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Commissioners Stacy Kagan and Rich Walker of Parkland.

By Sharon Aron Baron

On November 3, two city commissioners are running head-to-head in the next mayoral election in Parkland. This is for a two-year term in a nonpartisan race.

We held live interviews with them, along with candidates running for commission {separate articles), and did not give them the questions in advance.

First, is Commissioner Stacy Kagan who was first elected to District 1 unopposed in 2013. In 2014 and 2018, she was re-elected unopposed. She lives in Heron Bay with her husband, Richard. They have a daughter, Brittani, who graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 2007.

Kagan was born in Queens, New York, and moved to South Florida in 1970. She has an Associate in Arts from Miami Dade and attended Tallahassee Community College and FIU. She Kagan has lived in Parkland since 2004 and recently sold her Allstate Insurance Agency business in Coral Springs, which has given her more time to dedicate to constituents. Kagan has raised 47,885 in her campaign account and $105 was in-kind donations.

Commissioner Richard Walker was elected to the District 2 seat in 2018. Originally from Washington Township, NJ, Walker attended Rutgers University in New Jersey.

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In 1996, along with a partner, Walker purchased the 100-year- old Bergen Sign Company and, in 2009, opened another office in Pompano Beach where he spent five years traveling back and forth to Florida. Eventually, he and his wife settled in Parkland Isles, where they lived for the past six years with their five children.  Walker has raised $46,210 in his campaign account and $3,250 was in-kind donations.

Why are you running for office?

Kagan: I’ve been serving the community now for almost eight years. I’ve seen the community through very good times and very difficult times. I feel that my experience, knowledge, understanding of what the residents want and need is crucially important, especially at this time with COVID going on. I feel very strongly about protecting the future of our community, of all of our children in our community. We have a community with over 10,000 children. We have a change in population. We have everything from the youngest to the young at heart, and we need to make sure that we’re focusing on every resident and the needs of the entire community. I feel that I have the experience and the track record of leading the city in the right direction.

Walker: I’ve been a commissioner for two years, and I’ve lived in Parkland for six years, and with Christine moving on to the State Rep position and the mayor’s seat opening, I saw this as an opportunity for me to serve the residents of Parkland for longer because this particular term, because you’ll have to win the election, obviously, the next mayor has the opportunity to be the mayor for ten years and that to me, is something I look forward in having that opportunity to do. Having young kids and being involved in the community the way that I am, there are some things I see that we can correct and that we can change, we can do differently, and everything that happens directly impacts me directly impacts my friends, our community. I feel that my connection — having these young kids, being out every day, whether it’s at the schools, at the park, I feel that my connection to the community is a little bit different.

I see whether I’m a commission or a mayor — we don’t run the city, city staff runs the city, obviously, we set policy, but we’re a liaison between residents and city staff. So because of my involvement in different areas in the city, I’m always talking to residents. I’m always listing to what they have to say. I just saw this as an opportunity for me to serve Parkland longer and have a direct impact on the city going forward, hopefully for the next ten years.

The Burt Harris Act, which has been discussed several times in front of the commission, is opposed by the Florida League of Cities. The State of Florida enacted the Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act in 1995, which provides a specific process for landowners to seek relief when their property is unfairly affected by government action. How does the Burt Harris Act affect or hurt development in Parkland?

Kagan: I am not familiar with the Burt Harris Act, and if it’s something I need to research, I absolutely will, but it has not been brought to my attention.

Walker: I’ll be honest. I don’t know much about it. I’m not familiar with that.

What is your position on the current school impact fees and how they are being used?

Kagan: I think it’s really important that we do whatever we can to enhance education for our students and to provide finances as needed. We had a very intensive study done on the impact fees, and it was shown we weren’t’ charging what was recommended. So as a commission, we voted on having the study done and a strong discussion is done on how those impact fees could help or benefit the residents of Parkland and the children.

Walker: We’re using those how Broward County sees fit. Right now, I have full faith in the school board, and as far as Runcie goes, everybody is doing the best job that they can. As far as the impact fees, they’re spending them where they feel is the best way they can spend them. It’s hard for me to say. Could we do it differently? Those are the conversations I would have the opportunity to speak with Lori [Alhadeff] about.

Will you be in favor of retaining the Broward Sheriff’s Office or looking into getting our own policing agency?

Kagan: I am thrilled that you asked that question, and it’s been a question that has been on every resident’s mind — or most residents of our community. I am very happy that it looks like we are going to have Sheriff Tony here, and I think that was a very strong statement that our community fought to have Sheriff Tony stay as our sheriff, and I feel we have to give him and his team an opportunity to continue the work that they have been doing. Captain Mulligan and Lt Devlin have done an incredible job on being a community police department than we’ve had in a very long time and I love the personal contact that I am seeing, and I feel they deserve an opportunity to continue with what they’re doing and then we’ll see how it goes.

Walker: I believe changes that Sheriff Tony made have been positive. Most importantly, hiring Captain Mulligan. I think that Captain Mulligan has done a great job. Getting back more of the community involvement, being around, and engaging with the public. As far as starting our own police force, that would definitely be a conversation I would like to have. The upfront costs in having our police force, where would we find officers, those are the questions I would love to ask. We did a safety study a few months ago, and one of their recommendations was to stay with BSO. One of the concerns they had was said, which I tend to agree with is: Law enforcement isn’t the same as it used to be 20 years ago. It’s a little bit harder to find law enforcement officers, and in a smaller city like ours with less crime and not as much room for growth, what kind of opportunities will we offer to aggressive or educated officers because we’re limited with how many sergeants we can have, we’re limited to Lieutenants, and so we are limited in the opportunities for growth that we can offer here. But it’s definitely a conversation we need to have.

What other activities would you like to see in the city, and how do you plan on funding them? What would you trim back in the current budget to afford this?

Kagan: That is a much more complex question than it seems because there are so many things I would like to see in this city. We were put in a standstill as we were not able to have strategic planning, which is crucially important, and that is how we make our decisions for the future of the city and what is needed. We really need to plan for the future of our parks; we need to plan for the future of development. We need to have programs in place that are for every type of resident that we have because our residents are changing; our community is changing. I believe it’s important that we address all of the age groups and all of the needs. I really feel we need more community involvement and engagement because I think a lot of people forget that we’re all residents here, and we all care about the community. I think it’s important when we share, and when we listen, we come up with more innovative ideas.

Walker: There are some things we need to do that will cost some money; for instance, on this particular budget, we have drainage repairs that we’ve needed for years in Pine Trails Park, which is going to cost $1.8 million. We purchased land over on Hillsboro across from MiraLago, 24 acres of land adjacent to 12 acres that we previously owned. We needed this park. I would have liked to have seen this park already done. With the buildout of the wedge, we should have known a little bit sooner that we’re going to need more park space, we’re going to need more baseball fields. We’re going to need more multi-purpose fields. We’re going to need more activities for the 55+ community. We’ve added quite a few 55+ communities, and those residents are going to need more to do. Whether it’s more kickball courts or bocce ball courts, maybe some additional walking trails, these are some of the things 55+ communities. — we need to offer them services because we’ve added those communities; we need to make sure we’ve added activities for them to do. Another thing the parks master plan talked about was expanding our Parks and Recreational Center because we’ve outgrown that. So we don’t have much space to have an indoor basketball, Parkland Buddy Sports, or activities for young children. So how are we going to fund that? Right now, we have an opportunity because money is cheap; we have a potential opportunity to buy a bond. As far as cutting the budget? We don’t have a lot of capital spending, so we would have to look hard in the city and see how each department is run. In reality, we’re going to have to prioritize: what’s most important for Parkland. Raising our millage rate is something we don’t want to do.

Can you explain where the Lox Road process is right now, what the time frame is and why?

Kagan: Unfortunately, it’s not something we have much control over as a city. I’m just as disappointed in Lox road being pushed off as everyone else in the community is. We’re being told it’s going to be started in 2023. If anyone wants detailed information, they can go to the city’s website at cityofparkland.org and type in lox road improvement it will come up, and it will show what the plan is and what the landscape will look like. On one side of the road, there is going to be a sidewalk, and on the other side, a bike lane. Part of the road will have a median, and I know residents wish that it could be expanded to include lanes, but there is not enough room for that. It’s very frustrating for me as a commissioner and as a future mayor to not have Lox road completed when it should have been.

Walker: So how it looks right now, Lennar looks like it will potentially be buying some property from Tuttle. We’re waiting on some additional plans from them. It’s going to show 200-225 homes. That will include the Gator Acres parcel, which will be single-family homes. There is a chance it will switch from 55+ to no age restriction, but that’s something we haven’t seen in full yet as far as the revised plan.

What is the status of the Heron Bay golf course, and what would be your plan for that?

Kagan: I’m limited to what I can share about the golf course. What I can tell you is that I live on the golf course, many residents of Heron Bay live on the golf course, and I feel that the golf course is a huge part of our community. When you drive into our community and drive up Nob Hill Road, it really is the first thing that you see on the left-hand side. For many years living on the golf course, it was kinda odd I would never see a golfer out there. You would rarely see any golf carts, and you would rarely see any activity. During the pandemic, I almost feel like the golf course has come alive by way of park space and green space — we live in a community called “Park” Land, and I want to emphasize that because we have the most magnificent, beautiful parks and have plans for more parks and increasing our parks, and green space is important. If I had any concern about the golf course, and the covenant — which we have seven more years on, I would put my house up for sale, and that would give everyone a very good idea that I was concerned, but we have some very smart minds working on it, and I’ve known about the situation for quite some time, and I feel very, extremely confident that the golf course will be something we will be very proud of in the future as some type of Parkland as some type of green space as an area where people can bike and jog, and drive their golf carts and walk their dogs and the activity back there has been amazing. I think the most important thing right now is having the golf course maintained, which is their (ClubLink) responsibility right now to mow the lawn.

Walker: The Heron Bay Golf Course has seven years left on the covenant —the mandate to stay a golf course. We’ve heard talk of it being a commercial property, but the majority of it staying a green space. It would be nice to see it as a miniature-type of Mizner Park with some shops, restaurants, ice cream, candy stores — a place where the community can gather; they can go out to dinner together; they could walk around and window shop. Then it would give the city a parkland opportunity to offset some of its tax base with commercial residence. Because one of our issues in Parkland is that we don’t have that much business, so we rely so much on residential and new building in the impact fees. So that’s going to have an impact on our budget at some point, whether it’s 3, 4, 5 years from now. So we definitely need to start looking at other ways to generate additional tax revenue and have additional commercial space that’s done right. That’s’ done with the community in mind.

Part of being an elected official requires you to go to Tallahassee and fight for the interests of the city. When did you go to the state, and what did you fight for?

Kagan: It’s not a requirement for us to go to Tallahassee — it’s a relationship we need to have with Tallahassee. It’s the communication, and its the people we need to speak too, and it’s our lobbyists that we share with what we want to see happening in Tallahassee. I was scheduled to go to Tallahassee right after the shooting, and I decided that we had enough members of our commission that were representing my city extremely well, and I did not feel that the city should not be left without a commission here during that time. I do communicate with people in Tallahassee, and I do have sources that I speak to, and I’m in constant contact with our lobbyists on a regular basis for things that I feel are important. I don’t feel that people have to be physically present or attend Broward Days. I feel it’s more important for me to be here and have open communication.

Walker: I went to the last Broward Days in February. We had an opportunity, along with Vice Mayor Mayersohn, to speak about funding for Pine Trails Park. We talked about other funding for the canals over by Ternbridge. We did have some monies that were ultimately put into the budget that was approved through the budget, but due to COVID, Gov. DeSantis cut those items out. I also had the opportunity to speak at the K-12 subcommittee in support of Alyssa’s Law. Going to Tallahassee is a great experience, and it gives us a big opportunity to advocate for Parkland, whether it’s for Parks, grants, or opportunities for us to get some funds.

Taxpayers foot the $20,000 bill for Slavin Management Consultants’ national search for a new city manager. Some of the stipulations were that they hold a bachelor’s degree in public administration, business administration, or a related field and have least five to seven years of municipal management experience as a senior-level government leader. Experience as a city manager or assistant manager, as well as a master’s degree, would be a plus. Slavin brought 51 candidates from around the country and narrowed it to eight who met these criteria, yet you disregarded these credentials and hired our Financial Director/interim city manager, — who was not even a finalist and held a bachelor’s degree, no masters in public administration, and was not a certified city manager.

Why did you not take the advice of the management consultants if you paid for their expertise?

Kagan: So when I look at a candidate for city manager, everybody had different things that they were looking for. And although some of those criteria were important to some of my colleagues, it wasn’t important to all of our colleagues. I believe a proven track record of doing good for our community. I feel when someone holds a leadership position and steps up to does what I believe is the right thing, I believe in giving people an opportunity if they’ve done what I feel is better than a good job, which I felt Nancy Morando was doing, I also wanted to give her an opportunity to run with the position because from what I saw if not as highly as qualified, or more qualified, based on her experience in our community and her prior experiences in other communities and if I felt there was a candidate that was stronger and more knowledgable relating to our community I would have supported that.

Walker: We paid for their expertise to put us in a position to ensure we had qualified candidates, which they did. And Nancy, being the Interim City Manager at that time and she was also an interim prior to that. One thing no one can deny, Nancy has made sure that Parkland has been on sound financial footing for several years, so her experience and knowledge of the city, financially, certainly kept us in a great position, it’s kept Parkland in a sound financial position. It’s allowed us to keep our millage rate low. In her time as Interim city manager, I was able to see some of her growth in her managerial style and how she would handle certain situations. I believe promotion from within when you can is good moral for a city. Having the knowledge of the city itself, the inner workings, the certain players who are here, things that we can do, I just felt that just gave Nancy a little edge in my opinion to become the permanent city manager.

Stacy, you voted no on the Buy Local Resolution, which Adopted a Policy for city staff to Support Local Businesses for Certain Small Scale Purchases. Why?

I know there has been a lot of controversy around that vote. I hope that by you and I discussing it now, you can understand my perspective on it and I felt it was missing certain things: I believe in buying local, but I also believe in not only our local businesses that are brick and mortar here in Parkland, but I also believe in supporting our business owners outside of Parkland because when you have an economy that focuses on one area, you’re then cutting off relationships, and you’re cutting off a flow of the whole financial system. When you say “Buy Local” to me, you’re saying “Buy in Parkland.” And I look at it on a bigger level, not that I don’t buy in Parkland, I push every parkland business and rarely leave Parkland, but I” m also open-minded to the fact I do business with people that have a business outside of Parkland.

But you and I know that it stated to consider Parkland businesses first.

I look at it as all of Parkland residents, not just the businesses located here, so I felt that was leaving out, instead of bringing people together.

Rich, you were on the fence and had a hard time about voting yes on the Buy Local Resolution. Why?

I wouldn’t say I had a hard time. I’m not a big fan of overregulation or putting restrictions on city staff or whoever. So the only thing I teetered with was that. What kind of impact would we be putting on staff because we don’t have a grandiose business segment, it’s not necessarily so easy to get to that place or this place. In reality, I obviously support small business 1000 percent, and I always have I always will. I think it’s great for our businesses. I appreciate the mayor for bringing it up, and I did vote for it. I wouldn’t say it was a hard decision, sometimes for me, sometimes it’s more regulation and more rules [that] make things a little more harder [to] run smoothly. That was my only concern, and I’m proud I voted yes.

Stacy, why should residents vote for you as the next mayor of Parkland?

Kagan: I think people should vote for me as the next mayor of Parkland because I have a proven track record of protecting my community, leading people in a positive direction, and focusing on every area of our community and not being one-dimensional on how I view Parkland. I’m extremely open-minded. There are many times I go to a meeting and listen to what my colleagues say and look at how they feel, and there are times when I will change my vote, and I have also received many endorsements from people that have really recognized the things I have done in Parkland. For example, I have been endorsed by fire, the PBA, Ted Deutch, my colleagues, Ken Cutler, the West Broward Democratic Organization, the AFL-CIO, and there are many more, including Mayor Scott Brook.

Rich, why should people vote for you as the next mayor of Parkland when you’ve only been a commissioner for two years?

Walker: I know I’ve only been a commissioner for two years, but I don’t see that as a negative at all I go back to the fact that we don’t run the city, city staff does, and I believe I have enough experience within the city to know what the residents are looking for. I’ve had enough engagement with the residents to be there with them day in and day out to address their concerns listen to their concerns, and bring those concerns back to city staff. I will follow up with city staff. I’m not the type of person when someone sends me an email with an email I’ll forward it off to city staff. I try to stay with it from beginning to end. And I try to see the point person from beginning to end to make sure they get their answer. And that’s what it’s about -it’s about being engaged in the community every single day, whether it’s schools, whether it’s parks and rec, community events. Those are the things I do every day.

Thank you to both Commissioners Stacy Kagan and Rich Walker for sharing their valuable time and allowing Parkland Talk to ask questions.

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Sharon Aron Baron
Sharon Aron Baron is a Parkland resident and editor of Talk Media. she has been covering Parkland news since 2012. Parkland Talk was created to provide News, Views, and Entertainment for the residents of Parkland.

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