By: Dale King Contributing Writer
As he began his first term as Palm Beach County commissioner from District 4, Robert Weinroth called for election reforms to “eliminate the pain we endured with multiple recounts” following the chaotic November 2018 balloting.
Weinroth, a former Boca Raton City Council member elected Nov. 6 to succeed term-limited Commissioner Steven Abrams, told the audience gathered in the commission chambers at the Robert Weisman Palm Beach County Governmental Center in West Palm Beach that “in short order,” the 7-member panel will begin helping Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher prepare for the 2020 presidential election.
“As a general officer, Ms. Bucher has a great deal of authority. We need to help her update election equipment and procedures” to prevent a breakdown in the system that caused major problems last November, particularly in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
In a brief speech during the Nov. 20 reorganization meeting, Weinroth, a 26-year Boca Raton resident with an extensive background in business, public service and community involvement, downplayed the fact that he is the first Democrat elected to the District 4 commission seat in some three decades.
“I hope this is the only time that we allude to my party affiliation,” he said. “This was a partisan race for a non-partisan seat.”
In the Nov. 6 election, Weinroth defeated Republican Billy Vale, a pharmaceutical sales rep, who became the only Republican contender for the seat after Christina Morrison abruptly backed out of the race.
On Nov. 20, 2018, Weinroth was sworn into office by Judge James Martz. His wife, Pamela, whom he called “my biggest cheerleader and confidante,” joined him on the dais.
Weinroth, 66, is an attorney in Boca Raton as well as a businessman and former member of the City Council where he served for four years. Weinroth went to Northeastern University in Boston here he earned a BSBA in management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law.
Weinroth said he takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the court.
Coincidentally, Gregg Weiss, the newly-elected commissioner in District 2, has also been a Guardian ad Litem. He sent a message of support to the children’s advocacy program when he chose a judge he met while working in the GAL program to swear him.
During the reorganization meeting, commissioners recognized and thanked outgoing commissioners Paulette Burdick and Abrams, and also applauded District 6 Commissioner Melissa McKinlay for her year of service as county mayor.
Board members then selected District 7 Commissioner Mack Bernard – a former Delray Beach City Commissioner — to serve as mayor and District 3 Commissioner Dave Kerner as vice mayor. Each will spend one year in those posts.
For Abrams, the Nov. 20 meeting was not just time to step down after nine and a half years on the county board. It marked the finale of 30 years of public service.
Those three decades also included five terms as a Boca Raton city council member, mayor of the city, past president of the Palm Beach County League of Cities, Planning and Zoning Board member and founding board member of the Florida League of Mayors.
As expected, his last address to his colleagues was rife with humor. He asked that everyone offer their comments about him before he spoke. “I wanted to make sure it was unanimous so I wouldn’t have to ask for a recount.”
He told fellow commissioners he doesn’t want to give up the seat. “I didn’t quit. I didn’t get fired.” However, the term-limit law prevented him from running again. On Jan. 1, Abrams succeeded Jack Stephens as executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees the operations of Tri-Rail. The ex-commissioner is a rail fan and longtime Tri-Rail user.
Jovial Abrams did offer some serious comments, saying his commission term “was a terrific nine and a half years.” He commended all his colleagues as well as County Administrator Verdenia Baker “for leading our staff” and County Attorney Denise Nieman, “who is the best.”
Abrams, who was one of only two Republicans on the commission, said the key to success in the county has been “the ability to work together on a cooperative bi-partisan basis.”
District 1 Commissioner Hal Valeche is now the lone Republican on the dais.