Mike Hernández appointed to Pembroke Pines Commission after historic, but lengthy, vote

Michael Hernandez sitting
He’ll serve at least until November, when the seat is again up for grabs.

After a lengthy voting process that Mayor Angelo Castillo proposed flipping a coin to settle, the Pembroke Pines Commission appointed government relations pro Mike Hernández to a short term on the panel representing District 4.

His appointment marks the first time a populous city in Broward County — and likely any municipality there — has had a Hispanic-majority Commission, Broward Commissioner Steve Geller told Florida Politics.

Hernández, a former spokesperson for ex-Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez now working as a partner at LSN Communications, said he’s grateful for the trust Castillo and his fellow Commissioners showed in their vote.

“I’ve been a resident of District 4 for over 15 years. I love Pembroke Pines. It’s where my wife and I have chosen to raise our children,” he said in a statement. “I’m eager to get to work serving my neighbors and being their voice in City Hall.”

Members of the Commission selected Hernández by ranked voting Wednesday from a field of five candidates after hearing public testimony from residents, most of whom advocated for him. He took the seat Castillo vacated this year for a successful mayoral run representing a portion of the city generally south of Pines Boulevard and west of Flamingo Road.

Others running included finance director Ali Bhojani, small business owner Elizabeth Burns, Broward Commission Chief of Staff Launa Carbonell and retired engineer Robert Young.

Pembroke Pines City Attorney Sam Goren swears in Mike Hernández as Mayor Angelo Castillo (far left) looks on. Hernández will serve on the City Commission for the next five-and-a-half months. Image via Pembroke Pines.

Commissioners voted in six rounds, whittling down the list before finally choosing Hernández over Bhojani, whom the panel appointed to the city’s Planning and Zoning Board as a concession.

The two were dead even in the fifth vote, points-wise, prompting Castillo to suggest a complicated coin-tossing process to break the tie. Commissioner Jay Schwartz balked at the idea and repeatedly interrupted Castillo with objections.

“We’re the second-largest city in Broward County. We don’t conduct business on a coin toss,” Schartz said.

He called for punting a final vote between Hernandez and Bhojani to the Commission’s June 5 meeting. No one supported the motion.

But Vice Mayor Thomas Good agreed a coin flip was inappropriate. “I think we need to own up to the decision,” he said before calling for a five-minute recess, which all assented to.

The panel reconvened more than 20 minutes later and took a sixth vote in which Hernández narrowly edged Bhojani. Castillo, Good and Commissioner Maria Rodriguez voted to ratify the appointment. Schwartz voted “no.”

Hernández took his seat after being sworn in by City Attorney Sam Goren. In a short speech, he promised to be transparent about his appointment when running to stay in office this year by not including “re-elect” on his campaign materials.

“I understand I am (an) interim, and I understand I am at the mercy of the voters in November, and I appreciate very much this appointment, but I also look forward to working with you and all in the business of the people, which is incredibly important, especially looking forward to the budget and all the other items that we have,” he said.

“District 4 needs a representative, plain and simple. There’s roughly 47,000 residents here (and) 13,000 in Century Village, (so) let’s get to work.”

The District 4 seat is up for grabs again on Nov. 5, when voters will choose between Hernández, Bhojani, Larissa Chanzez-Hernández and Andy Reitz.

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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