BELLE GLADE– Belle Glade City Commission incumbent Mary Ross Wilkerson and challenger Robert C. Mitchell took questions at a Meet the Candidate forum held over Zoom on Feb. 18.
Wilkerson and Mitchell are vying for Wilkerson’s seat D in the upcoming March 9 municipal election.
“I know my voice is very familiar to you guys because this is my third time running,” said Mitchell in his opening statement. “I want you guys to understand that the reason you still see me in the race is because I see a vision for our city. We need to get off of a statistic that says we’re the number one poorest city in Florida. We gotta change that.”
Vice Mayor Wilkerson highlighted her experience in her opening statement, noting that she has been on the commission since 2009.
“I dream of a city that people love,” said Wilkerson. “I know that the people in live in Belle Glade love Belle Glade. We are working hard everyday to help our citizens improve themselves, whether they are homeless, jobless, or need someone to talk to.”
Mitchell called comments that he wanted to get rid of the sugar mill ridiculous, saying soil is the fortune of Belle Glade. He went on highlight his support of green harvesting of sugar cane as a way to bring more jobs to the area.
Wilkerson pointed to the need to clean up the community of Belle Glade to attract business.
“We have got to work together,” explained Wilkerson. “I want all our citizens to get involved. Because no one is going to want to bring a business here until we get that completed.”
The city manager’s salary was brought up doing the forum and was one of the clearer distinctions between the two candidates. Vice Mayor Wilkerson supported Lomax Harrelle’s salary of over $200,000, while Mitchell did not.
“I believe you pay a person for what their worth,” said Wilkerson. “When the economy failed in 2008 the city of Belle Glade was on the brink. Mr. Harrelle cane in and picked up our city through his leadership, got us out of the red and put us on the road to recovery.”
Wilkerson’s challenger didn’t mince words with his thoughts on the Harrelle’s salary.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” expressed Mitchell. “Actions speak louder than words. Right now we’re ranked the poorest city in Florida. However our city manager is the second highest paid in Florida. Maybe someone could help me make sense of that, because I can’t. If someone was in that role making that amount and we could see the product I would support it. But right now I absolutely do not.”
The deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot is Feb. 27. The municipal election is set for March 9.