Liberal Lake Worth on the mend after electing Republican mayor

Hell froze over in Lake Worth, Fla., in November 2011.

The uber-liberal central Palm Beach County city – best known for its fringe population of self-described anarchists who regularly make national news for heckling conservative candidates and causes – elected a smart-growth, pro-business, pro-development Republican mayor.

Micheal Weiner

Attorney Michael Weiner

“Lake Worth was the butt of all the jokes of Palm Beach County – the crazies, the communists, the socialists,” said Michael Weiner, a land-use attorney active in local politics. “Finally, everyone got sick and tired, and Pam Triolo got elected.”

Party affiliation aside, Triolo says her only agendas are cleaning up the many blighted areas of her beloved city, returning city reserves to a healthy state and ensuring that both current and future businesses thrive.  All while preserving the artsy charm of this multi-cultural city by the sea.

Lake Worth is home to 37,000 residents nestled within seven square miles. Forty percent of its population is Hispanic, mostly Guatemalan, according to census figures. There is also a large and growing Haitian community. The revitalized downtown is a haven for both unconventional, Bohemian hippie types and the well-heeled artistically inclined. Shops, bars and restaurants with outdoor seating line the main drags – Lake and Lucerne avenues.

Triolo, 46, has lived there for 15 years and owns an advertising and public relations business in Lake Worth. A broadcasting major in college, she spent much of her life in radio. But she always loved politics. Triolo’s mother, Sandy, “a fiery Irish woman,” was an elected town councilwoman in Huntington, N.Y., on Long Island’s north shore, who was once considered to run for New York’s lieutenant governor post.  The family printing business worked for numerous Republican organizations and campaigns.

While packing up her late mother’s belongings three years ago, Triolo learned her friend, fellow Lake Worth resident Greg Rice, had decided not to run for mayor.  She knew immediately she had to step up.

pam for Mayor1

Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo

“I was fed up,” she explained. “The city had blown through its reserves, the roads were pot-holed, and neighborhoods were run down and without sidewalks. They were going to raise taxes to the highest level allowable by law, and the council said they were also going to assess [residents] for street lights and fire. And the straw that broke the camel’s back was that because the city was financially strapped, they were going to eliminate the Sheriff’s Office contract and go back to being a local police force.”

Sheriff’s deputies had eradicated much of Lake Worth’s gang and drug activity, Triolo said, and losing that contract would decimate the city.

“Even if I didn’t win, I would bring to light the city’s problems,” she said. “This city, which sits at the base of one of the wealthiest cities in the world, with our own Intracoastal golf course, a beachfront, historic parks and many natural resources, was almost bankrupt.”

She campaigned door to door, promising to keep the sheriff’s deputies on the job, eliminate assessments, expedite the city’s lingering beach project, address the expensive utility rates and grow the tax base.

After 18 months in office, Triolo has made good on those promises, her supporters say. The Sheriff’s Office remains on patrol in Lake Worth. Gone are $1.7 million in assessments. Code enforcement has been restaffed, and land development regulations have been rewritten. An economic development coordinator has been hired. The beach project is complete. Utility rates have dropped by 8 percent, $1 million has been funneled into city reserves, and the city budget has been balanced.

“All from a budget they said couldn’t be touched and that taxes had to be raised,” she added.

Lake Worth City HallHigh on her to-do list for the rest of her term is repairing infrastructure in the city’s long-ignored and poorest areas, dominated by Hispanics and Haitians. After taking office, Triolo walked those neighborhoods and was appalled by the number of unpaved roads and the dearth of sidewalks and fire hydrants — among $63 million worth of needed infrastructure repairs, from water and sewer to paving.

“We need to ensure the public safety of our constituents,” she said. “There’s no excuse for this.”

Being mayor is a balancing act that Triolo seems to be mastering, judging by feedback from residents and business owners.

Triolo is “the city’s biggest cheerleader who realizes that getting and keeping good merchants downtown is key,” said John Rinaldi, who owns the Sabal Palm House Bed and Breakfast with his wife, Colleen.

Rice, who said business obligations kept him out of the mayoral race, said his friend has turned the city around 180 degrees.

“She is a good listener,” he said, “and she’s fair in listening to both sides and making a decision that’s best for the greater good.”

Missy Diaz

Missy Diaz holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from the University of Miami. She has worked as a reporter for the Sun-Sentinel, The Tampa Tribune and The Fayetteville Observer.

Comments

10 thoughts on “Liberal Lake Worth on the mend after electing Republican mayor

  1. John R. says:

    Michael Weiner is right.

    After years of failing to deal with the destructive, regressive political elements in Lake Worth, the business community and enlightened politicians are now figuring out how to counter the disruptors and Luddites. Good going, Pam.

  2. Sam says:

    Poorly researched. The assessments never passed in the first place, the threat to the sheriff was resolved before she came into office, utility rates fell but many bills went up due to changes in base charges, land development regs were already being revised before she came to office, by law the city budget is always balanced, though she balanced it in part by tapping library trust funds, and the beach project got done by the previous much maligned city commissioners and mayor. It wasn't lingering, it just takes a while to build new things.

    Also, decimate does not mean what you seem to think it means. Even a pretend journalist should know that much.

  3. Jan Porter says:

    There are many different cultures in Lake Worth as you have identified. My daughter was involved with the Lake Worth Theater for along time. I meet with friends and family down there for lunch or dinner. I took a course at the McMow Glass recently. Teachers from the Palm Beach County School District live there; one gave my daughter voice/music lesson.

    It's a quaint town with lots of personality. I am glad to hear the story regarding its upkeep and thank Ms. Triolo for her many abilities. It would be very worthwhile for our other towns in PBC to meet with her for hints on how to increase their own abilities in these areas. Too bad Sam (comments above) has to redesign the multitude of Lake Worth's accomplishments to make it appear to fit his fantasies and not the realities that took the city out of the dumps.

    1. Lynn says:

      Sam is not in la la land, Ms. Porter–quite the contrary. It is true that we are a quaint town with lots of personality but you can't hide the fact that there are many challenges and few have been solved. Sam is correct in his assessment. We all, however, hope that the economy will turn around thus allowing Lake Worth to climb out of the ashes.

  4. Loretta Sharpe says:

    As a liberal democrat I am proud to be a supporter of Mayor Trilo.

    She stopped the assessment that I was for. She kept the

    Sheriff and Fire Deptments here, proving to me we dtdn't

    need the assessment to begin with. I don't know where Sam

    Is from but my utility bill has gone down.I think the article is

    very well researched. But more than article pointed out,

    there's is a whole new feeling in Lake Worth one of optimism.

    That we can finally reach our true POTENTIAL.

    I waited over 25 years for this to happen now I believe it will.

    As a Realtor I delighted that property values are on the rise and

    the Ad Valorum taxes are going up for the first time in years,

    1. Lynn says:

      I am sure that everyone in the country is happy that property values are going up, liberal Democrats and Republican conservatives alike. This has nothing to do with the mayor, however, even if I do believe she is trying very hard to make LW better in spite of your misguided downtown height issue. I hope everyone's optimism holds up after all the recent scandals with the liberal Democratic Obama government of which you approve I gather. 🙂

  5. Diana says:

    Pam is just the breath of fresh air Lake Worth needed. Lake Worth is shedding it's "Crazy Town" image. The adults are finally back in the room.

  6. Carol says:

    Triolo does not keep her promises, in other words lies. Why do we still have all the blight and crime and she has been in for more than 2 years? As for the article and Greg Rice, he is another, now his boards are falling off his boarded up roof caving in scumbag of a building at 1306 Lucerne Ave that is always uncared for and over grown. If he really cared about our city, he would make his property look much better on a main thoroughfare of our city. How can you respect people like this? Rice just holds on to this property with hopes to make millions to sell it for a sky rise or BIG DEVELOPMENT there someday. He doesn't care about anything other than $! Lots of crime happens right on this property or nearby it on a regularly basis, crime is what this blight attracts, thanks Mr. Rice!

    1. Kenneth Clark says:

      It takes a while to turn around the desimation of a group to make good on promises. Obviously you have no real interest in seeing your city flourish. Your rant only proves that you, as well as others with your mindset are very offended when proven wrong. Grow up a little and become an active part of the solution instead of reveling in your own method of attempting to undermine real progress. Progress, hmmmmm. Isn't that the root of "Progressive"? Seems you have jumped the fence.

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