The Coastal Star

Highland Beach: Five running for two commission seats

    There are two commission seats to be filled in Highland Beach in this election. Barry Donaldson and Rhonda Zelniker are running for the three-year seat, while Melissa Ebbs, Carl Lee Gehman and Elyse Riesa are running for the two-year seat.

Profiles compiled by Steven J. Smith

Three-year term

Barry Donaldson
    Personal: 67; graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in architecture; 15-year resident of Highland Beach; married, two children.

    Professional: Architect with his own firm, Donaldson Group Architects, which he formed in 1989.

    Political experience: Chair of the Board of Adjustment and Appeals for four years.

    Positions on issues: Work with the DOT on flooding on A1A; bike safety; traffic density on the turn lane for Linton Boulevard; advocate for A1A walkway improvement and wants to see it expanded into a linear park; wants Milani Park put back into the control of Highland Beach; wants to acquire additional property for future needs of the town; volunteer boards need to strengthen their criteria for appointments; more support for Friends of the Library; advocates Private Art in Public View, a project to elevate town’s status and visibility.

    Quote: “Over the next three years, the Town Commission is going to be asking the residents to consider various issues affecting green space, planning, zoning, code enforcement. My question is why would you not want an architect on the Town Commission representing your best interests in those discussions?”

Rhoda Zelniker
    Personal: 70; attended Hofstra University; resident of Highland Beach for 17 years; married, two children, five grandchildren.

    Professional: Worked for 25 years in the corporate furniture industry with managerial experience including budgeting and finance, operations management, showroom design, personnel and public relations.

    Political experience: Two and a half years as Highland Beach town commissioner; president of the Regency Highland Condo Association Board.

    Positions on issues: Keeping taxes and millage rates low; wants town services improved; supports a line item budget review; pushed for the water-sewer project; supports code enforcement; concerned with flooding on A1A; advocates for improved roads, bike paths and crosswalk lighting; wants to preserve green space.

    Quote: “I would like to see the inclusion of more people in the political process. I stand for voter input and the right of our residents to be heard. I would like to have more old-fashioned town meetings in accessible places within the community, where residents can tell us the issues and problems they have.”

Two-year term

Melissa Ebbs
    Personal: 36; graduated from the University of Miami and the University of London, where she received a bachelor’s degree in surgery and her M.D.; 31-year resident of Highland Beach; married, no children.

    Professional: Internist practicing only in London, England, several weeks a year.

    Political experience: None, but has served as a member of the Highland Beach Code Enforcement Board.

    Positions on issues: Protecting green spaces; ensuring safety; wants to be involved in the upcoming streetscape project; maintaining financial stability; wants to introduce more community events; wants to organize health seminars at the library; wants to keep beaches and coastal waterways beautiful.

    Quote: “I’m passionate about preserving our beautiful town. I want to engage with the community and address the needs of its residents. I also want to improve communication between the residents and Town Hall, which has been pretty poor.”

Carl Lee Gehman
    Personal: 68; attended two years of Lancaster Business School, Lancaster, Pa.; four-year resident of Highland Beach; married; four children, seven grandchildren.

    Professional: Served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam (Purple Heart); was a sales and marketing manager for 30 years; invented and currently markets the Roller Tanner, a device used to apply oils, creams, medications and cleaning agents.

    Political experience: None, but served as president of Highland Beach Villas Homeowners Association from 2014-2016; member of the Code Enforcement Board from 2015-present.

    Positions on issues: Maintaining pristine beaches, walkways, seascape; wants to buy back Milani Park from Palm Beach County.

    Quote: “We have the most beautiful town in America and I want to give back to the community and be the voice of Highland Beach. I want Highland Beach to be one of the most fun and enjoyable towns to live in. I want to preserve our seascape and shores and protect our wildlife.”

Elyse Riesa
    Personal: 65; graduated from Queens College with a bachelor’s degree in education and got her master’s degree from George Washington University in government program management; 10-year resident of Highland Beach; married with two children.

    Professional: Managing director and global vice president for AT&T (1972-2001); vice president of sales and development for CableOrganizer (2001-2007); CEO of Value Tech Supply (2007-2012).

    Political experience: None, but was a member of the Beaches and Shores Advisory Board from 2011-2015. Member of the Planning Board.

    Positions on issues: Preserving Highland Beach quality of life; maintaining beautification and continuing streetscape projects; advocates beach cleanup efforts; supports code enforcement; wants to maintain low tax base in effect for last two years.

    Quote: “I have been the team leader of the town’s Community Emergency Response Team since its inception and have attended commission meetings regularly. I’m a strong advocate for continuing to advance town policies of lowering taxes and increasing services to its residents, including beautification of its walkways and promoting cleaner beaches.”

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