise awareness of malignant melanoma. Nachlas said her husband has done major reconstructive surgery on melanoma patients.

Unlike some candidates who run on an issue, Nachlas said, “I don’t have major disagreements with the council. The main reason I’m doing this is to get even more involved.”

With the Brightline station set to open this year, Nachlas said, Boca Raton finally must try to resolve the pesky issue of downtown mobility. Another priority will be continuing to recruit businesses moving to South Florida because of the pandemic. Nachlas attended last week’s goal-setting meetings, during which Singer said the city has roughly another 12 to 18 months to make its pitch before the window closes.

Seat B looms as a contested race. Two candidates have filed paperwork—Christen Ritchey and Marc Wigder. Like Nachlas, they serve on the community advisory panel.

Ritchey practices family law in Boca Raton for New York-based Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, which last month bought the local firm Ritchey started. Her husband is a general contractor who does business in Boca Raton but not with the city itself. She serves on the YMCA of South Palm Beach County board and the school advisory council of J.C. Mitchell Elementary, which one of her children attends.

Christen Ritchey

“There’s a lot of big stuff going on in Boca Raton,” Ritchey said, “and I want to be a part of it.” She has spoken with all the council members to familiarize herself with the issues. “Each of them has a different perspective,” Ritchey said. “That’s helpful. I’m still researching to find out what priorities I might have, but I’m just really passionate about the city.”

The other candidate who has filed for Seat B is Marc Wigder. A real estate lawyer by training, Wigder left that profession to start The Greenhouse Property Company. It leases office space to small and growing companies and touts its properties as being very energy efficient. Wigder also is vice chairman of the city’s pedestrian and bikeway board.

Last fall, Wigder underwent chemotherapy—which he called “a nightmare”—for testicular cancer. Having recovered, “I have a new sense of vigor.” He asked Singer about running and decided to jump in.

Marc Wigder

“Boca Raton has good problems,” Wigder said. “Everyone wants to be here.” But, Wigder said, clients tell him that they have “difficulty navigating” the city’s development approval process. “Even to open a small cafe can take way too long.”

So he wants Boca Raton to “streamline” that process. The city also faces an “important decision” on a possible downtown government center with a new city hall. “We need to continue all the great things Boca is doing.”

For the three winners, their most important decision likely will be who becomes Boca Raton’s next city manager. Leif Ahnell must retire by 2024.

Once they file paperwork, candidates can raise money and begin campaigning. To officially enter the race, they must qualify. The period for doing so is from Nov. 1 until Nov. 9.

Singer ramps up re-election campaign

scott singer
Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer

Singer not only has filed to run for a second term, he already has raised roughly $35,000.

Under Boca Raton’s term-limits law, officeholders can serve no more than two consecutive three-year terms. Singer would be mayor longer than that because he first was elected during the August 2018 special election to complete the term of Susan Haynie. Then-Gov. Rick Scott suspended Haynie following her arrest on public corruption charges.

Casale unopposed for Delray commissioner seat

In Delray Beach, Seat 2 City Commissioner Juli Casale is the only incumbent on the March 2023 ballot.

City Commissioner Juli Casale

Casale filed paperwork for a second term in October 2021, barely halfway through her first term. She may have followed the example of her mentor, Mayor Shelly Petrolia, who by filing early for last year’s election was able to use her campaign email account—not just her mayoral email—to contact voters.

For the moment, Casale has no opposition. That won’t last. She will face organized opposition because of her vote last August to evict Old School Square for the Arts.

Seat 4 incumbent Shirley Johnson is term-limited. Former Commissioner Angie Gray is the only candidate to have filed paperwork, but that also won’t last.

Gray is one of two appointed community redevelopment agency board members. The post gives her a public platform as the election approaches.

At today’s meeting, the commission will decide whether to give Gray another term on the board or choose someone else. Casale will make the nomination. Since Gray usually aligns herself with Casale and Petrolia, it will be a surprise if Casale nominates anyone but Gray.

Delray to ratify police union contract


Also at today’s meeting, the commission likely will ratify Delray Beach’s new contract with the Police Benevolent Association. The union had been working without a contract since the budget year began on Oct. 1.

One agreement is with the officers and sergeants. The other is with the lieutenants. Each includes the same language. The pension “multiplier,” which is used to calculate annual retirement benefits, will increase from 2.75 percent to 3 percent for those hired after July 2015. The employee’s contribution increases from 9 percent to 10 percent. Vacation and sick time accruals match those for the firefighters and general employees.

According to the staff memo, the contracts rank Delray Beach’s pay and benefits among the top three in the county. The cost over three years for both contracts is roughly $7.6 million.

A proposal for Delray’s public golf course?

delray beach golf club
Photo courtesy of Delray Beach Golf Club

Before their regular meeting, commissioners will start to work out details of their proposal for developers to finance a makeover of Delray Beach’s main public golf course.

The commission has hired CBRE to broker a public-private partnership for a portion of the course off Homewood Boulevard. The developer would get a portion of the course facing West Atlantic Avenue in return for financing the makeover or doing the work itself as part of the project.

Ryan Boylston, the strongest supporter of the idea, said the site likely would be no smaller than six acres and no larger than 10 acres. He would restrict the use to residential or office development and said the city needs to realize between $15 million and $20 million for a full transformation.

Jerich faces sentencing

Alexander Jerich
Alexander Jerich. Photo: Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

This morning, a judge will sentence Alexander Jerich. He’s the man who last year defaced Delray Beach’s LGBTQ Pride streetscape by burning his truck tires on the intersection.

Prosecutors want Jerich to serve 30 days in jail, perform 100 hours of community service and be on probation for five years. Jerich had been scheduled for sentencing in April, but Judge Scott Suskauer asked him to write a 25-page essay on the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting. The massacre, which left 49 people dead, was an anti-LGBTQ hate crime.

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Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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