Ousted Hollywood mayor: "People just wanted change"

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

For almost 20 years, Mara Giulianti proudly called herself "Hollywood's Full-Time Mayor."

On Tuesday, city voters rejected her application for rehire.

Longtime Commissioner Peter Bober soundly defeated Giulianti, 63, an iconic and often-criticized political figure who had fought off most challengers during her career.

Giulianti gave no formal concession speech as the results came in, but acknowledged she had no chance of winning.

"I'm sorry I let all my supporters down," she told a small group at the Emerald Hills Golf and Country Club. "People just wanted change."

With three political newcomers and a new mayor, Hollywood will have a virtually new commission following next week's swear-in ceremonies. Longtime Commissioner Cathy Anderson also lost, and a new commissioner will replace Sal Oliveri, who retired.

"I think we need to get to know each other first and find out where everyone stands on some of the tough, upcoming issues," Bober said Tuesday night. The mayor-elect, who is 35, said his first step will be to hold a special workshop with his new commission to gauge priorities.

Two other cities also rejected commission incumbents: William Armstrong in Pembroke Pines and Elliot Kleiman in Cooper City.

In Hollywood, Anderson, a 32-year veteran, came in behind two challengers. Patty Asseff ended the commissioner's long tenure and also edged out city activist Sara Case.

But Giulianti's defeat was the big news. District 2 Commissioner Beam Furr, who handily won re-election over businessman Peter Hernandez, offered praise for the longtime mayor.

"The city is much better now than when she took office, and she left one hell of a legacy," he said "Now our challenge is to take the good things that are here, and work on the things that voters obviously haven't been happy with."

Most of the winners on Tuesday, especially Bober, mounted grass roots campaigns built on promises of maintaining a closer eye on taxpayer funds, keeping influential developers and lobbyists at bay, and bringing more ethical reforms to a city government wrought by recent scandals.

At the same time, Hollywood voters gave the commission permission to sell off four city-owned properties, which could lead to further development north of downtown.

The District 2 race between Furr and Hernandez was a raucous fight to represent one of the city's poorer areas. Furr often stood alone in the commission in taking aim at the three city unions' handsome pensions, accounting for more than 70 percent of the city's budget.

In District 3, political novice Heidi O'Sheehan beat out activist Pete Brewer. Brewer lost even though Oliveri endorsed him.

In District 6, retired nurse Linda Sherwood topped attorney Ed Holodak.

The pledges of fiscal restraint and ethical reform will be put to a test soon, as the newly elected leaders are called to grapple with further tax reforms caused by passage of the statewide property tax proposal and a possible overhaul to the city's charter.

Contracts with the city's three unions are also up for renegotiation this year.

Voters on Tuesday seem determined to make changes to the way Hollywood conducts business and were not on board with Giulianti's vision of continued growth.

"The amount of property that has been developed has been way too much," said beach resident Pam Diechter, 55. "Traffic is way too congested, there are water restrictions and there's a lack of parking. Why bring more people?"

While a theme of change resonated with voters, some indicated they were most determined to vote Giulianti out of office.

Many voters acknowledged not knowing much about Bober. But they knew the mayor had been in office too long.

Linda Maurice, a freelancer journalist, said she went to the polls on Tuesday with change in her mind, even if it meant voting against someone she knows personally.

"I know Mara and I really like her. I think she's done a great job," Maurice said. "But I think there should be a cap on how long someone should be in office."

Others said they based their decisions on taxes, saying the city, with one of the highest rates in Broward, wasn't spending their money wisely.

"Look at that ArtsPark! It's nice but did we have to spend that much money? What was wrong with the old park?" said longtime resident Al Signore. "We've been spending all this money and my children's future are being mortgaged."

Throughout her campaign, Giulianti portrayed herself as a leader who transformed the city from a decaying small town. She conceded she could be polarizing at times, calling opponents naysayers and projecting an intimidating figure from the dais.

Last week she sent a "Valentine's Day Card" to voters saying her style worked.

Staff Writer John Holland contributed to this report.

Ihosvani Rodriguez can be reached at ijrodriguez@sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7908.

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