Glades voters went to the polls Tuesday, delivering wins to pro-agriculture candidates and rejecting Sierra Club-backed candidates running on an anti-farm platform.
In the Belle Glade City Commission elections, Joaquin Almazan defeated local activist Steve Messam, who unsuccessfully tried to make farming an issue in the race.
Additionally, Bishop Kenny Berry defeated Johnny Burroughs Jr., and incumbent Commissioner Mary Ross Wilkerson defeated Robert Mitchell, a chef from California.
Almazan, Berry and Wilkerson ran on a platform of protecting jobs and creating opportunities within their communities and were supported by a strong grassroots campaign of local residents and community organizers.
All three races were blowouts.
“This election was a choice between supporting what unites us versus what divides us, and I am so proud the voters have chosen candidates that will help bring us together,” Berry said. “Our communities are stronger when we are all working together.”
Campaign volunteer and school teacher Sherrie Dulany added, “The Sierra Club attempted a hostile takeover of the Belle Glade city commission, and on Tuesday, voters turned out in the highest number in recent memory to tell them their attempts to divide our community are not welcome here. You might say the Sierra Club’s anti-farming agenda went down in flames.”
Berry won his election with 72% of the vote.
Almazan, who defeated Messam by more than 20 points, echoed the message of unity.
“Now that the votes have been counted, it is clear Glades residents strongly rejected the false attacks made against our farmers and the working families of our communities employed by the sugar industry,” he said. “I look forward to beginning to work with my fellow commissioners for the good of Belle Glade, its families and its future. We have good jobs in agriculture now and we need to build on that base — not tear it down — and bring additional opportunities in education and employment to complement local food production.”
And Wilkerson, who captured nearly seven in 10 votes in her race, said, “My commitment as your city commissioner is to work toward ensuring Belle Glade can be a great place for you and your families, and that starts by listening to your concerns. I am looking forward to continuing the work that needs to be done to help move our city forward.”
The results were also welcomed among local leaders outside of the agriculture industry.
Robert Miller of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers was enthused that Almazan, a member of IAMW, came out on top.
“This race was always about supporting local jobs and local friends in agriculture, and by the vote count, it is clear what our communities want moving forward,” Miller said. “We want to continue embracing the positive role farming plays in our community instead of trying to destroy our farming economy and set neighbor against neighbor.”
Glades Ministerial Alliance president and pastor Robert Rease said all three winners are “hard-working and community-minded local individuals” and said he was proud to have Berry, a member at Grace Fellowship Worship Center, on the commission.
“Now the hard work begins of bringing our Glades communities together to confront our many common challenges. Glades residents have soundly rejected many of the outside organizations that have attempted to spread division and hate among our community,” he said.
“Glades pastors and residents appreciate the willingness of Bishop Berry, Joaquin Almazan and Mary Ross Wilkerson to answer God’s call in service to the people of the Glades. Let’s all move forward together.”