A city activist once accused of assaulting a drag queen, a sitting mayor and two incumbent commissioners are among six candidates who qualified to run in the November 6, 2018 municipal election.
Up for grabs are the mayor’s seat, a two-year post currently held by Gary Resnick, 58, and two at-large, four-year commission seats held by D. Scott Newton, 60, and Justin Flippen, 40.
Incumbents Resnick and Flippen are seeking to flip-flop their seats and Newton is hoping to be re-elected as commissioner. The slate also includes a political newcomer and two activists who both ran and lost in 2016.
Known as the “second gayest city” in the U.S., the upcoming election in this quirky, upscale bedroom community of nearly 13,000 residents looks to focus on everything from strategic growth and water quality to parking and fiscal responsibility.
Flippen is currently serving as the city’s vice mayor, an honorary title bestowed by the City Commission. He faces Boyd Corbin, 50, an outspoken city activist who previously ran for office twice and lost, in his quest for mayor.
The four-way race to fill two commission seats includes incumbent commissioner Newton, a longtime Oakland Park business owner; Resnick, the city’s current mayor and an attorney with 20 years on the commission; political newcomer Katharine “Kat” Campbell, 43, a licensed clinical social worker and mother of one; and Paul Rolli, 67, a city activist and retired IRS director.
Corbin, a flamboyant personality who regularly speaks at City Commission meetings, is running on a platform of less crime, lower taxes and sensible parking. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2014 and 2016. He’s hoping the third time’s a charm.
His claim to fame is a 2012 altercation with a drag queen while dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes during the Wicked Manors street party. The confrontation involved a 5-foot cross, a lit torch, high heels and various stories about what actually transpired. Corbin was exonerated. A page on his election website notes the arrest with the title, “False arrest - this could only happen in Wilton Manors.”
“Why am I running? We are running our city financially into the ground. We are doing six percent annual city raises for eight years in a row. It’s incredible. We need changes there,” Corbin said.
He’s against converting Wilton Drive to a two-lane road and is extremely critical of the city’s Police Department. He believes the city could save tons of cash by dumping the outside company it uses to read parking meters and put police officers on the streets to do the job instead. He’s also concerned about the quality of the city’s water and the price it pays to Fort Lauderdale to provide it.
His opponent, Justin Flippen, is running on a platform of experience, fiscal responsibility, inclusive community values and protecting the neighborhoods’ small town feel.
A project manager with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Conventions and Visitors Bureau, Flippen grew up in Wilton Manors. He’s served six years on the commission — from 2008-2010 and 2014 to present. His top priority is fiscal responsibility and he wants a chance to continue guiding the city from the mayor’s seat.
“The single most important issue the city deals with is our budget. Maintaining a balance between the millage rate and services is probably the biggest balancing act we strike every year,” Flippen said.
He also wants to strengthen public safety, protect the city’s neighborhoods and find new ways to lower water rates. Flippen touts his longtime ties to Wilton Manors and his lifelong connection to Broward County as reasons to elect him mayor. When he ran for office in 2014, he positioned himself as “The People’s Commissioner,” because of his grassroots approach to public service, popular appeal and city connections.
The four-way field for the two at-large commission seats pits two incumbents against a political newcomer and a city activist.
Resnick, who served as commissioner from 1998-2008 and mayor from 2008 to present, is Florida’s longest serving openly gay elected official. He is hoping his switch from mayor to commissioner will mean victory.
“I’ve been mayor for 10 years. I decided that was enough as mayor. Obviously I still love the city and would like to help move it forward. Serving as commissioner would be the best route right now to still be able to serve the city,” Resnick said.
His focus is economic development, specifically bringing in businesses that will sustain the city’s daytime economy as opposed to more night-time entertainment businesses. The narrowing of Wilton Drive to two lanes is also a priority because it will affect local business, he said.
Resnick, on the board of the national League of Cities, recently traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas to push for more federal dollars for infrastructure for local government.
“We have 12 bridges in Wilton Manors, most of which are owned by the city. I think the one in my neighborhood is 80 years old,” he noted.
He says the relationships he’s developed over time give him an edge over his opponents.
Newton, who served as mayor from 2004-2008 and commissioner from 2000-2004 and 2010 to present, is running on a platform of experience.
A 56-year resident of Broward County, Newton’s re-election website describes him as “a leader who is known for his integrity and success in bringing us together for the common purpose of improving our community.”
“I plan to continue to use my community experience and commitment to make a difference in public safety, economic development and the overall quality of life we have all come to enjoy in Wilton Manors,” says a quote on his website. “ I am a proud longtime resident of our city. I understand where we come from and where we need to go.”
Newton’s website touts his service, leadership and experience.
Campbell and Rolli both want a chance to make a difference by relying on their own unique world views.
Retaining Wilton Manors’ small town atmosphere is important to Campbell, the mother of a 10-year-old girl and a clinical social worker who specializes in counseling and consulting services for the LGBT community.
She supports responsible development, a sustainable economy, an engaged community and environmental innovation.
Campbell would also like to see more kid-friendly amenities in a city that is primarily geared toward adults. She says the city’s homey atmosphere is one of the main reasons she considers Wilton Manors such a great place to raise a child.
“I think it’s OK they don’t have a huge number of activities for kids but I also think we could do a better job of engaging our children and families with kids,” Campbell said.
Rolli, who attends every city commission and planning and zoning meeting, is a focused retiree who believes his extensive experience in federal government and his personal activism qualify him for commission. He ran for commission in 2016, narrowly losing to Julie Carson.
Rolli served as director of overseas operations for the IRS and has broad government management experience in terms of programs, policies and overseeing large numbers of employees, he said.
“I had more employees under me than are in the city of Wilton Manors,” Rolli said. “I would like to be part of the next generation of leadership. I want to listen to the residents - what is it the residents want and what do we need as a city? I would like to guide it where we want it to go. I would like to be pro-active in guiding the city as opposed to being complacent and letting developers take over.”
Smart growth and water quality will be key issues as the city moves forward, Rolli said.
“I think the city basically does a good job running (things) on day to day operations. But I don’t think they are structured or staffed properly to deal with future challenges that involve smart development and smart growth,” Rolli said. “Development is going to come whether we like it or not. We want to guide the development so we can have some say in it.”
Water quality, sea level rise and salt-water intrusion will also pose challenges in the future, Rolli noted.