West Palm Beach is due for a new mayor; three candidates running are making their names known to residents of the city.
Residents have been getting to know the candidates, Priscilla Taylor, Paula Ryan and Keith James, through forums and debates in which the contenders share their views.
The most recent Mayoral Forum was held at the The Hilton in West Palm Beach on Feb. 21.
Taylor is a 34-year resident of West Palm Beach and former county commissioner. Her priorities for the city include making housing more affordable, keeping water supply safe and addressing crime in the city’s north end, according to the Priscilla Taylor for Mayor of West Palm Beach website.
City Commissioner Paula Ryan has worked for the city for the past 17 years. She hopes to reduce crime by supporting local police, reduce homelessness and improve traffic, according to the Paula Ryan for Mayor website.
Since being elected a city commissioner in 2011, Keith James has supported community programs such as the American Bar association.
He is working to continue the city’s sustainable practices, keep crime low and work on his six-point plan for tackling homelessness, according to the Keith James for Mayor website.
The impact that homelessness has on the city was a prominent topic of discussion at the forum.
“It’s dramatically impacting quality of life, business are suffering and economic value is diminished greatly,” Ryan said.
Ryan plans to decrease homelessness through intervention programs and by providing more affordable housing options.
Taylor agreed that reducing the problem should be a priority for the city.
“It is an issue, it is not easy, but we must address it. . .” Taylor said regarding the homelessness in West Palm Beach. “Everyone deserves to have a home.”
The candidates’ business knowledge was also put to the test at the forum, as each were asked to explain their qualifications for managing an organization of great size and complexity.
Priscilla Taylor owned an insurance company for 25 years with offices in Martin and Palm Beach counties. Taylor claims on her website that her expertise in the field will help her promote new businesses and lower property tax.
“My experience [in managing] is rather vast. . . I have owned and operated my own business. I did it for an excess of 20 years,” Taylor said. “Having 1,600 employees and a budget of $200 million is something smaller than what I have done before.”
Keith James is a business owner and lawyer who works with many small and medium size businesses.
“One of the key elements of being mayor of this city is establishing relationships,” James said. “You can have the best ideas as a strong mayor, but you still need three votes to implement those.”
As a CEO for a major firm, Paula Ryan built and managed over 10,000 affordable housing homes for families.
“I have experience working in partnership,” Ryan said. “I have experience with community leaders, with governments, and making decisions that are going to affect the lives of not only the community that I build, but the grounding areas in which they are located.”
Those who attended the forum were able to see the candidates’ views on certain issues, as well as get to know their leadership style.
“It was excellent because we got to know each person as an individual,” four-year resident of West Palm Beach Samantha Ditosto said. “I felt good about certain [candidates] that I would not have felt had I not come.”
Voting day for the new West Palm Beach mayor is Tuesday, March 12.
By Sofia Jas and Morgan Therrien