Ocean Ridge voters will get the chance to choose two town commissioners in the March 9 municipal election after four candidates qualified in December to run for office.
The field includes two familiar names. Current Mayor Kristine de Haseth is running for another three-year term, and former Mayor Geoff Pugh has returned from private life after leaving the commission in 2018.
Two political newcomers round out the field. John Kramer and Carolyn Cassidy both have expressed concerns over government transparency issues as they seek commission seats for the first time.
Incumbent Commissioner Phil Besler decided not to run for a second term after three years in office.
Previously from Westhampton, New York, Cassidy owns a real estate business and has lived in Ocean Ridge for 41/2 years. She has served as vice president of the town’s Garden Club and been active in Impact 100 Palm Beach County, a group that awards competitive $100,000 grants to nonprofit organizations.
“I have a very strong interest and passion for my community,” Cassidy said. “I’m concerned about the lack of communication and transparency government has shown with residents.”
Kramer has owned a home on North Ocean Boulevard for nearly six years. He has been an outspoken critic of the town’s closing of two beach access points near his residence to allow beachfront homeowners to build sea walls along dunes damaged by storms in 2020.
Kramer criticized commissioners for not doing a better job of informing neighbors about the closures and not considering carefully enough the project’s impact on nearby families.
“I think you’re falling into the trap of inconveniencing the many to accommodate the few,” he told the commission during its December meeting.
Pugh is the most experienced candidate. He served six years as the town’s mayor, from 2012-2018, and has 15 years overall on the commission. The owner of a pool construction business, he left office three years ago, saying he wanted to spend more time with his wife and family.
During his tenure as mayor, Pugh helped guide Ocean Ridge through a rocky period of personnel changes during which the town manager, clerk, attorney and police chief had to be replaced. He also led the town’s effort to deal with rapid growth across the bridge in Boynton Beach.
The commission chose de Haseth as mayor in March, and she inherited shaping the town’s COVID-19 response. A founding organizer of the Florida Coalition for Preservation, de Haseth was elected to the commission in 2018.
She cites developing the town’s five-year capital projects plan to upgrade storm infrastructure and initiating the CivicReady emergency alert network as two of her top accomplishments.
“I feel the town is on a positive trajectory,” de Haseth said. “We’ve taken on long-overdue issues and I’d like to see them through.”
Voters will be asked to select two of the four candidates, with winners being the two receiving the most votes.