By Rich Pollack

There will be two new faces on the five-member Town Commission following the March 14 vote, which saw just over 800 of Highland Beach’s 3,900 registered voters casting ballots.

Newcomer Judith Goldberg defeated challengers Maggie Chappelear and Peter Kosovsky and will serve the one year left in the term of Peggy Gossett-Seidman, who resigned to run successfully for state representative.

“I am just thrilled to represent this magical town,” Goldberg said, adding that she believes her forthright conversations with residents helped her get votes. “I just spoke about the issues honestly.”

Goldberg received 408 votes, or just over 50% of the total votes cast, with Chappelear receiving 30.5% or 246 votes while Kosovsky received about 19% or 152 votes.

In a two-way race for a three-year term, newcomer Don Peters defeated incumbent John Shoemaker, capturing 53% of the votes to Shoemaker’s 47%.  

“A lot of people worked hard for me and I’m very thankful,” Peters said.

The former police officer and town supervisor in Yorktown, New York, said he believes his victory is the result of residents wanting more of a voice in the way the town is run.

“People just want their government to listen,” he said.

Both Peters and Goldberg were backed by the Committee to Save Highland Beach, a political action committee that sends messages to more than 2,000 email addresses.

The election marked the first time since 2020 that voters had an opportunity to select a town commissioner; all candidates running in the last three years ran unopposed.

During this year’s campaign season, transparency and increased public input in decision-making was a common theme among the candidates.

Chappelear, who first got involved with the town when she supported safer boating conditions on the Intracoastal Waterway, ran her campaign with a focus on being the voice of residents on the commission. A 38-year resident of Highland Beach, Chappelear has also been a strong supporter of dune restoration.

Goldberg, an attorney and mediator, ran her campaign focus on transparency and having energy and vitality for good governance. She is a supporter of preservation of natural resources and property values and supports effective growth planning.

Kosovsky ran his campaign on public oversight and involvement believing there needs to be more public involvement in the running of the town. In an unusual move in what had been a very civil election season, Kosovsky was openly critical of Goldberg for what he claims were violations of campaign rules. 

In the race for the three-year seat, Peters often spoke about keeping taxes low and also wants to see residents having a greater voice in the decisions made by town leaders.

Shoemaker, who served three years on the commission, ran on his experience and on the effectiveness of the current commission in addressing long-standing issues. He says he ran on continuity, collaboration and competence. 

The low turnout, Shoemaker said, may be a reflection of how well the town is operating.

“When things are going well, people don’t seem to have as much interest in local affairs,” he said.

The election in Highland Beach remained mostly civil, with all candidates each spending less than $10,000 on signs, emails and online and print advertising. 

Goldberg, who had a strong online presence, led the pack in expenses, spending more than $8,200, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Kosovsky was next spending just under $4,000, while Chappelear spent just under $1,400.

In the seat for the three-year term, Shoemaker spent about $2,250, while Peters spent only about $750.

In all, the five candidates spent about $16,500 for their campaigns.

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