PAHOKEE — Two seats on the five-member Pahokee City Commission will be filled by the winners of the March 13 municipal elections. Both incumbent commissioners are among the four declared candidates, but one of the challengers is likely to be disqualified from the ballot.
For the Group 1 seat, longtime city resident Benny L. Everett III is challenging current Vice Mayor Nathaniel Holmes.
Mr. Everett, 33, was born and reared in Pahokee but lived in South Carolina for about 10 years. He attended Christian Day School in Belle Glade and went to Glades Day School for two grades, then graduated from Pahokee Middle-Senior High School. He has a bachelor’s degree in human resources from Palm Beach Atlantic University and a master’s of education from South Carolina State University in professional school counseling.
He works as a guidance counselor at Gladeview Elementary School in Belle Glade and is pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Pahokee. This is his first time running for public office.
About his candidacy, Mr. Everett explained: “My main reason for running for the Pahokee City Commission Group 1 seat is to bring about a change and to support the current projects and overall vision that the city has. I think we’re at a great opportunity, we’re at a great place, and opportunities are endless for the City of Pahokee. And I feel that I bring a skill set, a level of expertise and I want to restore decency back to the dais. Also, I just feel like we’re at a great place to make some great changes for our city that hasn’t been seen in many years.”
He said that although he has nothing personal against Commissioner Holmes — “I think everyone on the dais has Pahokee’s best interests at heart,” Mr. Everett stated — “I will say there have been times that I have disagreed. I just feel that we need individuals who are on the right side of progress,” he finished.
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. “I retired in 2013 after 25 years for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office working on task forces, civil duties and road patrol,” he said.
He has been on the Pahokee City Commission since 2015, and this is his first run for re-election.
About the reason for his campaign, Commissioner Holmes said: “I think I can help my city prosper. We need it. Our city’s not moving. We’re not bringing in any businesses or anything, and that’s my desire. I could go on and on and on, but that’s enough. We don’t even have a hotel in this city.”
He is very 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. “We had an entity that wanted to come here, but … I don’t want to call names, but our city manager seems like he cannot make that happen. We had the Miller group come and want to take over the restaurant and marina, and they were going to eventually build a hotel for us. Like I said, our city manager couldn’t make that happen. I’m not an advocate of the city manager, as you can tell.”
The Group 2 seat, occupied by City Commissioner Felisia Hill, drew one challenger, Sara Perez; however, the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office is in the process of declaring her ineligible for the municipal ballot in Pahokee because of the address she gave for her voter registration.
Ms. Perez, who said in her candidate filing that she owns Coco Dulce Inc. at 691 E. Main St. in Pahokee and gave her home address as 246 E. Main St., could not be reached for comment and did not respond to a message left on her voice mail.
Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher explained: “There was a complaint filed (about Ms. Perez’s given address). The city informed us that the address she gave for her voting registration is not a residential address. We have noticed the voter. They have 30 days to respond to our notice that the registration address is an ineligible address, and (Ms. Perez) did not re-register at an eligible address within the city. So then we have 30 days to place a legal advertisement declaring her an ineligible elector, and we’re in that 30 days now. Any votes cast for her in the March 13 election will be discarded.”
Commissioner Hill, 44, has lived in Pahokee all her life. She graduated from Pahokee Middle-Senior High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Florida Atlantic University and a master’s degree in educational leadership at Nova University.
Ms. Hill works as an academic instructor for GEO, which operates the South Bay Correctional Institution. She has been on the Pahokee commission since 2012, and this is her third election run.
She said she’s a candidate because she wants to keep fighting for the community, but then walked back the word “fight.”
“I want to continue to move forward, let me say that, because I’ve always stood on that foundation of just moving forward even with all of the issues and the things that are going on in the community,”
Commissioner Hill said. “Every now and then, you know, we have a … I would call it a little, small-town issue that we have going on, but I kind of overlook a lot of it. And my thing is to ultimately get this community, turn this community into one that’s going to benefit the children.”
She pointed out that she has two children living in Pahokee. “I want to see this community grow … (and) flourish with a lot of businesses. And ultimately, the marina, that’s one project that I want us to really focus in on, which we’re doing now. I want us to get the marina fixed and I want us to make this marina one of our treasures, which it is.”
Ms. Hill said she’s happy with City Manager Chandler Williamson’s performance. “I love the work that he’s doing. When we’ve continued to go to Tallahassee, we’ve continued to get funds that are being allocated for projects that are really needed here, even with the infrastructure. We have things going on with our roads. It’s just, a lot of things are happening and I just want to continue to move forward with it.”
She said she tries to take criticism and turn it into a positive. “We know we can’t satisfy everyone, but at the end of the day, I just want to do what’s right for this community as a whole,” Ms. Hill concluded.