Meet the Candidates for Boca Raton’s Seat C and Seat D Elections

On March 9, the City of Boca Raton will hold a municipal election to fill seats C and D on the city council. In anticipation of the election, Boca spoke to five of the six qualifying candidates–one did not respond to our questionnaire–about why they are running and the issues that the next council will address. Below are brief profiles of each candidate, followed by their answers to our questions.

Seat C candidates

Yvette Drucker: In October, the council named her to fill the seat on an interim basis until the election. She served previously on the Education Task Force and has served on the boards of the Boca Raton Historical Society, the Florence Fuller Child Development Center and the Children’s Museum. She has been active locally and statewide in the Junior League.

Bernard Korn: He ran twice unsuccessfully for mayor, in 2018 and 2020. He did not provide answers to our questionnaire.

Josie Machovec: After growing up in Boca Raton, she spent two years in the Israeli Defense Forces, providing combat support to a tank unit. Her most recent work history is a position with Showroom Logic, which sold marketing platforms to car dealers and is now called PureCars.

Constance Scott: She is director of local relations for Florida Atlantic University and is taking vacation time while she campaigns. She will resign if she wins. She served on the city council from 2009 to 2015. Her previous work history includes positions at CitiBank, Global Acquisition Capital Corp. and the Economic Council of Palm Beach County.

Why are you running?

Drucker: I am a public servant, not a politician. As your city councilwoman, I bring new ideas with extensive community involvement to Boca Raton City Hall. Our community needs a unifying voice—compassionate, caring, involved—and that’s who I’ve always been. My collaborative approach is helping to keep our community safe from the coronavirus and responsibly getting our economy moving again, and my priorities are your priorities as we focus on vaccine rollout, small business recovery, public safety and education.

Machovec: COVID-19 was an eye-opener for me on how influential our local government is on our daily lives. However, it has evolved way beyond the lockdown. I loved growing up in Boca Raton and want my own children to have the same experience. I’m committed to helping Boca reclaim her identity as a beachside jewel. I believe it is possible for Boca to maintain her small-town charm and appeal while moving forward with responsible development for a sustainable future.

Scott: I am running to bring independent and consistent leadership to our city. I am focused on Boca Raton’s critical issues, and I have the proven experience to get the job done.

COVID-19 has presented new challenges for city government, our community and our economy. Beyond COVID-19, we need to support our small businesses, prioritize infrastructure needs and ensure fiscal management and continuity as we see top-level city staff retire. I want to bring back long-term goal-setting and put resident and neighborhood priorities first. My professional background, previous experience on the council and leadership in the community make me the most prepared and effective candidate.

Assess the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and list any additional steps the city needs to take.

Drucker: Boca Raton has taken a proactive approach to dealing with COVID-19 and has been more agile in addressing the economic challenges than other communities. These are unprecedented times, so we have been working with both the public and private sector to get business back on track while keeping residents safe. We have been allowing more flexibility with signage and tenting requirements for our restaurants to provide more outside seating, and we have the small business recovery relief program.

We have been aggressive to ensure residents have access to local COVID testing sites, and we are now focused on aggressive vaccine rollout when distribution is available and continue to partner with the private sector to mitigate risks by wearing masks, social distancing and following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Machovec: Many businesses are still feeling the effects of the lockdowns, and while I understand the concern the local government had with the unknown, the city allowed the county to control our businesses for too long. I have spoken to several small business owners who are still struggling to keep their doors open and haven’t heard a peep from the local government.  While some of the steps that were taken were needed temporarily,  there is room for improvement on how our local leadership works with businesses to keep them open and help them to recover and thrive.

Scott: The health and safety of our community has to be a top priority. Our first responders need support from City Hall, including the training and equipment needed to keep us safe. Our city is home to world-class medical facilities, and we need to have continued engagement and collaboration with them. Over the last 10 months, I have seen how our city has managed this crisis and I see some that could use improvements.

In my role at Florida Atlantic University, I saw how the university worked with the community to release money from the federal COVID-19 relief bill known as CARES, hosting testing sites and providing an efficient and open process. I want to bring that experience to City Hall as our city prepares for the next phases of vaccine distribution and the potential for additional funds coming from the federal government.

What are the main non-pandemic issues the next council must address?

Drucker: We must continue to focus on: smart-growth redevelopment that addresses infrastructure, schools, and the needs of existing residents; innovative student housing options to protect our established neighborhoods; attracting new technology companies and financial firms to our city for job creation and economic durability; implementation of a responsible and effective sustainability action plan to address coastal flooding, a clean water supply, beach protection and environmental stewardship.

Machovec: The comprehensive plan needs to be reassessed. The tendency by the community redevelopmant agency to pick and choose which parts of it they want to keep and which they want to change has led to an identity crisis in this city. Many current residents aren’t happy with the direction the city is going, and we have a small window to make changes that could restore balance. Development is needed in a growing community. However, it has to be responsible and balanced, with all the various demographics in mind. I would like to work with the people to cast a new vision to help achieve that balance.

Scott: Before I filed to run, I identified the top issues facing our city and summarized them into what I call the B.O.C.A. Plan.

  • Budget: We need to keep taxes low and set policies that create jobs and economic opportunities. My economic development experience will be useful here.
  • Operations: We need to plan for the hiring of a new city manager, prioritize infrastructure needs and ensure an efficient city operation. My private sector experience will work well here.
  • Community, COVID and CARES Funding: I will stand up for Boca Raton’s neighborhoods. We need to ensure our city is coordinating with state and county officials on the COVID-19 vaccine and future CARES dollars.
  • Amenities: I will work to preserve and protect our cherished parks, beaches and programming that make Boca Raton a great place to live.

The next council might have to choose a successor to City Manager Leif Ahnell. If that happened, what profile would you be looking for?

Drucker: The next city manager will need to be visionary with a solid background in bringing in 21st-century innovation.  She or he will need to have a long-term vision on how Boca Raton will look like not only today, tomorrow but a decade from now. She or he will need to be ethical and be able to listen, collaborate and have open communication with the mayor and council and be able to support new visions and ideas and be able to continue the solid financial planning and execution of our current manager.

Machovec: I would look for someone who has the experience needed to manage a large budget and the sizable workforce employed by our city. I would also look for someone who has the mindset that she or he should always be working for the best interests of the people, remembering that the taxpayers are the boss.

Scott: Leif has done a tremendous job. I had the pleasure of working with him and understand what is needed in our next city manager. My executive experience will be helpful as we navigate the search for a new manager. I would look for someone who is competent and experienced and understands how to manage large organizations in terms of budgets and people. We need a city manager who can work with each council member and isn’t afraid to ask tough questions or answer them.

What do you want to say about your opponent(s)?

Drucker: I believe in a collaborative community, forward thinking and new ideas. Unfortunately, Ms. Scott has a different approach. She tends to look to the past—and in 2012 she proposed a dangerous plan to fine residents for speaking about development. I believe residents should always be part of the discussion and should never be punished for speaking out.

Ms. Machovec sued Palm Beach County to stop responsible mask wearing mandates that were critical to turning the corner with COVID-19 and led an anti-mask rally in October that included burning masks—at a time when our front-line responders had PPE shortages that put them at risk.

Machovec: My opponents have a lot to say and seem to have answers to all the questions. They fall into the category of politicians who answer all the questions during campaigns and then they may or may not actually walk them out once they take office. I might not have every answer, but I have lots of questions—the right questions. In order for change to happen, the right questions need to be asked. I am the person to ask those questions and work with the people to come up with the answers, so we can all be happy in the city we call home.

Scott: Yvette Drucker does not have the experience necessary for the job. When she had previous opportunities to serve our city, she skipped out on meetings, didn’t show up to board meetings when she was serving as the vice chairman and didn’t show up to a Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce interview. Serving as a council member is a full-time job and you need to have the time, energy and experience to get the job done.

Her record shows she is not ready. She has been handpicked by certain members of the community, behind the scenes, in an attempt at a power grab. We need independent voices and leadership on the council, not someone who will serve others’ political agendas.

Seat D candidates

Monica Mayotte: She was elected to the city council in 2018. She served previously on the Green Living Advisory Board. Her work history includes positions at Burger King and JM Family Enterprises. She is a member of Citizens Climate Lobby and the Climate Reality Project.

Brian Stenberg: This is his first run for public office. He is a partner with The Greenfield Group, a Boca Raton-based property management and development firm that specializes in medical office buildings. He also is a licensed real estate broker. He has coached youth sports teams in the city.

Why are you running?

Mayotte: When I first ran three years ago, I felt the city was beginning to get off track. I believe now, working with this new, collaborative council, I have helped steer the city into a more resilient, inclusive and innovative direction.

I believe that this work must continue to ensure our bright and healthy future. The COVID-19 pandemic has rightfully changed our focus over the past 10 months. We need to work through to the end of this pandemic and come out the other end a stronger, more healthy, resilient city where all residents and stakeholder are treated with respect and care. I look forward to continuing the work that needs to be done to get us there—and it is vital to keep our collegial, can-do council energy intact.

Stenberg: I am running because I care deeply about Boca Raton’s residents and our city. We have major issues ahead. Tax revenues will take a hit with reduced commercial property assessments starting this year and COVID-19 shutdowns pushed already weak retailers and restaurants out of business. Infrastructure needs will continue to grow, and we have important city staffing issues to address.

I want to focus on issues that are important to residents and businesses. We cannot afford to worry about external issues like plastic straw bans, gun restrictions and other actions that reduce local employment. Stakeholders deserve leaders who speak forcefully and carefully without creating legal trouble. I offer a common-sense approach so that our neighborhoods are heard and issues are prioritized.

Assess the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and list any additional steps the city needs to take.

Mayotte: Since the beginning, the city has taken a strong stance to address the COVID-19 pandemic. We were one of the first municipalities to shut down non-essential city operations, close our parks and beaches and institute a mask-wearing recommendation. I still strongly believe this was the best approach at the time to minimize the community spread of COVID-19.

Now that the vaccine is here and is being rolled out—even though it has been a bumpy road—being agile about our ongoing response and educating the Boca Raton community with the latest factual information about how to stay safe, breaking news about the vaccine rollout, and resources that are available for those in need is very important.

Stenberg: COVID-19 is impacting us all, and city government has a role to play. This means improved communications with residents and looking into how to provide assistance to small businesses.

I am disappointed that the city has failed to follow other local governments and resume in-person council meetings. With reasonable precautions, these meetings can occur at several locations using a hybrid of in-person and Internet-based media.

The city must streamline its project review process. A common theme I hear from many residents is that they are treated like common criminals when they stop foot in City Hall. This is unacceptable. Now, more than ever, we need to look at how to support small businesses and clear a path for private industry to create jobs.

What are the main non-pandemic issues that the next council must address?

Mayotte: Public safety will always be high on my list of concerns. We need to ensure that our police officers and firefighters/paramedics have the necessary training and funding to be able to continue to do their jobs well and safely.

Environmental stewardship is important in ensuring that the city continues to progress in a sustainable direction. That means realistic coastal flooding and sea level rise solutions, single-use plastics and greenhouse gas reduction and educating the community on living a greener lifestyle.

Continue to address traffic congestion and improve all mobility methods. Ensure that smart growth is done responsibly and aligned with the city’s core values and land-use regulations to protect our way of life and improve property values. Growth must take into consideration the effect it will have on our infrastructure, public safety and surrounding neighborhoods.

Stenberg:

  • City manager: Delray Beach has shown us how important it is to leave politics and personal preference out of the choice. 
  • Downtown: With the coming sunset of the law that created Boca Raton’s downtown, we must look closely at how we did the last few decades, where we are today and where we want to be in 50 years. Our trip to Tallahassee to amend the community redevelopment agency must come with a communitywide vision for downtown’s future.
  • The beach and park district and golf: Accepting Boca Country Club (as the replacement for Boca Municipal) without giving the public time to review the documents on which the city relied was imprudent. Instead of improving the Ocean Breeze course and boosting the Boca Teeca neighborhood, we have accepted a permanent liability that may cost taxpayers a whole lot more. The beach and park district/city relationship needs to be collegial, as in the past. We can talk to each other.

The next council might have to choose a successor to City Manager Leif Ahnell. If that happened, what profile would you be looking for?

Mayotte: A person who is ethical, respectful, accountable and approachable. A person who possesses good character and integrity. A strategic thinker and a visionary. A person with  strong planning and negotiation skills. Someone who has  experience in community development/redevelopment. Someone who is able to manage a large, diverse team of department heads and staff, has solid financial skills and the ability to address budget issues.

Stenberg: I want to see a transparent, politics-free process that seeks the very best talent that Boca Raton can afford. I want to see a person of integrity who sees the very big picture of Boca Raton. Our future city manager should lead a culture that challenges and supports its employees and recognizes the value of all stakeholders—not just the ones who can vote for city council members.

What do you want to say about your opponent?

Mayotte: Typically, people run because they feel they have better ideas than the current officeholder. In my case, my opponent’s platform does not present any new ideas that differ from what my council colleagues and I are already working on. He seems to be a candidate looking for a race.

 He has advocated for more arguments on the dais—as late as Feb. 3, during the videotaped Sun Sentinel editorial interview, which is simply counterproductive. The fact that the current council, with our diverse views, can make decisions in a respectful manner is a testament to a well-functioning council that is running Boca Raton in an efficient and effective manner.

Stenberg: The people who tried to scare me away from running told me that Monica Mayotte has deep pockets. I’m happy for her prosperity. I was reminded that she garnered 6,000 or so votes when she ran the first time. That campaign generated a defamation lawsuit by her opponent.

In the short time that I’ve been campaigning, I learned that she mostly blew off the business community during the last three years. She capped that off by not showing up for the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce endorsement interview, when we talked about issues for growing small businesses.

She prejudged the way she would vote on a proposed beach project. Now, she cannot vote on it. She claimed that old people in a proposed downtown senior complex would need more amublance visits and that those types of residents could find better places in town. My opponent is out of touch with voters, focused on the wrong issues and priorities.