Pembroke Pines voters pick Angelo Castillo as first new Mayor in 20 years, elect 2 City Commissioners

Angelo Castillo
All won 4-year terms.

Pembroke Pines voters have elected Commissioner Angelo Castillo to serve as the city’s first new Mayor in two decades. They also re-elected Jay Schwartz to the City Commission and chose Broward County Commission staffer Maria Rodriguez to serve alongside him.

With all 29 precincts reporting, Castillo had 55.4% of the vote to outpace two opponents and win the right to succeed longtime civic leader Frank Ortis in the city’s top elected office.

“I am humbled, thankful, eager and excited to begin a new era of achievement and problem-solving in the city of Pembroke Pines,” Castillo told Florida Politics on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Schwartz took 55% of the vote to defeat two challengers in District 2.

“I would like to thank the voters of District 2 and their continued confidence in me to lead our beautiful City,” he said by text.

Rodriguez defeated three opponents with 39% of the vote in District 3. She is the first Columbian American to win elected office in Broward County, her campaign said.

Her closest competitor was Glenn Theobold. Just 3 percentage points (54 votes) separated them. Mail-in votes counted overnight could shift that margin slightly.

“I want to thank the voters for their trust and support as we’ve worked to make history and bring a fresh perspective to Pembroke Pines,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

“I am honored to be the first-ever Colombian American elected to serve in public office in Broward County, and look forward to delivering results for our community. Pembroke Pines has been my home for more than two decades, and I am deeply committed to creating more opportunities for a safe, affordable, and future-ready community that works for everyone.”

Candidates only had to earn the most votes in a given race to win, according to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections’ Office.

At issue this election was 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 competed to be Pembroke Pines’ first new Mayor in 20 years. Castillo won. Images via Pembroke Pines and Elizabeth Burns.


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

Castillo, who 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 opposed 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.

Internal polling in November showed he enjoyed 60% support among likely voters.

Through March 14, Castillo 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.

Siple, a 30-year resident of Pembroke Pines who also won her City Commission seat in 2004, is a retired Chief Administrator for the Broward County Clerk of Courts Office. There, she oversaw budget, construction, and human resources issues. Her family 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 also gave. 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 plans to close or overhaul at least five of its district schools next year, and due to under-enrollment, possibly more will undergo changes soon. Siple told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the “tough decision” could enable the city to repurpose school properties for additional affordable housing provisions.

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

Burns, an event planner by trade, ran as a first-time candidate after living in Pembroke Pines for two and a half decades.

Her lack of prior political experience was 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 opposed closing public schools. City Hall needed 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 fended 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

Schwartz faced two challengers for the seat representing District 2, which runs from University Drive to Flamingo Road and from Sheridan Street to Pines Boulevard.

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

A pilot by trade who won his seat in 2012, Schwartz opposed 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 that 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, pledged 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 wanted 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 vied 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 also boasted backgrounds in government.

Atop the list was 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 said she wanted to improve accommodations for Spanish-speaking residents in city communications and signage. She also vowed to make city services more user-friendly, improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and expressed interest in replicating locally a shuttle service pilot program in nearby Hollywood.

Leading up to Election Day, she netted endorsements from numerous elected Broward officials and a slew of advocacy groups, including Teamsters Local 769, Florida Democratic Hispanic Caucus, Democratic Municipal Officials, SAVE LGBT Action PAC, Equality Florida Action PAC, Ruth’s List Florida, Sierra Club of Florida’s Broward Chapter, Broward Young Democrats and Run for Something.

She was also part of the Florida Democratic Party’s slate of “Take Back Local” candidates.

Theobald, a retired lawyer 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 was an issue. He said he planned to donate half his city salary to charity if elected.

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

Candidate Chris Ziadie lacked official government experience, but it wasn’t 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 aimed to boost the city’s police and firefighter forces with better pay while tamping down on needless spending. That included 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, was a first-time candidate with 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.

Almeria said he wanted 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. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 47% are Hispanic, 24% are non-Hispanic White, 21% are Black or African American, and 18% are mixed-race.

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 on Nov. 5 for a Special Election to replace Castillo in the District 4 seat. Four candidates — Ali BhojaniLarissa Chanzes-HernándezMichael Hernandez and Andy Reitz — are running.

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.


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