Top row, from left:  Israel Andrews, Avis Brown (incumbent), Sharon “Sheep” Smith-Butler (incumbent). Bottom row, from left:  Ronda Ferguson-Cobb,  James “Boo-Boo” Gold, Takevess Hatcher.

Top row, from left: Israel Andrews, Avis Brown (incumbent), Sharon “Sheep” Smith-Butler (incumbent).

Bottom row, from left: Ronda Ferguson-Cobb, James “Boo-Boo” Gold, Takevess Hatcher.

Florida City holds its biannual election on Tuesday January 28, 2020. Two City Commissioner spots are on the election ballot.

The deadline to register for this election was December 30, 2019. The final date to request a vote by mail ballot is Saturday January 18, 2020.

Six candidates are running for the two Commissioner offices. The candidates are Israel J. Andrews, Avis F.L. Brown, Ronda Y. Ferguson-Cobb, James “Boo-Boo” Gold, Takevess C. Hatcher, and Sharon “Sheep” Smith-Butler. The current incumbent Commissioners are Avis Brown and Sharon Smith-Butler.

Israel Andrews was born and raised in Florida City as were most of the candidates. He served as Commissioner and Vice Mayor in Florida City in 1988 and 1992, and was elected to a third term in 1996. He has also been a candidate for Florida City Mayor in the past.

Currently teaching law and social study courses at Miami-Dade Schools Killian High School, Andrews is a graduate of Florida State and “holds several other degrees”. He has extensive experience within the Democratic Party, the United Teachers of Dade, and is a life-member of the NAACP. “I’ve always been involved,” he said.

Incumbent Commissioner Avis Brown decided to run for a third term, “because of the need to do more and to implement special programs”. Brown has a degree in elementary education from Albany State University in Georgia, a master’s degree from Nova Southeast University, an education administration degree from University of Illinois and took additional courses at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens. She has many years of teaching experience and working as a guidance counselor. 

Ronda Ferguson-Cobb was born and raised in Florida City as one of twelve children of Bahamian settlers.

“We were raised with no government assistance, no welfare,” she said, “and most of us are still in the area.

Ferguson-Cobb holds an associate degree in criminal justice from Miami-Dade College, a B.S. in criminal justice from FIU, and a master’s degree in mathematics from Nova Southeast University. Currently the science department head at Mays Conservatory of the Arts, she co-founded the non-profit Sisters on the Move Inc. to help feed the local community.

James Gold was educated locally and recently retired as an employee of the City of Homestead. He is currently working for a state-sponsored mentorship program designed to prepare kids for careers. “We need to reach out to kids and provide more after-school programs,” he said. “Youth improvement efforts can be funded with local grants.”

Takevess Hatcher was born and raised in Florida City. He was educated at Miami Dade College and Nova Southeast University, taking an advanced degree in organizational leadership from the Union Institute & University in Ohio where he is working on his doctorate in public policy.

Hatcher is the owner/operator of HTC Tax Services in Florida City, also working as an administrative coordinator for Miami-Dade College. He is the organizer of marches in Florida City against gun violence and helped organize the Guns Down Books Up march protesting youth violence that earned him a service aware from Rep. McGhee’s office.

Incumbent Commissioner Sharon Smith-Butler did not respond to a request for interviews by the newspaper’s deadline.

In the course of interviews, the candidates were asked to highlight priority issues they intended to work on first at the Florida City Commission.

Andrews emphasized recruiting small manufacturing businesses to Florida City to provide jobs for people without college degrees. He wants to focus CRA monies to attracting those specific businesses, which could lead from jobs to better zoning decisions to programs to help kids stay to better police protection. “We need activities for kids, enjoyable things to do like pottery or dance, more sports for girls,” he said. “No idle hands making problems but helping improve the quality of life in Florida City.”

Brown feels the crime statistics do Florida City an injustice. She thought the police were working hard with the assistance of Metro-Dade police to “help people feel safer”. “We need to continue working on clean-up zones in the City to promote our community pride,” she said. “Also, the kids need things to do to break out of the poverty cycle. This community needs better financial funding to continue these programs.”

Ferguson-Cobb wants to concentrate on community youth programs. “When sports seasons are over, there’s no involvement,” she said. “Our youth needs something active and positive to motivate them to do better.

The City should promote youth summer employment and summer camp for the younger ones.” She used as an example her organization of the recent Youth Winter Festival with its many positive activities.

Gold wants to work on the local crime rate by involving kids in after school programs and community events. “We need to reach out to the kids,” he said. “We can start by promoting neighborhood community fairs, providing summer jobs for youth through a Florida City program, and getting people involved in the mentoring program for kids that they can look up to.”

Hatcher also thinks the crime increase in Florida City needs to be addressed. “The solutions are with the police department but also the connection between government and education,” he said. “We need to keep the City clean to work on bringing more industry to Florida City to increase standards and promote a living wage.”

Florida City has three election precincts, two of which vote at the Florida City Hall on West Palm Drive. The other poll is located at 1600 NW 6th Court, south of Lucy Street.

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