Pahokee mayor, two commission seats up in municipal election Tuesday, March 12

PAHOKEE — Thanks to Pahokee native Albert L. Polk IV aka DJChurchBoy (founder) and Alexis Polk (vice president) who run the Church Boy Foundation, the eight candidates in the city elections taking place next Tuesday, March 12, were able to state their cases to the voters in person last week.

Mr. Polk acted as moderator and coordinator for a candidate forum on Wednesday evening, Feb. 27, in the city cafeteria, but he also credited a local deacon who has organized the forum for the past few years. He told the candidates the ground rules, that they each would have two minutes to answer the same questions posed to all, approximately 10 of them.

First topics were the marina and the cemetery, both of which, he said, have been operating in the red for years.

But each was asked initially to give a general initial statement.

There are three candidates for mayor of Pahokee, two for the seat in Commission Group I and three for the seat in Commission Group II. The commission will have at least one new face after the election, as one member is stepping down; two incumbents are running for re-election.

The candidates are:

• For mayor — Keith W. Babb Jr., incumbent; former Commissioner Nathaniel Holmes; and former Mayor Colin Walkes;

• In Commission Group I — Clara “Tasha” Murvin, incumbent; and Nathaniel J. Holmes II, son of the mayoral candidate;

• In Commission Group II — Newcomers Regina Bohlen, Henry Crawford Jr. and Samuel J. Martiello Jr. (the incumbent Group II commissioner, Diane Walker, announced last fall she would not be seeking re-election).

Following are brief profiles using all available sources and with quotes from their discourses on Feb. 27 and on other occasions.

Mayor Keith Babb

Mayor Keith Babb received a bachelor’s degree in social sciences at Texas College in 1979. He was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, and remains avidly involved in the Belle Glade-Pahokee Alumni Chapter. He served 22 years (1991-2002 and 2003-2015) as a city commissioner for Pahokee; during that period served three terms as vice mayor, serving under seven former mayors of Pahokee; and was elected as mayor in March 2016.

Mayor Babb’s community service includes time on the Palm Beach County Health Care District Board of Directors; serving as president of the Comprehensive Aids Program (CAP) Board of Directors and 14 years as a board member; and 15 years on the Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County. His career spans over 36 years as the Palm Beach County Division of Senior Services supervisor.

At the forum, Mr. Babb said: “This is a city on the move. We have made more improvements in three years than we had in the last 20 years.

“I have two candidates running for mayor along with myself who have served in this office for three years (each) and have nothing to show for it. I can show you tonight the progress this city has made. We have recently renovated the marina, $1.2 million; we renovated Commissioners Park, $550,000 — new basketball courts, new tennis courts, new playground equipment, new splash pad. We just received $1.6 million from the county to renovate our gymnasium for our youth.

“We’re going to be doing an $800,000 football field for our youth. So everything we’re doing, we’re doing to help this community. We have renovated and repaired over 50 percent of our roads — East Main Street, $3.5 million. We’re going to be doing Barfield Highway, in the next month, $4.6 million We have brought in over $13 million in three years in this community. No other administration has done that.”

Nathaniel Holmes

Nathaniel Holmes is a former city commissioner, replaced last year by Commissioner Bennie L. Everett III. His candidate information is available on his Facebook page.

Commissioner Holmes, 64, is a Pahokee native who left town when he was 19 and then moved back about a dozen years ago. He graduated from Pahokee High School and earned an associate’s degree at Macomb College in Michigan, then got a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Evangelical Bible College.

Mr. Holmes was a sheriff’s deputy in Palm Beach County for over two decades, having “retired in 2013 after 25 years … working on task forces, civil duties and road patrol,” he said.

He had been on the Pahokee City Commission since 2015.

Commissioner Holmes said in 2018: “I think I can help my city prosper. We need it. Our city’s not moving. We’re not bringing in any businesses … and that’s my desire. We don’t even have a hotel in this city.”

As a commissioner, he was and is still concerned about the effort to get a private operator in to run the three portions of Pahokee’s waterfront public land, which it leases from the state — the campground, marina and a restaurant that hasn’t been open in years.

At the time, an investor group that had made a proposal to take over the marina complex seemed mired in a long slog to get state approval, but it now seems to be moving forward. Mr. Holmes faulted Chandler Williamson, saying, “Our city manager seems like he cannot make that happen. I’m not an advocate of the city manager, as you can tell.”

On Feb. 27, he said he was tired of the mayor crowing about how much money has been brought in and said people see construction happening in Belle Glade and South Bay, while “Pahokee, nothing. And then they want us to fall for this over and over and over. Pahokee, it’s time for us to listen to the handwriting on the wall. See the handwriting on the wall. The handwriting on the wall is, we better make some changes.

If we don’t make no changes, we’re going to be in the same predicament three years from now. But I’ll tell you, you’ve got a better choice, and that’s me. I’ve got some plans and some ideas to move our city forward.”

Colin Walkes

A former mayor since 2013, he passed the gavel to Mayor Babb on March 22, 2016. He said at the candidates forum:

“This is a little about my background: I graduated in 1992; I went off to college at Alabama State University; I served in the military for eight years. I earned my master’s in public administration and I decided to come back home to help my city flourish. I was … in Milwaukee, Wis., watching our city going through major disrepair. I kept up with our city based on, I was a part of many boards when I graduated college and came home in 1997, so I kept up with our city. So I return back home in 2010 with the intent on serving the community. I … got involved in then Family Central because my true passion is I love to work with children, so I work with children now through Bridges at Belle Glade.

“The policy that we can work on to help our city grow is one major policy that I see is we have to become a whole city. We have to make our city whole. Annexation is one of those things that, as walking through and forth throughout the city, speaking with residents in the city, annexation is one of the major things that our residents want here within the city. And I feel that working on annexation … would help us to pull ourselves together. Once we are a city that’s together, now we have to work hard in moving and doing things that we want to do, as far as bringing businesses to our city, building homes within our city.

We all know what it is we want … but it’s going to take us working together and moving policy to get these things done. I did serve as mayor from 2013 to 2016; a lot of hard work (was done) in Tallahassee to move a lot of ideas in those three years and secured funding for roads and streets, we secured funding to help support housing here that did not happen within those three years. I thank you for your support. It’s time for us to go back to work.”

City Commission Group I:

Nathaniel J. Holmes II

The younger Mr. Holmes said: “A lot of people get me confused with my dad, who’s sitting to the left of me, Nathaniel Holmes, but no, I’m 22 years old,” said Mr. Holmes II. “I’m finally breaking off, trying to do my own thing. I’m still a student at Florida International University, School of International and Public Affairs. I’m a public administration student, and hope one day to come back home and be managing the city of Pahokee as a bureaucrat.

“But right now I want to use this opportunity as a steppingstone, to use my voice in the community, speak up for the younger generation … who don’t usually like to voice their opinion because they think they might be at difference with the older generation.

“But you know, I think Pahokee can become a community that works for everyone, for anybody, tourists, whether it’s people who’ve lived here all of their life, whether it’s people who migrated … and I have a bit of a different approach than most of the other candidates up here. I believe Pahokee should be a residential community instead of a tourist town.

“So my biggest focus as a commissioner would be housing development. New housing development is the foundation to building a middle-class tax base and other things that will stimulate the economy directly, and as a guarantee, rather than trying to rely on the marina and people coming in every year, relying on property taxes, living wages.

“I’d like to touch on literacy programs and educational programs associated with things in our own back yard, such as the marina, marine biology, agricultural studies having to do with sugar cane, corn and cabbage.”

Clara “Tasha” Murvin, incumbent

Vice Mayor Clara Murvin was newly elected in March 2016 and was appointed as vice mayor in March 2018. She is a business owner in the City of Pahokee and runs her company, Murvin & Murvin Janitorial Service, with her husband, Bernard Murvin. Ms. Murvin was born and raised in Pahokee and returned to her hometown as a homeowner and engaged citizen. She moved her family business to Pahokee because of her vision for her city and for her family.

Vice Mayor Murvin, along with her husband, has been running their company for more than three years in addition to serving the Florida Community Health Center as an environmental specialist for the last six years.

She believes in education and completed her degree in business administration from Indian River State College in the fall of 2017. She has been married 16 years to her husband and is the mother of four children, a grandmother to eight, and she and Mr. Murvin are newly adoptive parents of two children.

Vice Mayor Murvin is a member of Pahokee Church of God, where she also serves as an administrative assistant for the church’s operational needs.

On Feb. 27, she told listeners: “I now sit on the commission for the last three years, and I have been honored and humbled to serve in this seat. I am known for my ability to listen to residents, to advocate on their behalf, and I’m smart enough to know that innovation and change that are needed for the City of Pahokee won’t come easily. I am willing and I am committed to continue rolling up my sleeves in efforts to help our community.

“I know I have the experience in government, and I demonstrate positive results.” She noted several other boards she serves on, including the National League of Cities, Palm Beach County Water Utilities and the Tri-City Education Board.

“I am a commissioner by title, but I am also a public servant at heart and I always will be. That comes first. I am not running for power or glory. I’m (serving) to ensure the positive, long-term future and to continue the projects started during my term.”

City Commission Group II:

Regina Bohlen

A resident of Pahokee for 12 years, and presently the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, Mrs. Bohlen said on Wednesday night:

“I just want to talk about my platform. My platform is going to be revitalization, rebuilding and restoration. Basically what that means … is I want us to work together because we can’t revitalize this city and bring it back to the beautiful city that it has been in the past and is in the future if we don’t work together. I really feel that if we pull together as a community, all of us, and think about what’s best not just for ourselves but what’s best for us all, where we’re making plans and we’re looking at how this city moves forward, we need to pull together. We need to be together.

“We ARE together. This is the greatest community in the world. People from the outside don’t know it. What I want to say to you is … I know that people that come through here, they come flying through here, and they don’t get a chance to stop and … to meet us. We’ve got to figure out a way to get them to stop and meet us … because everybody loves us when they meet us.”

Henry Crawford Jr.

Candidate Henry Crawford Jr. is a former city commissioner who did not appear at the candidates forum Wednesday, Feb. 27. The newspaper was unable to get in touch with him before deadline, and he did not respond to other news media’s requests for information.

Mr. Crawford had been ousted in 2012 by current City Commissioner Felisia Hill, and then lost to her again in 2015.

This is from The Sun’s story on March 12, 2015, that election day: “In Pahokee, Felisia Hill grabbed 58 percent of all votes (335 votes total), beating out challenger and longtime commissioner himself, Henry Crawford Jr., who secured 42 percent of the votes in the race (241 votes total). It is the second time Felisia Hill has defeated Henry Crawford for a spot on the city commission.”

Mr. Crawford later asked the Pahokee City Commission to throw out the winner in that race for failure to comply with the city charter due to a bounced check written for registration that he contended violated the rules. The city attorney told him on behalf of the commission and city administration at their April 2015 meeting that they had no authority to do so and that he’d have to file suit in circuit court.

Samuel J. Martiello Jr.

A new resident of the city and a first-time candidate, Mr. Martiello told the audience at the Feb. 27 forum: “I recently moved to Pahokee, two and a half years ago. I bought the house at 179 Cypress Avenue, and I’ve spent the last two and a half years renovating it. Now I live there; it’s my home. And I enjoy living here because coming from Coral Springs, where you have a traffic light every corner. You’ve got two traffic lights here, or three. The residents over there, 70,000 or 80,000, we have 6,000 or 7,000 here.

“This is good country, I love it out here. In my business, I’ve been a real estate broker and property manager for over 45 years; I started when I was 23. I have a lot of experience in dealing with the city, state and government regulations. I’ve managed condo associations and homeowner associations; I do residential real estate, investments, commercial … and I’ve learned a lot in all those years.

“What I want to try to bring here to the city, just like what everybody else wants, is development, businesses. Try to take some of these older structures and make them into something. October of last year, I kept looking at that old hospital; all that time that’s gone by in trying to sell it; obviously, it kept falling through. I took it in my mind … to sell this property, and the city commissioners last night approved my sales contract to purchase the property, so it’s been sold … to a group that’s building an assisted-living facility. I’m excited about it.”

Video available online

The moderator, DJChurchBoy, had to admonish the candidates at one point. Video of the event is available on his Facebook page.

About the overall tone of the event, Mr. Polk said later: “I told them something there that’s worthy of noting. When we started, when I first opened up the candidate forum … some of them were trying to go back and forth at each other, and I had to correct them and let them know this is not a debate. It’s a forum for the citizens to learn more about your platform.

“The day you decided you were going to run for an office,” he told the candidates, “you no longer have anything to say to the person you’re running against. It’s now time for you to talk to the people out there.”

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com.

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