The Coastal Star

Boca Raton: Split votes may be wave of future at council meetings

Monica Mayotte takes the oath of office. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Steve Plunkett

The new City Council’s first vote may have been a harbinger of decisions to come — members split 2 to 3 against keeping Jeremy Rodgers as deputy mayor.

At the council’s April 2 reorganization meeting, Rodgers made the first motion, nominating Scott Singer to succeed him as deputy. 

Singer was eventually chosen, but not until after Council member Andrea O’Rourke offered an alternative — reappointing Rodgers — without success.

“I just think that we are having a change on our City Council with our new council member  . . . our mayor now is running for county commissioner, Mr. Singer is running for mayor — I think there’s a lot of unknowns looking forward,” O’Rourke said.

“And I think in order to maintain stability and keep things the way they are — which is going quite well now — with all the potential change coming forward I think it would be the proper thing to keep things status quo.”

New Council member Monica Mayotte seconded O’Rourke’s alternate motion.

Jeremy Rodgers declined a repeat term as deputy mayor. 

But Rodgers said not counting Haynie, Singer has the most seniority, which is customarily the deciding factor in picking the deputy mayor. He also said being deputy for the past year and this year’s re-election campaign “took a big toll on my family and myself. . . . I’m happy to just do my best as a council member.”

O’Rourke was not swayed.

“Let’s take politics out of this,” she said. “Mr. Singer, you are running a campaign for mayor. To put you in a position of deputy mayor I feel is awkward and turns it a little more political than our seats need to be.”

She also said Singer turned down the opportunity to be deputy mayor after the 2017 election, which “quite shocked” most people.

Singer said he appreciated O’Rourke’s concerns but said “this is a very apolitical process.” He declined being named deputy last year, he said, because he had more work to do as chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency, listing discussion of one-way bypasses through downtown, advancement of a plan for downtown and the waterfront and affirmation of the board’s commitment to greater open space downtown.

“I don’t see it as political,” he said.

O’Rourke and Mayotte, whom O’Rourke championed in the Seat D race, voted to keep Rodgers as deputy mayor; Haynie, Singer and Rodgers voted against. Council members then voted unanimously to select Singer.

They also unanimously selected O’Rourke as chairwoman of the CRA with Mayotte as vice chair.

In Mayotte’s first official comments after taking her seat, she promised to “do my homework diligently” and keep an open door for city residents. Her son, she said, voted by mail from college in last fall’s presidential contest but was home on spring break for the March 13 municipal races.

“It was his first time voting in a voting booth, and he got to vote for his mom,” Mayotte said, choking up as she spoke. 

At the start of the meeting, outgoing Council member Robert Weinroth, who dropped a re-election bid to run instead for County Commission, said “it really is remarkable how wonderful this city is.

“And it is wonderful because the citizens there,” he said, gesturing to the audience, “and the citizens up here are all doing the same thing — we want this city to be the best city possible.” 

Haynie opened a campaign account to run for County Commission last year, but official qualifying does not take place until June. If she files to run then, she would have to resign her seat as mayor effective in November win or lose. Singer, as deputy mayor, would then become mayor until the March 2019 ballot to fill Haynie’s remaining year in office.

In this March’s election, 9,480 out of 64,585 registered voters, or 14.7 percent, turned out to vote.

Incumbent Rodgers outpolled challenger Kim Do in the Seat C race 5,138 votes (55 percent) to 4,269 votes (45 percent). Rodgers, a computer security expert, raised $83,995 in campaign contributions, including a $5,000 loan to himself; Do, a lawyer and accountant, collected $38,804, including a $30,889 self-loan.   

In the Seat D race, Mayotte got 6,231 votes (66 percent) to Armand Grossman’s 2,741 votes (29 percent) and Paul Preste’s 508 votes (5 percent). Mayotte, a part-time sustainability specialist at JM Family Enterprises, collected $79,745 in contributions, including a $25,000 self-loan. Grossman, a retired educator, raised $121,180 including a $50,000 self-loan; Preste, a physician, did not solicit donations and loaned his campaign $23,850.

Erin Wright, a Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District commissioner, served a couple of years with Mayotte on the city’s Green Living Advisory Board and called her a “go-getter.”

“I think she’s going to bring a lot to the table,” said Wright, who voted for Mayotte and actively campaigned for her. 

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