Pembroke Pines voters to pick first new Mayor in decades, 2 City Commissioners

City overdevelopment, traffic congestion, housing affordability and a proposed trash incinerator are all top-of-mind for voters and candidates.

Pembroke Pines is holding its General Election on Tuesday, and for the first time in nearly three decades, Frank Ortis’ name won’t be on the ballot.

Ortis is retiring after 28 years of public service, including the past 20 years as Mayor and a prior eight on the City Commission.

Three candidates, two of whom are sitting city officials, are running to succeed him. Seven candidates are also vying for seats on the City Commission. The victors, determined by the highest number of votes cast per candidate, win a four-year term.

At issue this year is the growth Ortis oversaw in Pembroke Pines that today makes it the second most populous municipality in Broward County behind Fort Lauderdale. Other concerns include related traffic congestion and housing costs, which all candidates want to reduce, and public school closures and a proposed waste-to-energy facility within the city’s bounds, about which the candidates vary in opinion.

(L-R) Vice Mayor Iris Siple, Commissioner Angelo Castillo and small business owner Elizabeth Burns are competing to be Pembroke Pines’ first new Mayor in 20 years. Images via Pembroke Pines and Elizabeth Burns.


Vice Mayor Iris Siple, Commissioner Angelo Castillo and small business owner Elizabeth Burns are squaring off for the city’s top office.

Siple, a 30-year Pembroke Pines resident who won her City Commission seat in 2004, is a retired Chief Administrator for the Broward County Clerk of Courts Office, where she oversaw budget, construction and human resources issues.

Her family has also owned an accounting firm and a restaurant. She led all others in fundraising with $136,000 collected through a blend of grassroots and corporate contributions. Unions like the Teamsters and Plumbers Local 519 gave as well. By March 14, the last date for which the city has campaign finance information, Siple spent nearly all of her gains on ads, signage, printing, apparel and other promotion-related expenditures.

Broward next year plans to close or overhaul at least five of its district schools, with possibly more undergoing changes in the near future due to under-enrollment. Siple told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that “tough decision” could enable the city to repurpose school properties for additional affordable housing provisions.

She also wants the city to look into modernizing its older housing stock.

Castillo, who also joined the City Commission in 2004 and unsuccessfully challenged Ortis in 2020, previously served on ex-Broward Sheriff Scott Israel’s command staff and is a former director of the county Human Services Department. He retired in 2019.

He listed public safety and flooding issues as top priorities and is against school closures. Pembroke Pines needs to retool its economic priorities to generate money, he said, since much of the real estate-related dollars the city relied on in the past aren’t going to come at the same rate soon with the city so built out.

Through March 14, he raised $121,000 through a mixture of business and personal checks. Several car dealers, lobbyists, waste management and real estate companies, as did numerous local police and firefighters unions.

Burns, an event planner by trade, is running for office for the first time after living in Pembroke Pines for two and a half decades.

Her lack of prior political experience is reflected in her fundraising. She raised and spent $9,000 through mid-March, much of it through small, grassroots donations. She also spent $2,500 from her bank account.

Last month, Burns told the Sun-Sentinel that the Pembroke Pines Commission “made some blunders” by allowing developers to overbuild in the city. She opposes closing public schools.

City Hall needs new leaders after two decades of mostly the same people in power, she said, because “same old same old brings same old same old results.”

(L-R) Commissioner Jay Schwartz hopes to fend off challenges from Catherine Minnis and Brandon Carrero to secure a fourth term on the Pembroke Pines City Commission. Images via Pembroke Pines and the candidates.

District 2 Commission Seat

For the seat representing District 2 — which runs from University Drive to Flamingo Road and from Sheridan Street to Pines Boulevard — incumbent Commissioner Jay Schwartz faces two challengers.

Monetarily, he’s well-poised to do so; Schwartz raised $97,000 this cycle to defend his seat — more than twice the combined gains of his opponents. He had roughly half that sum remaining last week.

A pilot by trade who won his seat in 2012, Schwartz opposes the school closures and the construction of a waste-to-energy trash incinerator, arguing that Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties should take a “regional approach” to waste disposal in order to prevent needless duplications of effort. He told the Sun-Sentinel he has a proven record of delivering for residents, including a successful effort to shut down a proposed exploratory oil drilling operation nearby.

Catherine Minnis, who retired late last year from the Broward Office of Economic and Small Business Development, wants to expand mass transit to reduce roadway congestion and use vacant land to build affordable housing.

She raised $27,000.

Brandon Carreto, a brand officer for a Miami Lakes-based mortgage company, raised half as much.

He wants to make the City Commission more accessible to residents, improve the accountability of vendors who provide services that the city outsourced and use closed public schools as vocational or charter schools to mitigate teacher layoffs.

(L-R) Maria Rodriguez, Glenn Theobald, Chris Ziadie and Ace Almeria are running to replace Siple on Pembroke Pines’ five-seat City Commission. Images via the candidates.

District 3 Commission Seat

Four candidates are vying to replace Siple in representing District 3, which runs from U.S. 27 to Flamingo Road between Pines Boulevard and Sheridan Street.

The two top fundraisers boast backgrounds in government.

Atop the list is Maria Rodriguez, the communications and outreach coordinator for Broward Commissioner Tim Ryan. Through last week, she stacked $46,000.

In keeping with her area of expertise, Rodriguez wants to improve accommodations for Spanish-speaking residents in city communications and signage. She also wants to make city services more user-friendly, improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and replicate locally a shuttle service pilot program in nearby Hollywood.

Glenn Theobald¸ a retired attorney who worked as a police officer and legal counsel for the Miami-Dade Police Department and Martin County Sheriff’s Office, collected $38,000.

Not that money is an issue. He plans to donate half his salary to charity if elected.

Public safety is his top priority. He also wants to use closed school land to build affordable housing.

While Chris Ziadie lacks official government experience, it’s not for lack of trying. He ran four times to serve in City Hall and also sought a seat on the Broward Commission in 2010. No effort proved fruitful.

A general manager at Harbor Freight Tools by day, Ziadie raised and spent $27,000 for this election.

He wants to boost the city’s police and firefighter forces with better pay while tamping down on needless spending. That includes the proposed trash incinerator, which he said he opposes due to apprehension among residents and its potential harm to the environment.

Ace Almeria, who owns an embroidery and screen-printing business, is a first-time candidate who already has skin in the game. His son, Rendell, is a SWAT member of the Pembroke Pines Police Department. Another son has served since 2007 with the U.S. Coast Guard.

He wants to seek state dollars to tackle affordable housing, recycle rather than burn trash and maintain an open-door policy as a public official.

He raised $8,000.

Nearly 170,000 people live in Pembroke Pines. Forty-seven percent are Hispanic, 24% are non-Hispanic White, 21% are Black or African American, and 18% are mixed-race, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The median age is 43. The median household income is $79,144. Ten percent of residents live below the poverty line.

Voters there will return to the polls Nov. 5 for a Special Election to replace Castillo in the District 4 seat. Four candidates: Ali Bhojani, Larissa Chanzes-Hernández, Michael Hernandez and Andy Reitz are running.

Of Broward County’s 1.1 million voters, 46% are Democrats, 23% are Republicans and 29% have no party affiliation, according to the Broward Supervisor of Elections.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Dont Say FLA

    March 18, 2024 at 9:08 pm

    Ahh, Pembroke Pines, the holy land of international package forwarding fraud. Will any mayoral candidate promise to fix that situation if elected? Doubt it! Can’t have the economy collapsing overnight like it would if the international package forwarding fraud economy in Pembroke Pines were stopped.

    • Dont Say FLA2

      March 19, 2024 at 2:57 pm

      Oh dear lord stop lol

Comments are closed.


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