12402859074?profile=RESIZE_710xThe crowd at the Palm Trail Grill celebrated Tuesday's Delray Beach mayoral victory of Tom Carney and commission victories for Tom Markert and Juli Casale. ABOVE: (front l-r) Tony Petrolia, Phil Pepe, Kelly Barrette and Casale are jubilant along with a smiling Carney, with Mayor Shelley Petrolia (center back) celebrating with her arm on Carney's shoulder. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Anne Geggis

Delray Beach voters spurned a real estate-backed slate of candidates Tuesday 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 Tuesday: 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.

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

12390460498?profile=RESIZE_400xEven 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 a 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, now in England, telling him the news. “I plan on stopping this overdevelopment, giving money back to the taxpayers and dealing with the traffic.”

12390460663?profile=RESIZE_400xThe victory gathering at Palm Trail Grill, outside the city’s bustling downtown, also 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.

Markert, 66, won nearly 39% of the vote. He defeated Jim Chard, 79, a former New York City municipal executive, and Tennille DeCoste, 47, 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 tight squeeze residents face on city streets and the need to replace the water treatment plant.

12390460672?profile=RESIZE_400xCasale, 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, 58, a retired electrician, won and the 21% for Anneze Barthelemy, 46, a social worker with a private consulting business.

“The message is people want good governing,” Casale said. “This is a big night.”

Mayor 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 a button from her previous campaign emblazoned with “Shelly” on the new mayor.

“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.

12402866099?profile=RESIZE_710xDelray Beach Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston (center), at his election night watch party at the Tin Roof, reacts to screens showing his opponent, Tom Carney, beat him in the city's mayoral race, with former Commissioner Shirley Johnson finishing third.

Over at the Tin Roof, where Boylston had his downtown watch party adjacent to Coppola’s, 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.

Earlier, at the polls, 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’s lived in Delray Beach much longer, about who to vote for. 

His cousin recommended, “Tom, Tom and Juli.”

“I love it,” he 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.”

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.

12402909655?profile=RESIZE_710xUnofficial results. Source: Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office

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