The Gatekeeper: Scott Wyman on Inside of Historic Mayoral Term

Scott Wyman: Via Facebook

It’s hard to talk about Scott Wyman’s South Florida experience without mentioning Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis. And he’s OK with that. Because it’s also true that Wyman should be mentioned in the conversation of Trantalis’ recent successes.

But first things first.

Wyman is the assistant to the city’s first openly gay mayor. His life and career have been forever shaped by the relationship.

Trantalis was elected March 18, 2018. There is currently no city in the southern U.S. larger than Fort Lauderdale with an LGBT-elected official. Annise Parker, the former mayor of Houston who campaigned for Trantalis, previously held the title.

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Via Scott Wyman

The election was also significant because City Commissioner Steve Glassman, also a gay man, replaced Trantalis in District 2. The two have been friends for many years.

As agay man himself Wyman is proud to be a part of the LGBT history.

“It’s kind of incredible,” Wyman said in a recent interview. “It was also great to be at the federal courthouse and have a rally with [Trantalis] when the Windsor decision came down.” 

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Windsor case that the federal government could not discriminate against married lesbian and gay couples for federal benefits and other protections.

Wyman said the mayor has a history of LGBT advocacy.

“He was the chair of the group that pushed for the nondiscrimination ordinance in [Broward County] and the domestic partnership law,” Wyman said. “He pushed the commission to pass a resolution supporting marriage equality.” 

South Florida Bound

Wyman is far, far from home. He grew up near the Yellowstone River in the southern Montana city of Billings with his parents and two older sisters.

“Billings is the big city of Montana with a population of 90,000,” he said with a chuckle.

Like many have, he yearned to get away and see more of the country.

Off to the University of Missouri he went, earning degrees in journalism and political science in 1989. With a talent for writing and journalism, he went on to work for three newspapers in both Missouri and South Carolina.

Wyman, 51 and single, has lived in Fort Lauderdale since 2000. 

Scott Wyman, Dean Trantalis, and Friend

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Via Facebook

He lives in the South Middle River neighborhood and in his spare time does the “normal South Florida stuff.” 

When he’s not running a meeting or tackling an issue for Trantalis, you can find him at the theater, movies, pool, beach, or on Wilton Drive with friends. 

His first job here was at the Sun Sentinel covering Broward County and the city of Fort Lauderdale as a senior political writer. He’d stay at the publication for more than a decade.

But even in the midst of a good run, Wyman said it was time to change careers in 2011.

Bring On The Politics

With a feel for South Florida politics, he’d land a job as the assistant to Charlotte Rodstrom, who’d been a city commissioner since 2006.

He would end up running in a special election in the spring of 2013, losing to Trantalis.

“Which puts me in an awkward position because you’re an at-will employee,” Wyman said. “And most of the time people want to bring in their own person.”

But Wyman said he’d formed a relationship with Trantalis over the years because he had written numerous stories about both the LGBT community and the political issues that involved him.

Trantalis would bring Wyman on as his assistant. He was the District 2 commissioner from 2013 until 2018 when he became mayor.

Historic Run

Wyman said it would be a mistake to conclude that Trantalis was a shoo-in for mayor. He said the race was a tough one.

There were three prominent people running in the election – Rodstrom in the primary and then Bruce Roberts, former vice mayor and police chief, running against Trantalis in the general election. 

Wyman said former Fort Lauderdale mayor Jack Siler and several members of the city’s business leadership were supporting Roberts, too.

“Dean got in [the race] late and so we had to raise money very fast,” Wyman said. “He had to campaign very fast. Bruce had been out there over a year, as had Charlotte, and so Dean had a lot of ground to make up in a short period of time,” Wyman said.

The final results, however, proved that the residents of Fort Lauderdale were ready for a change in direction. Trantalis won 64 percent of the vote.

Early Successes

Wyman said he thinks most residents are happy with the mayor so far.

He’s brought an end to the WAVE streetcar project and has proposed alternatives, he’s promised to make changes in city leadership (there’s now a new manager and attorney), there’s been infrastructure repair and an initiative was launched to help close down a homeless encampment.

“The prior administration had gone in and arrested people for feeding the homeless and had bulldozed the encampment and the city was in lawsuits,” Wyman said. “Dean’s approach was: let’s go in with more compassion – so we joined with the county and other stakeholders [to] come up with the Housing First plan.”

The plan offered housing, wrap around social services and a community court option instead of jail time for minor misdemeanors like panhandling and public intoxication. The camp has since closed.

Voters had also been concerned about the pace of development and growth in Fort Lauderdale and Wyman said in the months since the election the commission has taken more of an analytical and skeptical approach.

“That’s not to say they haven’t approved projects, because they have, but they’ve also rejected some and toned others down,” Wyman said.

The top issues on resident’s minds right now, Wyman said, are traffic, scooters, and code enforcement, such as building permits and construction-related issues. 

Why Wyman’s Important

The mayor of Fort Lauderdale essentially serves as one of five city commissioners. The mayor is elected citywide, but he doesn’t have any special powers when it comes to running the city.

“We aren’t New York City or Chicago where the mayor runs the city,” Wyman said. “However, he has a bully pulpit and is the only person representing the entire city. And he has the gavel at the meetings.”

Scott Wyman @ the 2019 Pride Fort Lauderdale Fashion Show

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The mayor and city commissioner positions are not meant to be full-time, either, even if in reality they are.

“For Dean, how do you run a successful law practice and still do what you need to do as mayor? That’s where having somebody behind you is important, and so my job basically covers everything you can think of because I’m the only staff person,” Wyman said.

He controls the mayor’s calendar. He controls his meetings.

“Everybody wants to talk to the mayor, everybody wants a moment and I end up being the gatekeeper to that,” he said.

Wyman also does issue and policy research and produces a popular newsletter. 

“I’m a liaison to staff, because there’s so many people wanting his attention. Sometimes it’s easier for him to say: ‘You go deal with staff on this issue and report back to me,’” Wyman said. 

Day In The Life

On one particular Thursday, Wyman and Trantalis were in an all-day goal setting workshop with city commissioners. Trantalis would go on to have a meeting at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, attend a benefit for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital and speak at an economic development summit. He ended the day by stopping by a neighborhood association dinner.

“He never lets up. He’ll do three, four events a night,” Wyman said. 

So with all of his political experience, does Wyman have his own political aspirations?

“I really enjoy what I’m doing right now; I think Dean and I make a great team,” Wyman said. “To me, this is the best job you can have. I love writing. I love researching. And I love the politics and the governance of it. So I think it’s worked out well.”

 



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