BREAKING NEWS: The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board has endorsed Michelle Oyola McGovern for Palm Beach County Commission, District 6!

Read what they had to say:

Endorsement: Michelle Oyola McGovern for Palm Beach Commission
The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board
July 21, 2022

Democrats who must pick a successor to term-limited Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay will choose from among three qualified candidates.

Michelle Oyola McGovern spent 18 years as an aide to former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and ran his Palm Beach County office. Matt Willhite has served for six years in the Florida House and previously was a village councilman in Wellington. Sylvia Sharps is a longtime grant writer and a former county employee who finished second in a county commission race four years ago.

District 6 includes the west-county cluster of Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, The Acreage, Loxahatchee and the Glades communities.

A major issue in the district is the lack of affordable housing in Palm Beach County, which has reached crisis proportions.

McGovern, 46, of Wellington, an FAU graduate, is director of government and community relations for Baptist Health of South Florida. She would be the first Latina on the commission and lists housing affordability as her top priority. Possible solutions, she said, involve incentives to builders, public-private partnerships known as P3s, and “working with community partners.”

McGovern demonstrated her knowledge of the Glades by noting two potential sites for development. One was home to a hospital that has closed. The other is the previous home of Gove Elementary School.

But the county could do a lot more. McGovern also would require landlords to give more notice before rent increases. She wants more oversight of “bad landlords,” and an incident from District 6 proves the need for it.

The Palm Beach Post reported appalling living conditions at an apartment complex in Pahokee. County officials found mold, sewage backups and exposed wires. Tenants were paying as much as $2,000 in rent to live in that squalor.

Willhite, 51, of Wellington, is a captain with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, which makes him a full-time county employee. Roughly 60% of his campaign contributions have come from firefighters or firefighters’ political action committees. First responders merit public support, but it creates a perception of a single-constituency candidate.

On his questionnaire, Willhite did not list affordable housing as one his priorities, though he did mention support for first responders. He also cited quality of life issues, such as water, and smart growth. During the Sun Sentinel candidate interview, Willhite called his “one of the most honored professions.” We agree. But his donations suggest too narrow an agenda.

There’s another problem. One of the county’s largest budget items is the fire rescue department. Critics have argued for years that the department is top-heavy with managers and have raised questions about the generosity of pension benefits. We are uneasy with the idea of an elected official voting on his own department’s budget, especially given those campaign contributions, and voters should be, too.

McGovern is the best overall choice, based on her intergovernmental experience and extensive interaction with government officials at all levels. She began her public service career as a 22-year-old student representative on the old Board of Regents as an appointee of former Gov. Lawton Chiles.

The departing commissioner, McKinlay, has endorsed McGovern. So have most local officials in Wellington, where McGovern’s husband John serves on the village council. But McGovern also has support from the Glades, and she said she has earned those endorsements.

Overall, McGovern is the most qualified candidate for this seat. The Sun Sentinel recommends Michelle Oyola McGovern in the Democratic primary for Palm Beach County Commission District 6.

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