Update: Dean Trantalis was sworn in on this morning (March 19) at a ceremony held in the City Commission chambers at Fort Lauderdale City Hall.
One of Broward County's leading gay activists for the past thirty years, Dean Trantalis has apparently won back the City Commission of Fort Lauderdale seat he held from 2002-2006.
The bitterly fought contest was with another former Fort Lauderdale commissioner, Charlotte Rodstrom, and the margin of victory for Trantalis was 18 votes out of nearly 3,100 cast.
With all precincts reporting, Trantalis led Rodstrom, 1,543 to 1,525. The Broward elections office still must count provisional ballots, which could possibly trigger an automatic recount if the difference narrows.
It was a run-off election between the two top vote getters, Trantalis and Rodstrom, both popular public figures in and out of the LGBT community.
Trantalis ran a vigorous 21st century style campaign, punctuated with e-mail, social media and traditional feet-on-the ground campaigning, deluging the strong LGBT venues, such as Victoria Park, with house signs on every corner.
He needed to. The initial vote drew inertia and an apathetic public response. The vote total at the time was so low, he said, "it reminded me of a campaign for high school class president."
The runoff drew more people but became more intense as both candidates bitterly battled back and forth against each other, exchanging charges on who could best serve District 2 of Fort Lauderdale.
The focus of the campaign often turned on the $200,000 cost of the election, only set into motion when Rodstrom resigned her city commission seat weeks after winning it. She vacated the seat in order to run for an open County Commission seat against a popular gay candidate, Ken Keechl. Both lost the race to Tim Ryan.
After losing the county race though, Rodstrom wound up re-entering the ‘special election’ Fort Lauderdale had to conduct for the very seat she held and had been elected for months before. It antagonized cost conscious voters.
Post ballot interviews with voters suggest the turning point against her may have been causing the city to expend funds on what many voters said was "the race that should never have been."
Gay supportive and gay friendly, Rodstrom, as well as Trantalis garnered a cross section of LGBT support. The edge went to Trantalis, who first started practicing transactional law on East Las Olas Boulevard in 1978.
Today, Trantalis operates a, stand-alone, law office boutique on Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors, handling real estate, civil matters and transactional affairs. His law office theme is "Open Door. Open Mind.” and his lifelong efforts on behalf of the LGBT community is testament to his credentials.
Over 30 years as a community activist and citizen advocate, the Connecticut native has been one of the Broward County LGBT's community's most respected spokespersons.
Twenty years ago, he was the Executive Director of the United Citizens for Human Rights, and twenty days ago, he was arguing in print and on podiums that the city of Wilton Manors was disrespecting the LGBT community by ignoring its presence and pulse on their city website.
In 1993, Trantalis, once a political science major at Boston University, became chair of Broward United Against Discrimination, a local group organized to prevent the American Family Association from inducing communities to pass restrictive anti-gay legislation.
Two years later, Trantalis was again at the epicenter of another gay rights struggle, serving as co-chair of Americans For Equality, leading the successful enactment and later the defeat of a petition drive to overturn the passage of Broward County’s Human Rights Ordinance. It is a law that extends to the LGBT community protection from discrimination in housing, in employment, and in public accommodations. Largely through Trantalis's leadership, Broward was the first county in the state to have such a law.
Trantalis first won election to Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner a decade ago, in 2002. He served one term, until 2006, but lost a subsequent run for Fort Lauderdale city mayor thereafter.
Trantalis continued to serve as an eloquent spokesperson for the LGBT community in a variety of capacities, from his presidency of the Dolphin Democratic club, to his tenure as a member of the Board of Directors of Broward House, an HIV services agency.
Most recently, Trantalis was named the "Small Business Person of the Year" by the Oakland Park-Wilton Manors Chamber of Commerce. He is now your newly elected gay city commissioner for District Two of the City of Fort Lauderdale.