In Tuesday’s election, three city council seats will be filled by newcomers because of term limits that voters overwhelmingly passed in 2014.
Most of the candidates point to the same major challenges facing the city: properly handling the 50 acres for economic development the city is getting from the Avenir project; dealing with mounting traffic, ensuring transparency in city government; and grappling with the negatives of the coming Brightline high-speed rail and sober homes.
Seeking the Group 1 seat are optometrist Mark Marciano and Michael Paolercio, co-founder of Michael Anthony Jewelers, who says his business experience would help draw big corporations and their white-collar jobs. Paolercio, 65, is a director on the property owner association board of Frenchmen’s Reserve, where he’s had a home since 2007, and of the Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens synagogue.
Marciano, 46, has deeper and wider civic experience. A resident for 17 years, he has served on the city’s budget oversight committee since 2012, for two years as its chair. His knowledge of the town is extensive, having lived on the east side as well as in PGA National and participating in the Youth Athletic Association, local Chambers of Commerce and PGA Corridor Association.
In Group 3, attorney Matthew Lane is facing homemaker Kathryn Gettinger and Quicken Loans co-founder Ronald Berman. Berman, 60, who ran unsuccessfully for State Senate District 30 last year, seems to be pursuing the city council seat as his consolation prize. Gettinger, 45, is running a quixotic campaign, refusing to send postcards out of concern for the environment.
Lane, however, is going full-bore with a well-funded campaign and detailed proposals for a slew of city problems. At 61, the Emory and Northwestern-trained lawyer (Phi Beta Kappa, he quickly tells you) belongs to a host of civic organizations and has the support of former mayors. He says that with a city council full of rookies, “we need some some know-how from Day 1.” We agree.
Four candidates are vying for the Group 5 seat: Kevin Easton, 62, a Pratt and Whitney retiree who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2011, briefly ran in 2016, and co-founded the successful drive for term limits; George Wicker, 73, who spent 32 years in strategic planning, finance, law and executive management at Lockheed Martin before retiring; Joe Russo, 27, the son of the Gardens’ longtime mayor of the same name; and Rachelle Litt, 61, a pharmacist at Jupiter Medical Center.
Of the four, Russo and Litt are the more impressive candidates. Despite his youth and boyish appearance, Russo has an encyclopedic knowledge of the issues and smart ideas to address them. He is the best-funded of the candidates, his contributors including Realtors, investment companies and Florida CFO Jeff Atwater. Russo started and runs @Palm Beach Tech Association to promote next-generation economic growth.
Russo and Litt largely agree on the big issues, such as the need to actively seek a regional solution to traffic pressures. But Litt places a heavier emphasis on preserving green space and improving recreation facilities. A 30-year resident, she and her physician husband raised three children in the city. We believe that her life experience — as well as her close knowledge of the healthcare sector, a growing part of the town’s economy — give her an edge.
For Palm Beach Gardens, we endorse Marciano, Lane and Litt.
Palm Beach Post endorsements for the March 14 municipal elections will be posted online throughout this week on a city by city basis. They will be published in total in the Sunday, March 12, print edition.