mack-bernard_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

WEST PALM BEACH — Smart, competent, intelligent and hard working were some of the accolades used to describe 84th District State Rep. Mack Bernard, who affectionately was on the “hot seat.”

Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, was the guest of honor at the third annual Political Roast hosted by the Together We Stand Democratic Club, Oct. 1, at the Airport Hilton.

The aim of the luncheon event was to promote voting and interest in the Democratic Party.

Program emcee Bobby Powell performed skits throughout the roast, along with Alson Jacquet, his fellow Bernard legislative aide, mocking their boss and spoofing other local and state officials.

Other roasters included Bernard’s fellow state Reps. Jeff Clemens and Mark Pafford and his sister, Nadege Bernard-Ahrendts.

James Drayton, president of the Together We Stand Democratic Club, acknowledged the elected officials in attendance, among them Pahokee Commissioners Allie Biggs and Diane Walker; School Board Member Marcia Andrews; County Commissioner Paulette Burdick; Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher; Riviera Beach Councilwoman Judy Davis; and West Palm Beach Commissioners Sylvia Moffett, Bill Moss and Keith James.

No one was off limits for the goodhearted jesting honoring Bernard, including his wife Shawn, Martin Luther King Jr. Coordinating Committee Director Edith Bush and Mangonia Park Councilwoman Addie Green.

Green said she supports Bernard and his endeavors to improve communities in his district such as the Glades area.

“I was a Florida state representative for District 84 before Mack got there.  So when he told me he was interested in running, I wanted to do everything I could to make sure he was elected to that position,” Green said. “With the correctional facility we have in the Glades (closing), Mack was out there long before, looking out for his constituents.”

Bernard said about 250 jobs are expected to be lost in the already economically depressed area after the Glades Correctional Facility closes. He said he and other state legislators are searching for ways to help those individuals find other means of employment.

In addition to his being an effective politician, Green said she thinks Bernard doesn’t mind being roasted because he has a great sense of humor and takes things in stride, even when his staff decided to upgrade his wardrobe.

“When he was first elected, he used to wear a bow tie. Most people who saw him on the mailouts sent to his constituents wanted to know if he was Muslim,” she said. “This is nothing against Muslims but you want people to identify you for who you are. So his staff, Bobby Powell and Al, changed his complete attire.”

Green said Powell and Jacquet felt their boss needed a more modern and youthful look. Bernard said his staff often teases him about wearing short-shorts and long tube socks to play basketball but he likes to wear what pleases him, including bow ties such as the one he wore to the roast.

Elizabeth Robinson, a member of the PBC Caucus of Black Elected Officials, agrees that Bernard, the group’s president, is lighthearted, but says he has a serious side as well.

“Rep. Mack Bernard is informed and has integrity and morals.  He does not mind talking to the mayor, the congressman, the governor,” she said. “He will talk to the preacher, the teacher, the man who doesn’t know what’s going on.  It doesn’t matter. Mack is always there to talk to someone on behalf of the people.”

Robinson, director of the Minority AIDS Initiative Network in Mangonia Park, said Bernard works hard to make sure the medical needs of those infected with HIV and AIDS are met.

During her roasting duties, Bernard-Ahrendts teased her younger brother about being so small that she had to defend him when they were young. She also said Mack followed her off to college, married  — to his wife Shawn — the same month in which she married, and even honeymooned at the same destination —  Acapulco, Mexico — as she and her husband.

When Bernard, 35, finally had the chance to respond to his roasters, he became sentimental for a moment. 

“When I was born, my mother gave me away at the age of 3 months,” he said. “My father moved to the United States at that same time. I never got a chance to meet my mother and my father. My sister, Nadege, was basically my mother.”

Bernard-Ahrendts protected him from bullies and nurtured him into adulthood.

Florida State University was the natural choice when Bernard realized he had the opportunity to attend college. “I knew Nadege was at Florida State and I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to apply.’ And I followed my mother,” he said. “We lived in a one bedroom house with my little sister. We only had enough money for me to go to school for two years.”

He took 18 to 21 credit hours each semester and completed his undergraduate studies in two years, graduating with Nadege, who would not let him stay behind.

Mack Bernard