With a seat at the table, Jennifer Andreu brings a fresh perspective to Plantation

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'I ran on bringing a new, fresh voice and fresh new ideas and perspective to the council.'

Addressing how she felt becoming the first Black elected to the Plantation City Council in November, Jennifer Andreu calls it “an honor and a privilege, and I don’t take that lightly.”

However, she says, she is taken aback that in the year 2021, it is the first time for many municipalities that a Black person is elected to a position where they get a seat at the table of making decisions that impact their communities.

“I’m still in awe. And I’m appreciative to the community and the residents — I had more than 19,000 votes — that they were ready for change. That weighs heavily on my heart as I’m sitting on the dais making decisions,” she says.

“It makes me work harder. I feel like I have a lot to prove. So it’s a tremendous honor, but it’s also a huge responsibility.”

 It is one for which she was confident she was prepared to handle.

Andreu has held many jobs in her career in education, from schoolteacher to principal. She’s directed administrative efforts in the areas of business, personnel, and federal and state compliance.

Andreu is currently an assistant superintendent of equity and diversity for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Office of Economic Opportunity.

In that role, she helps small/micro, minority/women, and veteran business enterprises become certified to do business with the school system, helping to expand opportunities for underutilized businesses.

Andreu also serves on the Barry University Alumni Board of Directors. She is a member of several state and national education groups, the Plantation Chamber of Commerce, GFWC Plantation Woman’s Club, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the United Way of Miami-Dade.

Andreu volunteers with the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida, Broward County Public Schools, American Cancer Society — Making Strides, Neighbors 4 Neighbors and Take Stock in Children.

Andreu says she decided to run for Plantation City Council to make more of a local impact on a city where she has lived for 40 years and translate her leadership skills in education and volunteer work to the arena of elected officials.

“I absolutely bring in all of my years of leadership experience and working with a large government entity,” she points out. “There’s still a lot of politics that happens at the school board level as well, so I have the experience. I told people when I was campaigning that while I was new to Plantation politics, I’m not really new to working with large government institutions.

“Some of the same responsibilities that we have council members, I have as an administrator for the fourth largest school district in the United States. We do resolutions and ordinances. In Miami-Dade County Public Schools, we do policies and procedures. I’m well-versed in procurement. I’ve been taking a deep dive into that arena since being elected.”

Andreu was elected to Seat 3 of the Plantation City Council, running against long-term incumbent Ron Jacobs and Jennifer Izaguirre.

“I ran on bringing a new, fresh voice and fresh new ideas and perspective to the council,” says Andreu. “That’s exactly what I hope to achieve in these next four years — to bring some new ideas and to really help us to grow.”

One of Andreu’s first actions as a Plantation elected official is starting a scholarship fund awarding five scholarships to Plantation students attending South Plantation High School, American Heritage, Plantation High School, Nova Southeastern University or Barry University.

“It’s not just based on a grade-point average,” she says. “There are two essays, with one being what the student is going to do once they finish their college education or technical work to give back to the city of Plantation and how they are going to help the next generation of Plantation residents.

“We’re looking for some compelling stories and hopefully something that’s cutting edge and innovative. Three people on the committee are educators, and they’ll choose which senior from which high schools will receive the $1,000 scholarship. It’s a way of helping primarily our public schools, but all of our schools here in the city.”

Andreu says she believes Plantation schools sometimes get a bad reputation.

“Maybe there was a fight at one of the middle schools, and that’s the message that gets carried around by parents out in the sports fields,” she says. “I think we have to fine-tune our marketing strategy because our schools are excellent.”

Andreu is a product of Plantation High School, and her children attend Central Park Elementary and Seminole Middle schools.

Andreu also plans to start an internship and mentorship program once the COVID-19 pandemic is in the rearview mirror, working with high school principals and the business community.

That includes partnering with Baptist Health South Florida, which recently opened a wellness and medical complex in Plantation.

The environment is another concern for Andreu. She started a discussion on banning plastic straws in the city, which initially has not been well-received.

“It’s something I’d like to work with the city on in terms of educating residents because it is a first step to a bigger idea where eventually we can hopefully ban plastic and single-use Styrofoam and single-use plastic, at least on city property,” says Andreu.

“I thought it was going to be low hanging fruit, really, and an easy ordinance to pass because you don’t have to have a straw,” she adds. “It’s a small thing that can at least start the conversation and make a big difference.”

Andreu says her next step will be to discuss with the council and community the idea of starting a sustainability advisory committee of local experts who can put forth recommendations to the council.

“We don’t want our small businesses to incur additional costs,” she says. “That was never the intent. But I think we need to be more responsible in terms of the environment, because that’s our next national crisis.”

Andreu calls the “perfect storm” of the pandemic, its associated economic crises, social unrest and deep political divisiveness a difficult period in which to seek public office,

“I applaud anybody who ran during this last cycle and even those who are running now for this March election in Miramar because it has been a very difficult time to run for office and particularly if you’re a new candidate,” she says.

Helping struggling local businesses has been a concern, says Andreu, citing a projection that more than 40% of small businesses won’t survive the pandemic.

“We’ve seen several have to close their doors, and it’s heartbreaking,” she says. “However we can help them stay afloat, we’re doing that. We’re working closely here with the Chamber of Commerce and with my position in Miami.

“I work with several chambers to give resources to our small minority and women-owned businesses to grant opportunities such as the CARES Act money and the Payment Protection Program loan.”

While there’s a campaign to highlight different businesses on social media and encourage people to buy local, Andreu emphasizes it’s all about procurement.

“We can’t be out telling the community to shop local, and then we’re purchasing from large vendors in other states,” she says. “We really need to focus on shopping local and not only ‘do as I say,’ but also be good ambassadors and stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

While the city of Plantation has not yet been approved for its own city distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, Andreu connected with state Rep. Bobby DuBose of the 94th District to set up a vaccination site recently at the AME Church in Fort Lauderdale — a step forward in serving the Black community that has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

“Different people have reached out to me via email or phone calls,” she says. “I’m trying to assist them in finding locations where they can be vaccinated.”

That includes her own father, who has been waiting in a virtual line for more than two weeks.

“It’s concerning that this rollout has been so slow,” Andreu says. “I hope we can expedite this. There’s a lot of finger-pointing on what’s taking so long: is it the state or federal level?”

Andreu says it breaks her heart to learn about wasted vaccines.]

She says schools could serve as vaccination centers, enabling people to have access to the vaccine without encountering transportation issues or waiting in long lines, and would like to see more momentum in that direction.

As an educator, Andreu hears both sides of the debate about whether children should return to in-school instruction.

“I do think Broward and Dade got it right in terms of opening safely, but allowing parents to have the option so that if you do feel like your child has some preexisting health conditions or you as a parent have some hesitancy, and you have a schedule where you can have that flexibility and have your children at home, that’s great,” she says. “But if you don’t and you need to return to work, then you can absolutely send them in person. Having that hybrid approach and giving parents options is the responsible thing to do.”

It’s also important to take care of the workforce; she adds: “I know that in Broward County, that’s been the big issue because having teachers come back before they’re physically or even emotionally ready is problematic. They can’t be of service to their children if they’re being forced to come back and they weren’t really ready to come back. I think we have to look at what accommodations are needed and can be made.”

To ground herself so she may be of service, Andreu relies on her faith. She is a member of Faith Center Ministries.

“When I am troubled in terms of anything that’s bothering me, whether it be a Facebook post or difficult decision to make or even something personally with my own health and my own family, I believe in prayer, and I seek counsel from my pastor,” she says.

Andreu says a recent social media post she made in honor of Black History Month emphasizes the point that “as long as you’re doing the right thing and you’re making good decisions, you’ll never lose sleep, and you can always stand behind that. I try not to make decisions for myself, but to think of the community at large and the greater good.”

“It hasn’t been easy,” Andreu notes of the past 12 months. “There’s been a lot of negativity, and I’m a very positive person. But you just have to be able to block that out, move forward, and know that you’re here trying to work for the greater good.”


Carol Brzozowski is a writer and journalist based in Pompano Beach.

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