Lantana’s longtime Mayor David J. Stewart faces two challengers in the March 9 election — Joe Ferrell and Robert Hagerty.
Ferrell, 58, a flooring distributor and 20-year resident, is an alternate on the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission and made an unsuccessful run against current council member Malcolm Balfour in 2013.
Hagerty, 56, is a retired police officer who has been a Lantana resident for 24 years.
Stewart, 67, an air conditioning consultant, has been mayor for 21 years.
“I want to continue what I’ve done in being fiscally responsible and making improvements for Lantana residents,” he says. “I’ve kept taxes low and services high, built our reserves to almost $10 million and erased the town’s debt.”
He cites his relationship-building skills with elected officials, locally and at the state level, among the strengths he brings to office. Beyond that, Stewart says he has institutional knowledge both from having been mayor for two decades and having served as president and an active member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. He says he has made many contacts through his work with both the county and the state.
Another strength, he says, is his ability to explain things “in layman’s terms” so people can better understand Town Council proceedings.
“The biggest issue in Lantana, and all municipalities, is the pandemic,” Stewart says. “Because of COVID-19, residents have not been able to provide for their families as they have in past.
“COVID put some people out of work, some in physical constraints so people haven’t been able to do what they did for their families. Sometimes when you are in a crisis, it’s better to have that continuity and institutional knowledge.”
Ferrell says he decided to run because of “the lack of response to issues such as the flooding in Sea Pines. There is also a feeling of disrespect by the citizenry of Lantana of the current mayor and Town Council.”
The biggest issue, says Ferrell, is “the lack of meaningful spending on the infrastructure — the roads have needed paving and striping for years, Sea Pines drainage system, Maddock Park play field needs to be resodded and city landscaping is tired.”
Another concern, Ferrell says, is “the lack of a central town hall that could house all the towns’ offices, except for the Police Department, in one place. The Police Department has a modern office.”
The strengths he would bring to office, Ferrell says, are his 30-plus years in the construction industry. “That has given me valuable experience in empathizing with people of differing ideas, contract negotiation, following through on promises and maintaining an ethical morality as the basis of my personality.”
Hagerty, who retired as a commander for the Lantana Police Department after working for the town for more than two decades, said he has the long-term experience and results-oriented approach needed to deal with the challenges the town faces.
“I feel a change in the mayor’s office is needed for the residents of this town to bring more effective and compassionate leadership, a stronger focus on public safety, realistic visioning, and appropriate beautification efforts,” Hagerty says. “As the former emergency management director for Lantana, I have the proven skills to proactively keep us safe from coronavirus, and responsibly get our economy moving again.”
Like Stewart, Hagerty says the major problem the town faces today has to do with the pandemic.
“The biggest issue in Lantana is how we keep our town safe from coronavirus while responsibly getting our economy moving again, and that requires the kind of effective, results-oriented leadership I will provide,” Hagerty says.
“I have a broad skill set of experience, dedication and understanding of how Lantana works from 30 years of service to the citizens of Lantana.
“Having been involved in various aspects of local government, including emergency management, budgeting and staffing responsibility, I would bring a more effective and common-sense approach to the office of mayor.”
Ferrell and Hagerty have attended some town meetings during the past year, although neither gave an exact number.
“Very few, due to social distancing,” Ferrell says. “The town of Lantana has a nice website that lets you attend meetings online and read the minutes.”
Stewart says he has missed only one council meeting in 21 years, because he was out of town on town business.