(Mirror) For the last 10 years, Steve Glassman was officially retired. Today, he’s a Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner. Glassman was always active in civic engagement and community politics. For nearly 20 years, he watched almost every meeting of the planning and zoning committee. But last year, he saw an opportunity.
“When my friend Dean Trantalis changed his mind and didn’t run for re-election [of District 2] and instead run for Mayor, I thought it left a void,” Glassman said of the current Fort Lauderdale Mayor. Trantalis is Fort Lauderdale’s first openly gay mayor.
Glassman was interested in taking over the position but still did a little homework. He called presidents of neighborhood associations and other community activists to gauge their interest. He had a lot of support to run.
“The older I get, the more I appreciate challenges,” he said. “I said, ‘why not’ and plunged right in.”
Glassman was sworn in as the new District 2 city commissioner in March. He’s 65.
Lifetime of service
After getting a degree in education from State University of New York at Buffalo, Glassman was a teacher. For 18 years, he taught Theatrer Arts and Language Arts at Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts.
Then in 1994, he and his husband, Rande, moved to South Florida. In 1998 he started working for the Broward County Cultural Division. First as an arts education specialist, then to ArtsParks Project Administrator. For the last five years of his work, he was responsible for arts education and community development. He retired in 2008.
He’s a longtime advocate for the arts and historic preservation. During his career and into retirement, he was constantly appointed to boards, committees, and other positions.
“Up until I announced [my candidacy] in November, I was serving on the planning and zoning board,” Glassman said. “I was always very involved and paying attention.”
And that attention has paid off. He served on the city’s beach redevelopment advisory board for three years and the planning and zoning board for six. His hobbies in retirement were serving on boards and being active in the community.
Plans for the future
Retirement should be a time for relaxing in your golden years. For Glassman, it was just primping him for the next phase of his community service: retention. He’s sad that people are leaving Fort Lauderdale.
“I ran because I'm worried about the quality of life,” he said. “Overdevelopment is an issue and I've heard people leaving for a variety of reasons. We have to have a reason for people to stay here, particularly young people.”
Glassman adores the diversity of the city. He wants to see good job opportunities for young people. To have a good quality of life and a good salary. He’s also concerned about environmental threats, like sea level rise, and putting more money towards educational resources.
“We've been disconnected from the school board and Fort Lauderdale hasn't gotten its fair share of the county budget,” he said. “Our schools are older than those out west. It's one big school district and we've made a lot of sacrifices.”
Homelessness is also a concern of Glassman’s. Under former mayor Jack Seiler, the city passed an ordinance that outlawed feeding the homeless. Trantalis said he won’t enforce the ordinance as mayor. Glassman is looking for long-term solutions.
“We have to have a humanitarian way to handle [them] but also not impede on residents,” he said. “I'm not sure if there is one solution since the issue is so complicated. Services can be provided once they get a place to live. Rapid rehousing is a main goal.”
Constant communication with citizens
For Glassman — a longtime community volunteer — becoming an elected official didn’t seem much different than his previous work. But he doesn’t want anyone to expect he isn’t putting his all into it.
“The position is ‘part-time’ but anyone who thinks this is part-time is not really paying attention,” he said. “If you do this part-time, you're not giving it what it should be given.”
Glassman said he works a few hours every day. He’s constantly checking email, talking with his assistant, preparing for meetings and chatting with constituents. This is all happening even though official hours are on Thursday.
“I pride myself on being prepared for every meeting on every issue,” he said. “There's always a lot to do.”
He still manages to find time to travel. He and his husband took a trip to Alaska this past summer. And he does his best to schedule time for meals with his spouse.
“I’ve been in my relationship for 45 years,” he said. “Unless I have meetings downtown that run late, I try to make sure we have time to spend together for dinner.”
He has a Facebook page he’s constantly updating. Fans of his page don’t need to visit City Hall (although they can) — they just need to send him a Facebook message. He’s always available.
“I can be working anywhere,” he said. “I have an iPad and a phone and computer. I never clock it or set time but when I look at my calendar, it definitely is a full-time job.”
Now as a city commissioner, Glassman has found himself attending many more local events and programs than he did before he was elected.
“As a regular citizen, I was involved, [but] I wasn't always attending events in the city,” he said. “As an elected official, I push myself more than I did before. I'm truly amazed at the events that go on in our city.”
The myriad of events was surprising to Glassman. While aware that the city did quite a bit, he was still amazed at the high level of volunteer work that goes into planning and executing. He tries to recognize community members at meetings.
“I try to read proclamations at every meeting that recognize people and events,” he said. “I try to recognize folks in arts, culture, and historical areas. Recognizing students is important. Those are the kinds of things I care about.”
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