Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
In Deerfield Beach, reelect Hudak and Preston
The people of Deerfield Beach in Broward’s northeast corner will elect two city commissioners March 14.
These are simple choices. Voters should stick with two hardworking and capable incumbents, Michael Hudak in District 1 and Ben Preston in District 2. Both are seeking their second four-year terms, and both have worked diligently to retain the public’s confidence.
Only voters living in those districts are eligible to cast ballots, but all voters in the city can vote on an important referendum that also deserves the public’s support (more on that later).
District 1: Michael Hudak
Hudak pays close attention to important yet overlooked issues such as the city’s decaying infrastructure, code enforcement and blight — such as the obnoxious billboards on Federal and Dixie highways. His home flooded on Thanksgiving Day 2018, and that intensified his focus on water management, stormwater protection and resiliency efforts in this coastal city.
“That seat is not mine. It’s the community’s,” Hudak said in a Sun Sentinel Editorial Board interview. “It’s vitally important that I remember that.”
Hudak, 57, and his wife Paula have five children and own a Boca Raton dry cleaning business. He’s an Air Force veteran and human resources director for a law firm.
Challenger Maria LoRicco, 57, is a first-time candidate from New Haven, Conn., who lists a master’s degree in social work and is a real estate agent.
She does not appear to have done much homework for a campaign.
LoRicco said she bought a home in the city in 1994, but she never registered to vote then. Her voting address is a home that’s in the name of her late parents.
She said she has voted in the city “intermittently”
for only a few years, but official voting records show she has voted in Deerfield Beach once, last November, and Hudak said he has never seen her at City Hall.
LoRicco cited traffic and crime as concerns but offered little in the way of solutions. She dodged even easy questions in an online interview. Asked to cite one example of how she would have voted differently from Hudak, she said: “I won’t answer that, won’t dignify that.”
District 2: Ben Preston
In District 2, Commissioner Preston, 71, is a highly accessible leader with a long record of accomplishment. He was this city’s first Black firefighter and served for 26 years. He’s an exercise physiologist with a master’s degree from Florida International University.
His work has included moving the city’s Martin Luther King celebration from Saturday back to Monday, where it belongs. He helped to get Juneteenth recognized as a city holiday, got a COVID-19 testing site in his district
and renewed the city’s ties to a cherished sports group, the Deerfield Packer Rattlers, a youth football team and cheer organization barred in 2016 after a controversy involving adults. Deerfield has an impressive youth sports history, and more than one Packer Rattler has played in the NFL.
Preston’s two challengers are Terry Scott and Darlene Swaffar. Neither responded to our calls and emails inviting them to submit a questionnaire and take part in a candidate interview.
In our opinion, candidates who refuse to participate in our screening process aren’t only ignoring us. They’re blowing off our readers, the people they want to represent.
“I’m sorry, but I do not respond to
Fake News,” Swaffar wrote on her Facebook page, paraphrasing her political hero, Donald Trump.
Swaffar, an insurance broker, ran for Congress last fall and lost in the Republican primary. The seat was won by Democrat Jared Moskowitz, who defeated Republican Joe Budd.
Preston’s other challenger, Terry
Scott, who lost narrowly to Preston four years ago, is a grassroots political consultant who attracted notoriety by once referring to Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, who is Black, as a “house n——r.”
The remark cost Scott a job as a consultant for former Sheriff Scott Israel. Scott was the focus of an illuminating profile in the New Pelican newspaper in 2020, in which he said he had no regrets about using the N-word. “I would do it again,” he said.
Scott’s confrontational style is not what the city needs.
Vote yes on referendum
Deerfield Beach voters also should vote YES on a referendum that would turn a 3.75-acre parcel of vacant land over to the city as a site for a mixed-use redevelopment project. The $178 million project would be built at I-95 and Southwest 10th Street.
The city charter requires voter approval for property transactions if the land is worth more than $750,000. A city-produced video explains the ballot question, and more information can also be found on the city’s website.
A city commission seat is considered part-time and pays $34,465 a year. Remember: Voters who want to vote by mail must ask for a ballot.
The Sun Sentinel recommends that Deerfield Beach voters reelect commissioners Mike Hudak and Ben Preston.