BELLE GLADE — In his second run for Belle Glade City Commission, Robert C. Mitchell is a candidate in the June 2 election for Seat A, currently occupied by Commissioner Michael C. Martin.
Mr. Mitchell was unsuccessful in his 2018 run for Vice Mayor Mary Ross Wilkerson’s seat, his first-time candidacy.
Commissioner Martin is a longtime commissioner who has retained his seat at least once because no one filed to run against him.
Mr. Mitchell said there are too many unaddressed issues in Belle Glade that the current commissioners are not working together enough to solve, and he wants to change that.
He summed up his campaign this way: “Why am I running again? One of the reasons I’m running against him is that I don’t know him really well. The main thing for me — what the issues are — is jobs in the community, and affordable housing. Those are part of my main platform. To speak of exactly what we need, when I say jobs … it’s not just, ‘Oh, we’ve got a company and they’ve got some jobs.’ No, no, no. The Glades needs prosperity, but (we need to) explain this to the community: They need to be $15 an hour minimum, or more. The reason I want that is our city is … still below the poverty level when it comes to employment. So we need to explain that gap.
“These are real issues, not about politics. I tell people all the time that I’m really not the politician. What I am is a little boy that loves his home.”
Mr. Mitchell says he mostly is running for a commission seat because he wants to be a voice representing the community. Some have questioned his residency status, he said, because he’s a caterer and five star rated chef, often away, who was based in Los Angeles (he owns Country Boy Catering) and lives there part of the year. But as he said in 2018, he’s been “a Belle Glade resident all my life.” He graduated from Glades Central High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in education at FAMU. His business caters to the Glades area.
“I have to live both places. That’s not even a secret, nor do I try to make it like that because how else are you going to get some opportunity that ain’t here anyway?”
Besides, he charged, “A majority of the commission does not live in Belle Glade. The guy that I’m running against doesn’t live in Belle Glade — he lives in Clewiston.”
Mr. Mitchell had another complaint, as well — coupled with an ambition.
“There’s a lot of things that I want to do. I really want to be city manager, that’s what I want to be. And the reason … is that the city needs to be managed. That’s the only reason. It’s not managed well, at $230,000 a year, the second-highest-paid in the state of Florida. And my city ain’t moving and we are still under the (high) unemployment rate.”
He’s also highly concerned about the openness of Belle Glade’s city government. He thinks it’s ridiculous that the city’s website is still unfinished, with several areas unpopulated with the information that the site says is there.
“How can the city not have a real working website? This is a public issue. There’s supposed to be information shared, and that’s one of the issues that I have. It’s one reason why parents think it’s so bad in the Glades.”
In addition, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all city commission meetings lately have been done by teleconferencing.
“I would go to virtual (meetings). We have to move everything over so we can eye-to-eye communicate with people. I have a strong following of Belle Glade citizens on Facebook — everybody’s been asking for and coming to my page for the top moves on COVID.”
So Mr. Mitchell has been posting his thoughts unabashedly on his page, “Robert Mitchell for Belle Glade.”
On May 9, it was this: “City commission meetings are supposed to be public.” He’d just related that he inquired about the May 18 meeting and how to get access and got an email back from the city clerk saying she would send the information. His post continued: “I suggest the following changes — they might want to consider to give everyone access as they should be using Zoom or another virtual platform so people feel included.”
He think the virus pandemic might have actually boosted his chances of defeating Mr. Martin.
“God is good and it (his campaign) has been great ,… and let me tell you why. One thing about me … is that I am a solution person. Many issues are brought up before the commission, but what are you going to do about it? And that’s the way that I move.
“Right now, everything, my movement is about positive change and it’s about working together. I am determined, I have an attitude, to work together, but only for the betterment of our city. I’m looking forward to working with the other commissioners,” Mr. Mitchell asserted.
Cellphone messages left for Commissioner Martin were not returned before press deadline for this story.