The election: On Jan. 31, city voters will choose the District 1 commissioner, a position held by Jay Smith until his death July 7 from an inoperable brain tumor at age 49. This is a special election to fill the rest of Smith’s term which expires in November 2014. The district represents the western part of the city but the election is at-large.
The candidates: Political newcomers Stacy Kagan and John Willis are running for the seat.
The background: Parkland remains relatively uncontroversial and has one of the lowest property tax rates in Broward County. This past year the city reported property values rising higher than elsewhere in the county. In the past two years, residents criticized the commission for not doing more to stop coyotes attacks on pets. The commission hired a trapper, but the trapper blamed nosy residents for his unsuccessful efforts.
The issues: The main issue is development of the “Wedge” area, off Loxahatchee Road and south of the Hillsboro Canal. The city has annexed 700 acres of the 1,900-acre area. Parkland officials said they anticipate annexing an additional 508 acres in September. The issue is how that land will be developed; how many homes and how much they will cost.
Kagan: A Parkland resident since 2004, she is best known in the community for volunteer efforts to combat texting while driving. She was also named Volunteer of the Year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2009-10.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” she said, referring to serving in public office. “I believe in giving back to my community.”
She said chief among her goals is to create a city-run enrichment program to make up for where the schools cut, whether it’s art, music or language programs.
About the Wedge property: “My concerns are traffic patterns, community design, efficient placement of schools and public safety and the standards for new construction. Our city will grow by about 11,000 residents. That is about half of our current population. We absolutely need to plan and be prepared for what is to come.”
Willis: “The Wedge is going to effect everything in the city; it’s going to effect roads, schools, the character of Parkland. I want to make sure the Wedge is built out in the way that alleviates traffic on Holmberg Road and doesn’t cause overcrowding in the wonderful Parkland schools.”
Willis is a former Heron Bay homeowner who sold his house in a short sale because he said Chinese drywall was making his children sick. He became an activist for Chinese drywall victims and unsuccessfully tried to persuade the commission not to allow WCI Communities LLC to build more houses in several new subdivisions in the Heron Bay area because of the Chinese drywall controversy.
More than 100 homes in Parkland are thought to contain Chinese drywall, and WCI built most of them. Homeowners said Chinese drywall gave off foul odors, corroded metals and caused respiratory problems and other ailments. But testing by the U.S. government never established a link between the drywall and ill health.
“Ultimately I recognize it was a decision [not] to incur huge amounts of legal bills to fight WCI. I understood. Was I happy? No,” he said.
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Family: Married, one daughter
Education: Associate’s degree, Miami-Dade Community College, 1990; attended Florida International University and Tallahassee Community College
Occupation: Owns an Allstate insurance agency in Coral Springs
Political career: None
Civic activities: Member of Partners in Education at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and Taravella High School; advisory board member at Atlantic Technical Center; serves on the Agent Advisory Board for Allstate Florida; volunteer for the Seatbelt Check program at Douglas High; founding member of the Parkland Coral Springs Business Group; former member of The Greens Homeowners Association
Family: Married, two sons
Education: Bachelor of arts, SUNY at Stony Brook, 1989; Juris doctorate, Nova Southeastern University Law School, 1994
Occupation: Civil trial attorney
Political career: None
Civic activities: Chairman of the City of Parkland’s Education Advisory Board; member of the City of Parkland’s Chinese Drywall Task Force; city’s liaison to Heron Heights Elementary School; member of the Heron Heights PTA; former member of the Banyan Isles/Heron Bay Homeowners Association; former chairman of the Florida Bar’s Grievance Committee “C” for the 15th Judicial Circuit