Meet the Tamarac Candidates who are Running for Office

By: Sharon Aron Baron

The deadline is fast approaching if you’re considering running for mayor or a seat on the Tamarac city commission.

According to the Supervisor of Elections, interested candidates have until June 22, 2018 to qualify. Candidates will need to open a campaign account, and shortly after get ready to raise money and knock on a lot of doors. 

The City of Tamarac will have three seats on the November 2018 ballot including an open seat for mayor and two for city commission. If you are a civic-minded resident that truly cares about local government, this is the job for you.

These are lucrative part-time jobs as well, so it would be a shame if any of these candidates ran unopposed. For instance, a commissioner in Tamarac makes $33,000 and the mayor makes $38,000 plus each get a hefty $700 monthly car allowance, travel expenses, health and life insurance, and a host of other benefits.

Mayor

The seat for mayor will be open after Harry Dressler announced he his retirement after his term runs out in November.

Too bad. 

After taxpayers paid for two trips for continuing education at Harvard at a cost of over $24,000, he’s not sticking around so residents can reap the benefits.  So far, there are three interested candidates that have announced they are running:   Michelle Gomez, Gerald Heller and Elvin Villalobos.

Michelle Gomez

Gomez is an attorney, who resides in the Woodlands Country Club and was first appointed to the seat after Patte Atkins-Grad stepped down after facing a recall. Gomez was then elected for the seat in 2014.  Both commissioners Gomez and Julie Fishman are inseparable and the pair vote the same at commission meetings. This type of block voting should cause concern for residents.

Gomez also has a close relationship with 13th Floor Homes who are proposing over 500 homes on 2-18 hole golf courses in the 900-home Woodlands Country Club community. The builder’s renderings includes no new home planned next door to hers.  Although there is more than enough lot space for one, all other neighbors with lots nearby, have homes proposed next door or across from them.  Not hers. Gomez knew about the planned golf course sale before her constituents did, never sharing this information for almost a year and was instrumental in setting up meetings between the builder and residents.  If she is elected mayor, approval for these new homes will go before her for approval.

Last year, Gomez was one of the of several commissioners who spent more than her annual discretionary allowance by $599.24, and attended events and galas on the taxpayer’s dime around the county. Gomez also refused to consider giving up her $700 monthly car allowance when asked to vote on the item. 

As a current sitting commissioner, Gomez has name recognition. Keep an eye on her campaign report for large campaign donations from corporations who will eventually appear before her.

Gerald Heller

Heller is a resident of Kings Point with over 40 years as a business leader and employer in Broward County. Currently, he is the Director of Business Development at JAS Interconnect Solutions, which according to the website, is an international source for electronic interconnects component, airplane spares, mil-hardware, and semiconductors requirements.   In 2016, he ran for city commission seat District 3 and lost against Julie Fishman.  Heller was one of the residents in Kings Point who fought against a proposed charter school which was proposed at the Sportsplex, something that both Fishman Gomez did not protest.  The plan was eventually scrapped.

Heller’s problem may be no one outside of Kings Point knows he is, so he’s going to have to work hard knocking on doors meeting residents around the city.  At over 80 years old, and no real following on social media, Heller has a lot of work to do.

Elvin Villalobos

Villalobos is a newcomer to politics. Currently, living in District 1, he is originally from Nicaragua and lived in Miami until he moved to Tamarac over two years ago.  He works from home as a distributer for filters and has five employees. He has been the president of the Banyan Lakes homeowner’s association for two years, and was appointed to serve on the board of the parks and recreation committee in Tamarac by Commissioner Marlon Bolton. Villalobos graduated with an online degree from Keiser University – a bachelor of arts with concentrations in both political science and business administration and said he watches city commission meetings online. 

Villalobos believes in fiscal responsibility and said that he wants to remove the $700 car monthly car allowance, and as mayor he would forgo it.  Something residents have been complaining about for years.

Villalobos will have a tough with his name at the bottom of the ticket and lack of name recognition. But there is still a lot of time.

District 2

Mike Gelin

Gelin is the owner of The Gelin Benefits Group – an Insurance Brokerage, Advisory & Benefits Consulting firm. He unsuccessfully ran against Dressler in 2014, and was one of two finalists to fill the seat left open by Patti Atkins Grad in 2013. Despite his impressive background, the commission voted to appoint Michelle Gomez to the seat.

Gelin said he understands the importance of serving the community and has volunteered representing the City of Tamarac on the community involvement roundtable of the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), has served on the City of Tamarac’s Insurance Advisory Board and is a graduate of the 2009 class of Tamarac University. 

Regarding the proposed new homes in the Woodlands Country Club, Gelin said it will be his role as an elected official to educate the residents of the pros and cons of a project or a development and they don’t agree, then his role would be to represent the voice of the residents.

Gelin has the personality and the background to make a difference in the community.  His thoughtful intelligent demeanor may win over District 2 residents, but he must get out there and meet them.

Larry Goehrig

Goehrig is an Operations Administrator for the Huizenga School of Business at Nova Southeastern University and currently lives in Westwood 2. Back in 2013, he was one of several applicants applying for the open district seat after Atkins-Grad left. Although he was a strong candidate, he was not one of the finalists.

Appointed by Michelle Gomez, Goehrig serves on the city’s parks and recreation board.  He is also appointed by Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine for the county’s parks and recreation board.

Although he is not fully informed about the current proposal to build over 500 homes in the Woodlands Country Club, he said he fought hard to keep the former owners of Colony West from selling to developers.  He’s happy the city has purchased the golf course, and likes the green space around it, however, he’s not sure whether it’s been a profitable move for the city.

Goehrig doesn’t have name recognition with many people in District 2 and he must get out there and connect with them and find out what their needs are.

District 4

Doug Maesk

Maesk is a resident of Woodmont and has challenged the sitting commissioner. He is the owner of Maesk Group Inc., where he is a psychotherapist.

Maesk, who has no political experience, said one of his priorities will be stopping the wasteful spending from commission members.

He said that Tamarac is changing, and is getting younger and more diverse. He believes more work needs to be done to make the city attractive for this new generation.   Because Maesk doesn’t have name recognition or a social media following, unless he works hard these next few months he will have a difficult time winning the seat.

Debra Placko

Debra Placko was appointed in 2014 to fill the open seat after Harry Dressler was appointed mayor.  That same year, she was elected after running unopposed. She is retired after working at JByrons clothing store for 15 years.  

Last year, Placko was one of the commissioners who spent $443.93 more than her annual discretionary allowance was budgeted for,  and attended events and galas on the taxpayer’s dime around the county.

Placko refused to consider giving up her $700 monthly car allowance when asked to vote on the item.  She also voted against the wishes of her residents by moving forward on a golf course maintenance building behind their homes.   

Placko has the advantage of name recognition which may help her win reelection.

To Run For Office:

Residents who want to run must live in the district they are running, except for mayor – an at-large seat. Qualifying begins at noon on June 18, 2018 and ends at noon on June 22, 2018.  For more information on running, contact Tamarac City Clerk Pat.Teufel@tamarac.org.

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Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and writer for Tamarac Talk, Coral Springs Talk and Parkland Talk.

Tamarac Talk was created in 2010 to provide News, Views and Entertainment for the residents of Tamarac.