By Mary Hladky
City Council candidate Christen Ritchey has withdrawn from the race, allowing Marc Wigder to win election to Seat B without opposition.
As a result, all three contests that would have appeared on the March 14 municipal election ballot are already decided. Mayor Scott Singer won a final term and Fran Nachlas filled the seat vacated by Andy Thomson when no candidates filed to run against them.
But the election will be held, with only one item on the ballot. It is a city charter change proposed by Singer that would increase the terms of office for mayor and council members to four years from three years.
In brief email responses to questions about whether the election would still take place, Singer said that ballots already are in the process of being printed.
Asked if he is concerned that voter turnout could be light with no council races at stake, Singer said it might be high.
“As always, I encourage people to vote,” he said.
The 2021 election with two council races on the ballot cost the city just under $259,000. A city spokeswoman said the city does not yet have cost estimates for the March election.
Ritchey said she withdrew from the race on Dec. 20 to focus on her two children, ages 7 and 9, and her law firm, which recently completed a three-way merger with the New York firm Schwartz, Sladkus, Reich, Greenberg and Atlas, and a local attorney’s practice.
“It was a difficult decision,” she said. “I have really enjoyed the experience. It is not the right time for me.”
Ritchey said she will continue to be involved in the community and plans to be a candidate in the future.
In the meantime, Ritchey said that she supports Wigder and told him she would assist him in any way she could.
“Marc Wigder is just going to be great for Boca, so I know I am leaving this campaign and the city of Boca in good hands,” she said.
Wigder said Ritchey told him of her decision to step aside. “I would be pleased if we could work together on issues that are important,” he said. “I am very appreciative she wants to continue to be involved.”
Wigder will take over the seat now held by term-limited Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke. He is a real estate attorney with his own practice in Boca Raton and is a founder of Greenhouse Offices, an office building, and homebuilder GreenSmith Builders.
The top issue he has campaigned on is managing the city’s growth. City leaders need to “start thinking long term” and make sure growth is managed carefully and pragmatically, he said.
“The question is not how we build Boca, but how we re-envision Boca,” he said.
A related issue is traffic congestion. He wants emphasis on sustainable development projects that allow people to live near where they work to lessen the dependency on vehicles.
Other matters that top his list are maintaining the high level of city services and public safety and keeping the tax rate low.
He also noted a new state law, passed after the 2021 collapse of a Surfside condominium, that requires condos to maintain adequate financial reserves to make repairs.
The law will increase costs for many condo owners and is a significant issue at homeowners association meetings he has attended, he said.
Wigder said city officials must consider “how we can help them navigate this process.”
Both Wigder and Ritchey said they oppose extending City Council terms to four years. Ritchey said she “would rather see the city spend its resources in other ways” than on this election.
Wigder said a three-year term is adequate, but he does see some merit to a longer term.
“Personally I was not in favor of it, but I do see a logic on both sides,” he said.