12420280653?profile=RESIZE_710xA Palm Trail Grill crowd hails Tom Carney’s win in the mayoral race, to go with City Commission victories for Juli Casale and Tom Markert. ABOVE: (front, l-r) Tony Petrolia, Phil Pepe, Kelly Barrette and Casale; (back) departing Mayor Shelley Petrolia with her hand on Carney’s shoulder. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

Departing mayor hails clean sweep by candidates she supported

Note: This story updates what was published immediately following the March 19 election.

By Anne Geggis

Delray Beach voters spurned a real estate-backed slate of candidates March 19 in choosing Tom Carney as their new mayor along with two new commissioners: one a first-time candidate and the other returning to the dais a year after losing a re-election bid.

The new mayor, a lawyer by trade, is expected to lead a new three-vote bloc with the commissioners elected: Tom Markert and Juli Casale. All underdogs to their top competitors in raising money for their campaigns, the trio promoted themselves together, urging voters to choose, “Tom, Tom and Juli.” They campaigned against what they called the city’s “overdevelopment” amid warnings that the city’s motto “Village by the Sea” was at risk.

Roughly 27% of the city’s 40,737 registered voters participated in the municipal election, based on the unofficial results.

12420282682?profile=RESIZE_180x180Carney, 70, a former city commissioner who served as an interim mayor for two months in 2013, will replace term-limited Mayor Shelly Petrolia, who supported his candidacy.

Even though he received more than $60,000 less in campaign contributions, Carney defeated Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston, who raised more than $155,000 to lead all candidates.

Totals show Carney won nearly 52% of the vote to Boylston’s 38% and former Commissioner Shirley Johnson’s 10%.

At a celebration announced after the votes were tallied, Carney hailed a mandate for change when it comes to managing the city’s growth and spending.

“I’m incredibly honored and I’m even more incredibly humbled,” said Carney, who learned of his victory when he was awakened from dozing by a phone call from his wife, who was visiting England and told him the news. “I plan on stopping this overdevelopment, giving money back to the taxpayers and dealing with the traffic.”

The victory gathering at Palm Trail Grill, outside the city’s bustling downtown, drew two other newly elected commissioners. First-time political candidate and former Nielsen TV ratings executive Markert will replace term-limited Commissioner Adam Frankel, and former Commissioner Casale will move into the seat that Boylston is leaving due to term limits.

12420281663?profile=RESIZE_180x180Markert, 66, won nearly 39% of the vote. He defeated former Commissioner Jim Chard, a former New York City municipal executive, and Tennille DeCoste, who was recently dismissed from her job as the city of Boynton Beach’s human resources director. Chard won nearly 37% of the vote and DeCoste was a distant third, winning 24%.

“The voters spoke loud and clear that they want change,” said Markert, who campaigned on addressing the traffic residents face on city streets and the need to replace the water treatment plant.

Casale, 55, a retired businesswoman who was defeated in her bid for re-election to the City Commission last year, won a seat against two candidates in the hunt for their first elected office. Casale garnered 42% of the votes to the 37% that Nick Coppola, a retired electrician, won and the 21% for Anneze Barthelemy, a social worker with a private consulting business.

12420283887?profile=RESIZE_180x180“The message is people want good governing,” Casale said. “This is a big night.”

Petrolia, who supported the winning slate, also took part in the festivities at Palm Trail Grill, where Carney held his kickoff party and his recent 70th birthday party. She playfully pinned on the mayor a button from her previous campaign emblazoned with “Shelly.”

“It’s a great night — unbelievable, unbelievable,” she said. “The city made a decision. I feel like everything is going to be in good hands.”

Following the city elections in March 2023, a new voting bloc led by Boylston had coalesced on the dais and Petrolia found herself on the losing end of a number of votes.

12420281278?profile=RESIZE_710xDuring his election night watch party, mayoral candidate Ryan Boylston reacts to broadcast results showing his defeat.

Over at the Tin Roof, where Boylston had his downtown watch party adjacent to Coppola’s party, the first flash of results showed all of the precincts reporting. The crowd, at first, thought those results would be the early and mail-in votes.

But then reality set in.

“Look at that,” Boylston said, as he gazed up at the screens showing Carney’s substantial victory.

Days later, Boylston had a chance to reflect on his showing.

“On a personal level, I’m absolutely content with the results. My hope is that our city continues to embrace community input and can remain focused on the important subjects that really matter,” he said.

At the polls on Election Day, Lee Cohen, 30, who works in marketing, admitted to an unfamiliarity with the issues facing the city, since he’s only lived there five months. But he checked with his cousin, who has lived in Delray Beach much longer. 

His cousin recommended “Tom, Tom and Juli.”

“I love it,” Cohen said of Delray Beach. “I love that there’s so much to do. It has the vibrancy of a big city but with a small-town feel.”

Statewide reaction
The city’s mayoral election outcome was hailed by state Republicans right up to Gov. Ron DeSantis as a “flip” for a Republican in a Democratic stronghold. But that didn’t exactly fit with how Carney was elected after getting the endorsement of the sitting mayor — a Democrat.

Carney pointed out that the candidate slate he campaigned with had one candidate with no party affiliation in Markert and the other a registered Democrat in Casale.

He said the flyer that the Republican Party sent out to its members probably helped him (but not so much for fellow Republican Barthelemy, also promoted in the flyer). It helped level the playing field for how he was not invited to five Democrat-sponsored candidate forums, he said.

“I really appreciated the help,” Carney said of the flyer. “I was behind because of what the Democratic Party was doing in terms of alerting all their voters who the Democrats were” in the race.

In the future, he said, he’d like to see all the candidates get invited to all forums when they are spotlighting nonpartisan races, as has happened in the past. And there’s no doubt that including a Republican presidential primary vote on the same day was a factor in the amount of partisanship involved in the nonpartisan municipal races.

“I’m not getting into the definitions of what’s flipping or not flipping. … We ran a very good race and we reached out across all parties,” Carney said. “We had a letter that went out that was signed by Democrats, Republicans and independents, talking about why they were supporting me.”

Referendum fails
In another issue on the ballot, nearly 59% of the city’s voters rejected a proposed amendment that would have eliminated the city’s Board of Adjustment and streamlined its functions under the city’s planning board. The board considers appeals and variances to the city’s land development rules and will continue to do so, according to the vote.

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