Last week Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed two new Broward County commissioners.
Jared Moskowitz, the state’s former director of the Division of Emergency Management, and Torey Alston, chief of staff for the Florida Department of Transportation, accepted the appointments to begin in January. Moskowitz, a Democrat from Parkland, replaces Barbara Sharief in District 8, while Alston, a Republican and Sharief’s former chief of staff, replaces Dale Holness in District 9.
Sharief and Holness resigned their commission seats to run for the vacant congressional seat in District 20. Holness lost by a razor-thin margin to businesswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick in the Democratic primary election.
On the commission’s agenda is redistricting and approving new maps as required every 10 years to ensure fair representation. Longtime activist Michael Rajner raised concerns some of the proposals could dilute the LGBT community’s voice by breaking Wilton Manors into two districts or siphoning the city off from its familiar partners Oakland Park and Fort Lauderdale.
For insight and analysis into the process, the Gazette reached out to former county commissioner Ken Keechl. Elected to the commission in 2006, Keechl was the county’s first openly gay mayor, leading Broward from 2009 to 2010. An attorney with over 30 years experience, Keechl owns a law practice in Wilton Manors specializing in LGBT relationships.
Q: Of the four commission maps, which do you favor and why?
I favor Map A. It retains the basic characteristics of my District 4 from 2006 to 2010.
Q: There have been public comments that the maps "dilute" the LGBT community by dividing Wilton Manors or lumping the city into a district with a Gov. DeSantis-picked commissioner. Do you agree with this statement?
No, I don’t. Map A retains a significant portion of Wilton Manors, Oakland Park and Fort Lauderdale. These areas have numerous LGBT voters and they elected me as an openly gay candidate. Also, I know both of Gov. DeSantis’ appointees personally. They are very LGBT-friendly. While I don’t agree often with the governor, I think he got it right on their selections.
Q: What is the term length for a county commissioner? Are there term limits for the office? Does the entire county vote in the election or is it limited to the district?
The length of the term is four years. Commissioners are limited to three terms or 12 years. A voter in the county only votes for the candidate running in his or her district.
Q: Of the commission's current makeup, which commissioner do you think is the LGBT community's closest ally?
That’s a hard question because they are all allies of the LGBT community and they are all personal friends of mine. If I had to pick one, it would probably be County Commissioner Nan Rich. When she was in the Florida Legislature years ago, she advocated for marriage equality even before the majority of LGBT individuals thought it was ever possible. As a Democrat, her bills didn’t go far, but that wasn’t the point. She was normalizing the idea of marriage equality. And her colleagues in the State Senate and House heard her loud and clear.
Q: As the state's first openly gay county commissioner what advice would you give a gay candidate now?
Be yourself. Be proud. And be passionate. It’s an awesome responsibility to ask people to let you lead them. Especially when they do and you become the mayor of a major county like Broward. It was a responsibility I never took lightly. Today, we have so many great LGBT elected officials and candidates — just look at Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park and Wilton Manors. You know the old saying — if you don’t have a seat at the table, you're probably on the menu. It was true in 2006 when I was first elected, and it’s true today.
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