By Anne Geggis
The upcoming city commission election this November so far shows one incumbent sailing to a second term without opposition and the other drawing a challenger who is on her first run for elected office.
District 3 Commissioner Julie Fishman, who bested a field of five others in 2016, is unopposed in her latest bid for another term.
Meanwhile, District 1’s Marlon Bolton, also a first-time commissioner, has a challenger. He’s facing Michelle Jones, a local chef/businesswoman who caters and offers vocational rehabilitation training through the state education department.
Qualifying to run for a commission seat, which has an annual salary of $57,177, including a $700 monthly car allowance, opens at noon June 8 and ends at noon June 12.
So, there’s still time for other challengers to get in.
As it stands, these candidates will not have to pay any of the property taxes they enact — none of the three own property in their names, according to the property appraiser’s office.
Tamarac Talk caught up with the declared candidates to find out what propels their desire to serve the city and what they envision for the future.
Michelle Jones, who grew up in Connecticut, first came to Florida 20 years ago, as a 19-year-old on spring break.
The single mother of a college-age son got to know Commissioner Bolton when he was a tenant at her house more than a half dozen years ago.
Jones says watching Bolton on the dais convinced her she could do better for her district, which is roughly defined by the city’s eastern boundaries and Rock Island Road on the west. A chunk of it, between Commercial Boulevard and Bailey Road, extends west of Rock Island Road to Northwest 64th Street.
“He’s a bully,” she said, focusing on the interaction between Mayor Michelle Gomez. “I don’t think he’s healthy for our city.”
Bolton, however, says he’s not a bully at all: “I’m passionate.”
Jones works for the Florida State Education Department’s Vocational Rehabilitation division, providing tutoring and business consulting services. She also serves on the Broward County Human Rights Board.
Bolton, who had to walk back some of the educational credentials he claimed in the 2016 campaign, says his challenger is lying about having a master’s degree in psychology from Keiser University.
When Tamarac Talk called the registrar’s office at Keiser to verify the degree, the person who answered the phone said she could not do that without Jones’ written permission, and the call was abruptly disconnected.
An email to the university’s media relations department went unreturned by publication time.
Jones, however, provided a screenshot of her diploma. And her ability to achieve that, despite what she calls a “cognitive disorder” is a big part of why she’s running for office, she said.
Jones uses a Kurzweil, which is a text-to-voice help for people who have trouble processing some words. And not enough people with disabilities realize this kind of support is available.
“The majority of students with disabilities … most of the time, they are not understood and not getting the accommodations they need,” she said.
Jones wants to be an inspiration to people with challenges like hers, who might not feel comfortable getting involved in the city she believes should reflect a wide diversity.
“When I first walked into the city building and saw the pictures of the commissioners, it dawned on me that there was no one that looked like me,” said Jones, who is also a chaplain. “I could make a difference that way and change that.”
She has raised $6,600 for her campaign, according to the latest treasurer’s report.
Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton won his seat in 2016 by ousting a two-term incumbent, and now he’s looking to hang on to his spot, pointing to the strides he’s made in getting the city’s east side the attention it never had before.
Bolton, 34, who is married with one child, said he’s lived in Tamarac for eight years.
“It was a natural move for us — we didn’t want to live anywhere else,” said Bolton, who is the pastor at a North Lauderdale church, Praise Experience World Outreach Church, and also a state Supreme Court-certified mediator, working for the county court system.
Bolton has earned an associate’s degree in mass communication and a bachelor’s degree in public safety management from Miami-Dade College. He said he originally got into city politics because he didn’t like the way the city was being developed.
“I reached out to my predecessor, and she wasn’t very nice,” he said of Pam Bushnell, whom he eventually defeated in 2016.
Bolton has voted with the minority, opposing turning the golf greens at the Woodlands into swaths of new homes. He said he doesn’t believe the conventional wisdom that golfing is losing popularity.
“If you ask someone what Tamarac is known for, they’ll probably say, ‘a retirement community,’ but I want Tamarac’s claim to fame to be golf,” he said. “I want Tamarac to be known for its beautiful golf courses.”
He initially argued passionately about his need for a legislative aide who would help him handle constituent correspondence and appearances. But then he voted against the position, which was eventually called a “community engagement liaison,” however, it was approved for each commissioner.
He said getting money for east side projects, particularly at Caporella Park, 5200 Prospect Road, has been among his proudest accomplishments as a commissioner. Next up, he wants a community center for the east side and a lifestyle center bustling with restaurants and shops.
He also prides himself on engaging as many residents as possible — knocking on 15 constituents’ doors every day.
“I want to meet everyone in my district — that is my goal,” he said. “If you know your neighbors, you will take care of your neighbors.”
His competitor, however, says he’s never come to her door.
Bolton has raised $62,509 for his campaign coffers, according to the latest treasury report.
Advocating for her son’s education pulled her into politics about 20-something years ago, and Commissioner Julie Fishman, 58, is still speaking for those who can’t do it for themselves.
She counts the gains she’s made for human trafficking victims as her proudest accomplishment in her first term as a city commission member, representing District 3.
Her proposal won approval from the commission and requires all businesses such as massage parlors and strip clubs to post information where victims will be able to see it.
The district is roughly defined by the city’s northwestern borders, West McNab Road to the south, and North Pine Island to the east.
“It (the information posted in adult-oriented businesses) says, ‘If you’re being trafficked, here’s the hotline,’ in English, Spanish and Mandarin,” Fishman said. “Because of that, code inspectors, fire inspectors, and law enforcement go into those businesses to verify the signs are up. Because they are unscheduled visits, they will be able to help the victims by seeing them.”
Fishman has an associate’s degree from Miami Dade College. For 12 years, she worked as a legislative aide and analyst in Tallahassee.
She came to Tamarac eight years ago to be near her father, who was ailing and has since died. But Fishman liked what she saw and got involved in the Relay for Life and the Community Emergency Response Team.
“I liked the small-town feel and the access to all the amenities that you find in larger cities,” she said.
She predicts economic development will be front and center in the city for the next four years.
“It always been important, and it’s going to be even more important now, especially for our small businesses that have been negatively impacted by this pandemic,” she said.
Fishman has raised $18,405 for her campaign, according to the latest treasurer’s report.
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- Anne Geggis has been a newspaper reporter for 30 years, most recently at the Sun Sentinel. She graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., with a double major in journalism and sociology.
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