An attorney, a self-employed graphics and interior designer and a retired public relations and marketing executive are vying for one of three vacant seats on the Boca Raton City Council on March 14, the post left open after Deputy Mayor Mike Mullaugh could not run again because of term limits.
The three candidates for Seat B are Emily Gentile, Andy Thomson and Andrea O’Rourke – all political newcomers.
Candidates are not required to live in the district they represent, instead they are elected citywide. However the candidates are split on where they should live. Council members will receive a $28,000 stipend annually plus a $5,400 yearly car allowance, health benefits and contributions to the state pension.
At least two of the candidates – Gentile and Thomson – want the council to formally evaluate City Manager Leif Ahnell and City Attorney Diana Grub Frieser. The pair has not been evaluated in several years, they maintain.
In keeping up with the growth of the city, all three candidates think there needs to be a municipal complex that would include City Hall and other public attractions.
Where there do not agree on everything, very rarely do the candidates differ on how the city should be run.
Gentile says she knows the city and its issues and that her experience working with Fortune 500 clients prepares her for the task.
“I bring to the table strong leadership, communications, analytical and negotiating skills. I know how to get things done,” said Gentile, vice chairwoman of the Downtown Boca Raton Advisory Committee and is chairwoman of the Business Improvement District task force.
She has amassed an impressive laundry list of civic engagement during her 27 years living in South Florida.
She serves on the city’s Historic Preservation Board and the Beach Condominium Association. She’s on the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Collaborative Care Council and the Resident Physician Community Partnership Program for the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University. She is also active in the Yacht &Racquet Club of Boca Raton.
Gentile wants to see more business downtown so she wants to see better lighting to create a better ambiance and Art in Public Places.
Thomson, a business litigator for the Boca firm of Baritz & Colman, said his experience and track record of public service make him the best qualified for the job.
“What I do for a living now is resolve disputes in businesses. People come to me with their problems…and it’s my job to help solve them,” he said. “And that’s the expertise I bring to local government not because politics is generally divisive but because I have to work with four other city council members to make a decision on something. Who best to help make a decision collaboratively than someone whose job is it is to resolve disputes collaboratively?”
Considering the long history of retirees leading the city, Thomson thinks the time has come for younger blood on the dais.
If elected the father of three young children would join council members Jeremy Rodgers and Scott Singer, who have young families.
While Thomson has been a Boca Raton resident only since August, he said he has been active doing his civic duty. He said he has served on the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, Florence Fuller Child Development Centers, the Children’s Home Society, the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Boca Raton Bowl.
Billing herself as a community servant, O’Rourke wants to be the conduit between residents, community leaders and developers.
“I have built many relationships over many years and so I want to be that voice for the residents,” said O’Rourke, a 37-year resident who has served as editor of BocaWatch, the political website that regularly criticizes the council.
She has been vocal about holding future development to a very high standard. She opposed a Hillstone restaurant on the Wildflower property and Archstone/Palmetto Promenade.
She thinks developers of larger projects should give back to the community in the form of public art and green space.
While O’Rourke has never held public office, she has served on civic boards. She sits on the city’s Downtown Boca Raton Advisory Committee, serves as a community captain for the Boca Raton Bowl college football game, is the past president of the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowner Associations and is president of Golden Triangle, a voluntary homeowner association in the downtown neighborhood.