By Mary Hladky
A former Boca Raton City Council member and a former unsuccessful council candidate will face off in the March 19 city election to fill the seat now held by term-limited Deputy Mayor Monica Mayotte.
Vying for Seat D are Andy Thomson, who resigned his council seat in 2022 to pursue his unsuccessful candidacy for the Florida House District 91 seat now held by Peggy Gossett-Seidman, and Brian Stenberg, who lost to incumbent Mayotte in 2021.
In the Seat C race, Council member Yvette Drucker, who is seeking her second three-year term, is being challenged by Bernard Korn, a repeat candidate who received almost no support in his previous attempts to win office.
Thomson, senior counsel at the Baritz & Colman law firm in Boca Raton and an adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University teaching local and state government, lost his first campaign for council in 2017, won a special election to it in 2018 and was reelected without opposition in 2020.
He has endorsements from the Boca Raton IAFF local 1560 firefighters and paramedics union; Business Leaders United for Boca Raton, the political arm of the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce; the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35; Palm Beach County School Board member Frank Barbieri; Broward, Palm Beaches & St. Lucie Realtors; Hispanic Vote of Palm Beach County; the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post.
Thomson is running again for a council seat, he said, because even though the council accomplished many things while he served, “there is more to be done and I want to see it through.”
Those accomplishments included helping secure a Brightline station for the city and enacting a recertification program to ensure that condominiums are safe following the 2021 collapse of a Surfside condo.
“I loved the job while I had it,” he said. “You can get a lot accomplished at the local level, more than a single person can accomplish at the state level.”
When council members were at odds, Thomson often advanced solutions or compromises that helped them reach consensus.
He launched “Run the City” in 2021, in which he and volunteers jogged all 475 miles of city streets, picking up trash and spotting safety issues. Thomson kept it up after leaving office, and he and the volunteers so far have picked up 1,500 pounds of trash and identified more than 450 needed safety improvements that mostly have been fixed.
His priorities are getting public safety officials the resources they need to keep the city safe, addressing traffic congestion, making sure city growth is done responsibly and keeping the tax rate low.
Asked why voters should support him rather than Stenberg, Thomson noted that the city has a new city manager and deputy city manager, and two relatively new council members. A new finance director will be in place soon and the city attorney will retire in the next few years.
“That’s a lot of institutional knowledge that has left,” he said. “Now is not the time for inexperienced decision-makers. I have that experience in spades.”
As of Feb. 16, Thomson had raised $107,489 for his campaign.
Stenberg, a partner in the Greenfield Properties medical office real estate management firm, is making his second bid to serve on the council after Mayotte defeated him in 2021 with 58.8% of the vote.
He remained in the public’s eye since then as treasurer of the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowners Associations and as a member of the Boca Raton Housing Authority board before resigning late last year to run for the council.
He also is president of the Boca Square Civic Association and serves on the Palm Beach County Planning Commission.
Most recently, he opposed Mayor Scott Singer’s attempt to increase City Council terms from three years to four. Voters soundly defeated the proposed change last March.
Stenberg said he decided to run again because he got enough votes in 2021 to give him encouragement to do so. As a businessman who has become involved in matters that led him to speak at City Council and city board meetings, he thinks he has something to offer.
“I have learned a lot over the years and I feel it is incumbent on me to use what I have learned to bring about the common good,” he said.
Further, most of the current council members live in western Boca, while he lives in the eastern part of the city and will bring that perspective to the council. “I think we have a different perspective, living every day with the growing congestion and traffic,” he said.
He wants “respectful growth” that does not lead to overbuilding and damaging the city’s quality of life.
“I would like to see a little more pushback by council members and people on the Planning and Zoning Board,” he said. “When a developer comes before the bodies and the proposal they are making is outside the balance we are accustomed to in Boca Raton, someone has to push back against that.”
Stenberg drew criticism in 2021 when he turned his campaign negative, criticizing Mayotte for making “anti-senior comments” that led to a lawsuit against the city and another action by Mayotte and former Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke that resulted in an adverse court ruling.
Stenberg owned up to going dark at the time, and now says he was relying on the advice of a political consultant. But it won’t happen again because residents told him they didn’t like it, he said.
“That definitely is not a thing that I will do this time around,” he said. “People don’t want it.”
Stenberg has raised only $13,100, and $4,620 of that came from personal loans to his campaign.
That is by design, he said. He is saving money by doing without a consultant and reaching out to voters directly and through volunteers. He also is not focused on getting endorsements.
“I decided this is something I could do myself with volunteers,” he said. “It just requires a little more work and creativity.”
Drucker, a first-generation Cuban American who is the first Hispanic to serve on the City Council, came to office as a former chair of the city’s Education Task Force. She also is a longtime volunteer with many organizations, including the Junior League of Boca Raton and the Boca Raton Historical Society.
She now is on the executive board of the Palm Beach County Transportation Planning Agency and serves on several committees with the Florida League of Cities, including the Legislative Advocacy Committee. She also is a voting delegate member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. Most recently, she was appointed to the National League of Cities Transportation and Infrastructure Services Federal Advocacy Committee to help set policy priorities on transportation and infrastructure.
Although dubious when council members asked her to represent them on the TPA, Drucker is now enthusiastic about her work there and has elevated improving transportation and mobility to a top passion.
She also devotes considerable effort to monitoring legislation under consideration in Tallahassee, especially bills that take away the power of city leaders to make decisions on behalf of their residents.
Although Korn is not likely to end her council career, Drucker said, “I take every election seriously. … Hopefully I will get another three years to complete what I started.
“I am going to continue a commonsense mentality when it comes to development and will hold City Hall accountable” for maintaining a balanced budget and providing quality services to city residents, she said.
Drucker has endorsements from the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce’s political arm, Professional Firefighters and Paramedics of Boca Raton, Boca Raton Fraternal Order of Police, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance, the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post.
She has raised $45,279 for her campaign, which includes a $500 personal loan.
Korn, a real estate broker, has twice lost elections to Mayor Singer and once to Drucker. In the 2021 race against Drucker, he drew 4.9% of the vote.
While he spoke with one Coastal Star writer compiling facts at a glance on his campaign, he did not desire to speak with a second writer delving into details.
His current and previous campaigns have focused on alleged corruption in the city and among council members.
“We must stop corruption in Boca Raton City. Boca Raton City Council Members are greatly influenced by Special Interest Groups, Lobbyists and Political Action Committees. DARK MONEY PREVAILS in our great city.” he wrote in a statement to The Coastal Star.
“IT’S TIME FOR AN FBI INVESTIGATION INTO BOCA RATON POLITICS,” he said in another statement.
He is self-financing his campaign with $5,550 but spent only $334 through Feb. 16.
It has long been unclear if Korn is a city resident.
He has produced a driver’s license and voter registration card showing he lives on the barrier island at 720 Marble Way, but his campaign financial reports list his address as a P.O. box in the city’s downtown post office.
County property records show that Korn and his wife own a home at 19078 Skyridge Circle in an unincorporated area far west of the city.