Two of five Riviera Beach city council seats are up for grabs this March. On Tuesday night, the first candidate forum was held by the Singer Island Civic Association.
The event was not open to the public and at first even Mayor Thomas Masters was denied access.
“This is horrible,” Masters said at the entrance as he was asked to leave.
After people in the audience complained the mayor and the media were allowed in.
The election is going to be the first real test to see how much weight the voters are going to place on the controversial firing of City Manager Jonathan Evans on Sept. 20.
Chairwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson is running against Keith Golden.
Councilwoman Dawn Pardo is facing off against Julie Botel.
Miller-Anderson and Botel are vocal supporters of Evans while Pardo joined two other council members in voting to fire him.
The position of the city manager, which is still not permanently filled, came up numerous times during the three hour forum.
Pardo told WPTV she is confident she is going to win the election and that the firing of Evans won’t be a big issue for voters.
“Absolutely not,” Pardo said. “Especially on Singer Island because the residents over here understand why I fired him.”
“I strongly disagree,” said Botel. “I think the city manager issue is a huge deal. I think they fired him inappropriately. I think the reasons that have been given for his firing are not truthful.”
Miller-Anderson said she speaks to people in the community every day who tell her otherwise.
And the voters? Those we spoke to on Tuesday seem divided.
“I don’t know that much about it,” said one Singer Island resident. “I’m looking forward not backwards.”
“I think Dawn Pardo has done so much for the city that the rest is fluff,” said another Singer Island resident.
“(The firing of the city manager) is a major point for me, absolutely,” said another Singer Island resident.
“Yes, of course it is,” said another Singer Island resident. “That’s the key position that runs the city.”
Most candidates on Tuesday stressed the importance of changes that are necessary for the city.
“We need to hire qualified people,” Miller-Anderson said. “Not people that are their friends or someone that they own a favor to.”
Golden said he entered the race because of the disfunction he saw in the current city council.
“They’re always bickering and fighting and they’re lacking the leadership,” Golden said. “That’s what I’m bringing to the table.”
Botel said that she’s standing for change in the city.
“We’re not a city in turmoil,” Pardo said.
“We are,” Miller-Anderson said. “We need to be open and honest about that and we just need to go ahead and admit that and go ahead and do the right thing and correct that.”
All Riviera Beach residents can vote for all seats.
Meanwhile, a recall effort is still underway to get the three city council members who voted to fire Evans out of office.