Broward County’s first Black Commissioner dead at 87
burning memorial candles

burning memorial candles
Sylvia Poitier broke barriers but was ultimately removed from office.

Sylvia Poitier, who made history as Broward County’s first Black Commissioner but left public life under a cloud, died at her Deerfield Beach home on Monday, the Sun-Sentinel is reporting. She was 87.

As the news broke, tributes poured out for Poitier, who the Sun-Sentinel also credited with being Deerfield Beach’s first female Commissioner and South Florida’s first Black Mayor.

It was 1985 when Gov. Bob Graham appointed her to the County Commission. She won election to the Commission in her own right the next year.

“The impact of your legacy will never be forgotten,” tweeted Neki Mohan, a former anchor and reporter for WPLG.

Torey Alston, a former Broward County Commissioner and current Broward County School Board Chairman, also tweeted the Sun-Sentinel story of her death.

“So sad to hear of the passing of local icon, family friend and fellow (Blanche Ely High School) alum, Sylvia Poitier, ” he wrote.

Democratic Miami area Sen. Jason Pizzo also posted a link to the story.

The daughter of a bean-picker father and a midwife mother, Poitier was related by marriage to the trailblazing actor Sidney Poitier. She also became the first Black Chair of the County Commission, serving in 1988 and 1994. She was involved in pushing for the Sawgrass Expressway, a connector between Interstate 95, Interstate 75 and Florida’s Turnpike, Tri-Rail and affordable housing, according to Broward County Government records.

She died of natural causes, after declining due to a 2019 stroke, her daughter, Felecia Poitier, told the Sun Sentinel.

Her political career came to an end in 2012, when Gov. Rick Scott removed her from office after she was sentenced to four misdemeanor counts of falsifying city records. She had been suspended from office a month after she was re-elected.

Audits highlighted Poitier’s involvement on a variety of issues. Among them, she took 225 gallons of recycled paint from the city and was present when $28,000 in revenues from a city festival disappeared, according to Sun-Sentinel reporting.

Ultimately, she faced charges for not revealing her conflict of interest in a city vote to award a grant to the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association, which her brother had a financial stake in. For four misdemeanor charges of falsifying records, she was sentenced to a year’s probation, fined $1,000 and ordered to perform community service hours.

That led to a vicious reaction from some.

“She was a f***ing crook,” community activist Chaz Stevens tweeted Thursday. “Enjoy hell.”

Still, the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority’s Business Skills Center still bears her name on South Dixie Highway, despite an effort to strip it away.

Deerfield Beach Mayor Bill Ganz was just starting out as a Commissioner when he raised questions about her vote. But in the end, the two ended up on good terms, with her calling him regarding questions about the redevelopment of Deerfield’s stretch of Dixie Highway

“We certainly had our issues, early on when I served with her … and she paid a price for that,” he said. “Toward the end of her life, we forged a good relationship. She would call me with questions and concerns. It wasn’t self-serving, it was caring about the community. It was always a very enjoyable conversation, and she will be missed.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].

One comment

  • Buzz

    November 13, 2022 at 8:41 pm

    Really cheap shot header and opening line.
    I knew her. I will tell you what I told her and a Palm Beach
    Sargent in the Deerfield Beach Trirail station. “In order to get as far as she has, she had to be at least 3 times smarter than the smartest white man in the room.”. She looked at me a moment and said softly “at least…”.
    That was 1990, I liked and respected her as a young white man, I like and respect her as an old white guy.
    You were disrespectful. Poor journalism. You should aspire to better.

Comments are closed.


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