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Homestead’s Next Mayor

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Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2018 5:18 pm

Stephen Shelley to step up as Mayor for 2019, after serving nine years on council.

Stephen Shelley is set to become Homestead’s Interim Mayor on January 9.

Current Mayor Jeff Porter filed a “resign to run” letter in May when he announced his candidacy for state Agriculture Commissioner. Despite losing the primary, Porter’s resignation is still binding.

Shelley was first elected to Homestead Council in 2009. His latest four year Council seat is his last because of term limits. The term expires in 2021. Shelley was also elected Vice Mayor in the 2009 campaign. Voter-approved Charter changes two years ago state the Vice Mayor automatically becomes Mayor if there is a vacancy.

“Being mayor will be another challenge,” said Councilman Shelley. “The Mayor’s role is more ceremonial than substantive for us and the vote has the same weight as Council. Yet the Mayor and the City Manager are the only two who can put items on the agenda. The Mayor’s position is a big time commitment.”

The interview was held at his office at Farm Share, an impressive organization he runs that works to alleviate hunger. The non-profit Farm Share has five offices in Florida with almost fifty employees. Last year it delivered fifty-five

million pounds of food to seventeen million households through two thousand service agencies. Shelley was named COO three years ago.

“(Homestead) has a good body of elected officials with similar goals which is why we’re successful with our projects,” he said. “My leadership won’t be much different for such a short term – coming in in January with an election the next November. My goal is to stay the course.”

“My first task as Mayor is to appoint a Vice Mayor very quickly because that continuity is important,” said Shelley. “This will be the first time the Council has the ability to select among themselves for a Vice Mayor. Then we must find an interim Council person.”

City Code provides that an interim Mayor at the next election can resign the underlying Council seat and run for Mayor or step back to finish the original Council term.

“For that Council vacancy, the interim Mayor is able to appoint if the term is more than six months,” explained Shelley. “So it’s forced that this vacancy be filled.”

“The process is laid out in Code,” he continued. “There is notice, resumes are submitted, I make a recommendation after review and that’s subject to ratification by my colleagues on Council. The applicant must come from that neighborhood, but if no one can serve, than a provision allows appointment from the City as a whole.”

“I’ll be looking for someone who cares about the area but as a status quo applicant,” someone who won’t upset the apple cart.” Shelley said.

“There are a couple of philosophies about appointing the next person to serve,” he said. “One is to appoint someone giving them a leg up as an anointed successor for the northwest district. Option two is appoint a placeholder with a similar mindset for Council projects we’re working on together peaceably and won’t likely serve after the initial ten months; someone who has no desire to be a Council person after that.”

“A placeholder is what I’m looking for,” Shelley said. “That gives the public the ability to select a new Council member afterwards with the same vision on what we’re doing or something different that’s wanted.”

“Three or four people have approached me indicating an interest in the position,” Shelley added, “so there are applicants out there and others may show up.”

“I talked to the City Attorney for clarity in the methodology for appointment,” Shelley said. “Nothing prohibits us from starting the process sooner. The Code is clear that seven days following the vacancy there be an announcement and then a fifteen day window to receive applicants. We don’t want to be rushed so starting now enables us to move faster to comply and won’t cause distraction in the operations of Council for normal work.”

Asked about his priority City work, Shelley said, “I want to finish the revitalization of the downtown. Homestead Station should be finished next summer. New Losner Park designs are coming to Council next month.”

“After that, the last component is to work on housing next to the transit station,” Shelley said. “There have been conversations with developers about new housing, all west of Krome. Hopefully the private market will take over and lay the groundwork to backfill existing residential locations.”

Shelley was asked about City taxes and the impact of increased water rates. He said, “Should the next step be a focus on infrastructure improvements - is there an appetite for tax increases to apply? I’m against an increased tax rate, but it’s a discussion we should have. Government has to provide the basic necessities but the question is do we need to take drastic steps to maintain or increase those services.”

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