By Rich Pollack
When Highland Beach commissioners came up with the idea for a welcome sign contest to get residents more involved in the town, they hoped for a strong show of support.
But they were still surprised when they discovered that more than 700 ballots were cast to select a winner from five finalists — only about 150 fewer than were cast in the municipal election just a few weeks earlier.
In all, about 710 votes were submitted, some by email and some in person at a ballot box in Town Hall. And when the votes were counted, the entry by Barry Donaldson — a former commissioner — received the most.
With 394 votes, Donaldson’s conceptual illustration collected more than twice as many as the four other finalists combined, making it a clear winner. The town did not tell voters in advance the identity of the artist behind each entry.
“I was surprised by all the votes that came in and I was surprised by how the winning design won by such a large margin,” said Mayor Natasha Moore, who took the lead in working with town staff on the contest.
The winning design, which includes the town name, its logo and the slogan “Three Miles of Paradise,” will be incorporated into entry signs on State Road A1A at both the north and south ends of Highland Beach.
Donaldson added the slogan in part as a tribute to former Mayor Doug Hillman, who died in March. Hillman frequently referred to the town as “three miles of paradise.”
Both Moore and Town Manager Marshall Labadie viewed the contest as a success toward improving communication with residents.
“It showed how much the community cares,” Moore said. “The contest allowed people to get involved in determining the vibe you sense when you drive into town.”
As a result of the contest, the town added about 400 names to its email list, which it uses to send messages to residents. That list is now about 2,000 names long.
“It was a really good community project,” Labadie said. “It drew people to participate and get involved.”
In all, more than 30 designs were submitted, and town commissioners selected the five finalists. The other four were from Joseph McGranahan, the Maraj family, Mitchell Hersh, and Steve and Ching Satter.
Donaldson said that in creating his entry he wanted to design a sign that fit in well with the town’s aesthetics.
“The idea behind the sign design was to acknowledge the shift to the more modern designs we are seeing in Highland Beach, so the design needed to be responsive to that trend to have relevance in the future,” he said.
He said that each element of the sign was inspired by town colors and its key features.
“The yellow around the logo is expressive of the sun,” he said. “The blue bands represent the water that borders us to the east and west, and the texture on the sign is light and is meant to evoke the sand on the beach, our turtle nesting ground.”
Now that the design has been selected, the town will move forward with transforming it into actual signs.
Labadie said that could take six months to a year because of the permitting and the bidding process for a firm to finalize the design.