There are three candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot vying to be the next mayor of Wilton Manors. One of those has previously held the seat.
Scott Newton, who was mayor from 2004 to 2008, is asking voters to choose him again — this time over Julie Carson and Josie Smith-Malave. Newton was also vice mayor for two years and a city commissioner for 12 years. He chaired the city’s planning and zoning committee as well.
This year’s election went through some reconfiguring after Mayor Justin Flippen unexpectedly died in office in late February. There are also three seats on the city commission up for grabs.
Newton, 63, has lived in Wilton Manors since he was a toddler, save a stint at Tallahassee Community College.
His adult and professional life has been all about Wilton Manors. (He remembers well when George Kissinger opened Georgie’s Alibi in 1997, he said.)
“I really do love my city. It’s changed for the better. It used to be a sleepy little blue-collar town,” Newton said. “The diversity of businesses, the diversity of people — my neighborhood is beautiful — you know every person on the block.”
He and his wife, Cindy, who does dog rescue work, have been married for 39 years. They have three children and three grandchildren.
Newton’s grandfather owned an upholstery shop and taught him the business. He would take the same path, opening Quality Interiors in Fort Lauderdale. It’s been in operation for more than 34 years.
Newton said although he’s now semiretired, he oversees the business and still services clients. Semiretired or not, he clearly can’t sit still.
After hurricanes have come and gone, Newton has delivered ice, cases of water and sandwiches throughout Wilton Manors. His community service includes time with the Dolphin Democrats, Kiwanis Club of Wilton Manors and Wilton Manors Little League baseball, just to name a few.
He’s been contributing during the pandemic — using extra fabric from his upholstery shop to make and distribute masks. Newton assists at the weekly food distribution operation at Mills Pond Park. He’s delivered food to the homes of those who can’t leave or are too scared to leave.
COVID-19 recently hit very close to home.
“Personally, things have been very tough,” Newton said. “My wife and I came down with coronavirus. We were out for a few weeks. Testing is a joke. We went to get tested and it took nine days to get it back. We stayed home for three and a half weeks and got retested and it was negative,” he said.
Newton said while he and his wife are back to good health, he warns that the virus is no joke.
“The first five days were really tough,” he said. “I have a little bit of asthma and you think it’s no big deal.”
He spent about six hours at the hospital getting checked out.
“Every bone in your body aches and there are bad headaches and the cough,” Newton said.
Now, the ever community service-minded Newton wants to get tested for antibodies so he can qualify to donate plasma to other COVID-19 patients.
Newton’s been back on the campaign trail since, as different as that is this time around.
In late July, he said he’d raised about $13,000 and he was happy with the amount.
“I’m not one of those guys that need to raise $35,000. I don’t want to raise money just to raise money,” he said. “It’s a different animal this time around. I don’t think it’s right to be going door-to-door.”
Newton said he’s using Facebook and other platforms to stay connected with the community and is also sending out direct mail.
He has the most government experience in Wilton Manors among the candidates — a total of 18 years. He said even when he wasn’t on the city commission, he and Flippen talked every week.
“He’d bounce some things off of me. We were friends since day one,” he said. “We miss him. He was a very good advocate.”
Newton said he’s seen other economic downturns in Wilton Manors and was instrumental in bolstering the city’s financial security.
“I believe I did a great job [as mayor] in 2008. It was a bad economy and we made tough decisions. We need someone who can bring not just ideas, but the community and the commission together,” he said.
Newton said he “cut a lot of the fat” from the Wilton Manors budget.
“My philosophy was: you tell me what you really need and I’ll get it for you. And it made a big difference. We weren’t playing games with the budget,” he said.
Newton said he doesn’t have anything negative to say about his opponents, but said the city needs a proven leader and that’s him.
“I don’t know [Malave] that well. I’ve been to her restaurant and enjoyed it. She seems like a nice person. Julie [Carson] and I have been friends for a long time,” he said.
Newton said he was always at the forefront to help bring equality for all people to Wilton Manors, but that the sexual orientation of the mayor shouldn’t be relevant.
He said previous commissioners and mayors were elected to represent the entire city, its residents and business owners.
Newton said he’s most concerned about the safety and welfare of the citizens of Wilton Manors. Beyond that, it’s all about economic growth and a sustainable quality of life that won’t “place an undue burden on taxpayers.”
He believes the downtown district has been improving for many years, but said revitalization efforts need to continue with more homes and businesses. He thinks more doctors’ offices and other drop-in businesses as well as a suite of satellite offices for one of Florida’s colleges or universities would make a big difference.
And Newton wants to keep moving on improvements to the city’s infrastructure, a new police and city hall and new parks with upgrades to current ones.