By Brian Biggane

Three applicants for the vacant seat on the South Palm Beach Town Council that opened up when Robert Gottlieb resigned in December each made a case to the council at its February meeting.

Council members had considered moving quickly and making their decision then, but they decided to wait for the March meeting to select their choice, with the fifth member then set to be sworn in at the April meeting.

All three applicants are women: Elvadianne Culbertson and Arnelle K. Ossendryver, both residents of the Southgate Condominium, and Jennifer Lesh of Palm Beach Villas.

Gottlieb, whose term was supposed to end in March, wound up not seeking reelection during the November qualifying period. After his December resignation, the town planned to hold a second qualifying period for his seat in January, but ended up not reopening the race.

Council member Monte Berendes asked all three why they hadn’t filed to run during the qualifying period for the March election. Culbertson said she didn’t want to run against

Gottlieb, while the other two said their circumstances had changed in recent months.

A look at the applicants:

Elvadianne Culbertson —The only applicant to read from a prepared script, Culbertson, 81, said she has missed only three council meetings in 18 years, served on the council for three years, has written the town newsletter and served on several committees.

With the Town Hall building project expected to start soon, Culbertson also said she has experience in architecture and building plans from her time working with Navy ships, which she said since the 1980s have been designed with laser-guided sandwich panels.

“As the name implies,” she said, “they’re pretty much the same as SIPs and have a similar prefabrication process. I dealt with the trade-offs in the design and ultimately cost.” The

Town Hall will be built using SIPs, or structural insulated panels.

Culbertson proposed updating and refining the Town Charter, pointing as an example to job descriptions of the town manager, of which she said a half-dozen exist, none of which specifically defines that role.

In a theme that was repeated by the other two candidates, Culbertson said there needs to be more interaction among people in the town. “We need to work toward knowing each other better,” she said.

Jennifer Lesh — An educator who spent 25 years with the Palm Beach County school system working with students with exceptional needs, Lesh said she has been president of the condo board at Palm Beach Villas for 10 years and was vice president before that.

Lesh, 60, earned a doctorate from Barry University in Miami in 2013 and joined the faculty of Lynn University in Boca Raton, where she is in charge of the special education program.

“I have volunteered for over 17 years for the Council of Special Education at the local, state and national level, and have been the president of the international organization, so I am familiar with Robert’s Rules,” she said.

A resident of South Palm Beach since 2002, “with a slight break involving Delray Beach,” Lesh said she never plans to move and called the town “a little slice of paradise.”

Asked by Vice Mayor Bill LeRoy how she would encourage citizen engagement, Lesh said she would send out surveys to presidents of the condo boards asking what they’d like to see.

“In my condo people are not engaging. Maybe if we got ideas it would help,” she said.

Arnelle K. Ossendryver — A resident of Southgate, Ossendryver migrated from South Africa 26 years ago and spent 24 of those employed by the Chesterfield Hotel in Palm Beach, promoting and helping to brand the property for visitors from around the world.

When the chairman of the company died two years ago, Ossendryver said “the whole team left” and she started a consulting business from her home. Among her clients is a group of geology professors from London.

With so much of her background in branding, Ossendryver, 61, was asked by Mayor Bonnie Fischer what she would do to brand the town.

“I would talk to people, ask them what they like about the town. What are the key points? Come up with some ideas, where we see the town going, how we should brand it, it’s going to be right. Once you brand it and it has an identity it’s good.”

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