By Carl Williams
There is an old proverb that says, “Rome was not built in a day.” Well, the same is true for the city of Tamarac.
The fancy homes on the west side, the booming commercial developments like Tamarac Village and Colony West, the parks and amenities, were all voted on, perhaps, before you and I were born.
Take, for instance, Tamarac Village; this development was first brought to the city commission over ten years ago! Long before we ever knew a “Michelle Gomez” or a “Marlon Bolton.” The present-day commission inherited those projects and called them their own.
Thoughtful commissioners knock on doors of thoughtful developers today to bring the best projects to their district so that the future can shine brightly.
The primary role of a city commissioner is to balance the city’s budget, hire the City Manager and the City Attorney, legislate and oversee the progress of projects in the pipeline and propose new ones for the future based on the needs of the community. When choosing a commissioner, one has to keep this in mind.
Before 2016, the only major newsworthy city project to benefit Tamarac’s East-side was its Fire Station, in my opinion, constructed under the leadership of then-Commissioner, Pamela Bushnell.
One may opine that she did not offer any substantive ideas to move the East-side in a more equitable direction compared to the western end of the city during her tenure. This meant, “every yes” vote cast to favor the west side was also built with funding from the residents living on the East with no real benefit to them.
In 2016, Marlon Bolton, now 35 years old, appeared virtually out of nowhere, professing he had the solution to the challenges the Eastside (District 1) was faced with. No one really knew who he was, but his Obama-like charisma stole the hearts of many of us.
We know from his associations then, he was beloved, and still is, by now Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, State Senator Perry Thurston, US Congressman Alcee Hastings and former US Senator, Bill Nelson. We also know his plans were bold and attractive enough to have earned him a landslide victory in 2016.
31-year-old Bolton was sworn into office that November and quickly got to work. He changed how Tamarac elected officials interact with residents — he offered his cell number to everyone, started an email newsletter, dominated social media, never stopped knocking on doors, and was seen almost everywhere. He organized community engagement events, helped residents to install hurricane shutters during major hurricanes, and, most recently, provided free masks to residents City-wide during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
But those were the small things, well, according to Bolton. “I broke a few rules — a lot of rules to accomplished big things,” he said.
It is no secret that Tamarac officials were adverse to Bolton or his ideas.
“None of my motions made between 2016 when I got elected and November 2018 were ever seconded by anyone,” clarifying the “anyone” was then-Mayor Harry Dressler, then-Vice Mayor Michelle Gomez and her friend, Commissioner Julie Fishman and Commissioner Debra Placko.
“Commissioner Placko would always come to my office and cry with me after the meetings, but she didn’t want to be the odd one out, she has a good heart,” he said. Placko could have seconded motions and voted with Bolton.
A second to Bolton’s motion would have enabled him to discuss items at-least, but would need a third person to pass it, Bolton said.
“I had a seat at the table. I forced my ideas to be heard, but I would be shut down constantly, and I didn’t know why – it’s almost like I was reluctantly invited to ride the bus but only at the back seat.” Bolton tearfully added.
An overzealous Bolton vowed to support a challenger against then-Mayor Harry Dressler to secure a third vote on the commission. Enter Elvin Villalobos.
To everyone’s surprise, with more than $30,000 in his campaign coffers, Dressler ‘retired’ before Villalobos could challenge him. In an interesting turn of events, then-Vice Mayor Gomez vacated her District 2 seat to enter the Mayoral race. She ended up winning the election by only 395 votes. A seemingly daunting victory seeing her challengers, Villalobos and Gerald Heller, political newcomers, commanded almost 60 percent of the total votes combined.
All was not lost for Bolton though. He was not only supporting Villalobos, but he also endorsed Mike Gelin, who ran for the District 2 seat previously held by Gomez. Gelin won the seat by over 65 percent against Larry Goehrig and Bill Mei. Debra Placko, who was also staunchly supported by Bolton, retained her seat, winning her election by over 68 percent beating newcomer, Doug Maesk. And so it was, Bolton’s agenda gained the needed support:
Suddenly we saw long-overdue projects happening, and the ‘Knight-in-shining-armor’ was paving the way.
Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton is the driving force behind the many improvements slated for Caporella Park, including spearheading the acquisition of additional land to expand the size of the park. He also mandated baby-changing stations in every public restroom in our city, co-championed the Little Free Library at Caporella Park, announced and promoted a discount prescription program so that Seniors have access to their medications at a lower cost and spearheaded Tamarac’s first multicultural festival, “One Tamarac,” which celebrated its third year this past February.
And there’s more to come at Caporella Park: through Vice Mayor Bolton’s hard work, Caporella Park will see major improvements in 2021 to the tune of almost 3 million dollars.
As Vice-Mayor, he’s accomplished a lot in a short time; he hosted the first “Light Up the East” event to the Eastside of Tamarac, the city’s first major event on the east side since our city’s founding 57 years ago. Prospect Road will see a new wall constructed and walls along 31st Ave. is slated to happen soon. Mainlands 1-5 will see their roads resurfaced, and a study is underway to build the city’s first Community Center on the East-side.
Overall, during his time as our Commissioner and Vice-Mayor, our district has benefited from nearly ten million dollars of projects and initiatives. And there’s more to come! We are expecting to see over 25 million dollars’ worth of improvements from 2021-2024.
Marlon admits he didn’t make a lot of friends accomplishing this much in such a short time. “Yes, I had to kick and scream at City Hall, and there are days I replay the clips, and I’m not particularly proud of them, but I fought for my residents’ tooth and nail, so it was all worth it.”
It is the spirit of bringing our community together that I like most about Marlon. In his second term, he’s planning to focus on increasing the transparency at City Hall, improving and expanding community engagement initiatives, and continuing his advocacy for public safety, low taxes, infrastructure initiatives, and senior citizens and youth programming.
Electing a new commissioner that does not have a sense of vision could slow major progress, and since Tamarac’s District 1 is seeing major progress thanks to Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton, no change is needed. “One Great term,” he says, “deserves another.”
So there, it seems Rome can be built in a day if you have the right friends to help you build it.
Carl Williams has been a resident of the Shaker Village Community for ten years. He’s married to Nella, a middle school teacher, and has two children. Currently, he is a volunteer for the Marlon Bolton Campaign after getting involved when Bolton knocked on his door and introduced himself.
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