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Belle Glade
Pahokee mayoral race to be fiercely contested

Pahokee—The city of Pahokee has a hot race on its hands, as five candidates vie for the mayoral position, and longtime mayor J.P. Sasser tries to hold on to his seat.

The large number of candidates for a seat that holds equal voting power as the rest of the board may be indicative of what the candidates think about the current mayor. For his own part, Mayor Sasser said he hopes to continue serving the city of Pahokee in the mayoral role.

The list of candidates features a couple of political newcomers, a longtime commissioner, and a former mayor.

Leonard Rolle, who describes himself as a disaster housing inspector for FEMA, does not mince words when talking about the current mayor.
“He’s just not doing a good job right now,” said Mr. Rolle. “Basically, he really has an attitude problem. On one incident, he said, ‘maybe I’ll get some dummies to run the city; I may not run next year.’”

Rolle said one of his priorities, if elected, will be to convince the commission to resurrect the city’s police department, which was taken over by the county sheriff’s office years ago.

“That’s mandatory,” he said.

Another mayoral candidate who feels that the city is staying stagnant is Wayne Whitaker, who himself previously served as mayor of Pahokee. Asked why he is running, Whitaker said, “Because nothing is happening in Pahokee. Pahokee is dying and it needs reviving – and I think I can revive it.”

Whitaker pointed to his time as mayor as a sufficient reason to capture votes.

“We got finances straightened out, the city was out of debt, and we had a million dollars in spendable money,” he said.

The retired builder said he has enough time to focus on the city’s greatest need: jobs.

Another newcomer is Colin Walkes, who works for Family Central as a manager of VPK scholarship services in Belle Glade. Mr. Walkes made it clear that he is not challenging the mayor himself, but rather is hoping to participate in turning the city around.

His involvement in the race is “a referendum of what I see happening in the city.” Without offering specifics, Mr. Walkes said he hopes to target citizen stewardship, economic development, and education and training.

“Nothing can really move forward until the citizens get behind any initiative that is created within the community,” Mr. Walkes said. “We have to develop a sense of involvement, pride. This community produced me and when I came back, I did not like the condition the city was in.”

Mayor Sasser responded to the critical review of his time as mayor.
“None of them, whether Vice Mayor Crawford, or Mayor Whitaker have set foot in a city commission meeting since they left office,” said Sasser. “They don’t have a clue what’s going on in the city because they’re not involved.”

The mayor said he does not know whether he will be re-elected, but he has faith in voters.

“The way I look at it, if they can see through all this foolishness that’s going on and know who’s behind it, they just need to decide if they want a future for Pahokee or if they want to put people with no experience in there with a personal agenda that would basically be turning the city of Pahokee over to Palm Beach County on a silver platter.”

But the race for mayor isn’t the only one attracting a lot of activity. Commissioner Allie Biggs is facing four opponents for her seat, Seat 1. The longtime commissioner will try for re-election with candidates Matthew Lovette, Susan Feltner, Sandra Davis, and Brian Myers challenging her for the spot.

And though it appeared on Monday that Commissioner Diane Walker would win her seat automatically – as no challengers had yet been filed that morning – Lewis Pope III submitted his candidacy paperwork to the city clerk before the qualifying period ended Tuesday at noon.
Election Day for the city of Pahokee will take place March 12.