By Dan Moffett
Vice Mayor Robert Gottlieb went into the March election with a simple message for South Palm Beach voters.
Gottlieb told them that, after 45 years of living in the town and more than a decade of service as an elected official, no one knows the community better than he does. And because of that long relationship, voters pretty much knew everything they needed to know about Robert Gottlieb.
“In this town, it’s all about the beaches,” he said. “That has to be our priority. People understand that. ”
Gottlieb’s message carried him to an easy victory on March 13 as he led the six-candidate Town Council field with 268 votes. The other incumbent in the race, Councilwoman Stella Gaddy Jordan, finished a distant second with 190, and newcomer C.W. “Bill” LeRoy took the third open seat with 161.
“I’m honored, and I’m humbled and the only thing I care about is our town,” Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb and Jordan claim full two-year terms, and LeRoy takes over the one year remaining on the seat formerly occupied by Joe Flagello, who died suddenly after winning re-election in March 2017.
Jordan, an eight-year veteran on the council, said she will continue to press for tighter fiscal responsibility and transparency on spending. She said the council needs to take a hard look at its state pension obligations to employees and may have to consider other ways to provide benefit compensation.
“Controlling expenses is very difficult with the Florida retirement system,” Jordan said. “A 401(k) might be a way to create savings for the town and encourage employees to contribute their money.”
Gottlieb and Jordan agree that the town has to explore other options to restore its eroding beachfront because the long-awaited beach stabilization project with the county — a plan to install concrete groins to capture and hold sand — appears indefinitely stalled.
“It seems to be moot now,” Jordan said, because of problems obtaining the necessary easements and opposition from Manalapan officials. Jordan said the council has to turn more of its attention to renovating or reconstructing the aging Town Hall.
“A big priority is maintaining the town’s flavor and character,” she said.
LeRoy said he won his seat without putting forth an agenda. “I don’t really have any issues,” he said. “I just want to keep South Palm Beach the beautiful town it already is.”
A native of Peoria, Illinois, LeRoy moved to the town 2 ½ years ago. “I’m very grateful for the friends and neighbors who came out to support me in the election,” he said.
The other three candidates in the race were Raymond McMillan (110 votes), Mary Alessandra Hall (74) and Kevin Hall (68). In all, 349 residents cast ballots, 23.7 percent of the town’s 1,277 registered voters. Fifty-two of the votes were absentee ballots.
There were 175 under-votes, meaning dozens of voters either did not understand they could select three candidates for the three open seats, or consciously chose only one or two and ruled out the other entrants.