FORT LAUDERDALE — Bobby DuBose, who was the youngest contender for the District 3 city commission seat, pledges to make change by improving the lines of communication between his office and the people he represents.
On March 17 at city hall, the independent insurance adjuster was sworn in to represent the district that former City Commissioner Carlton Moore oversaw for 20 years. Moore retired in November.
“When change comes about, it’s generally through the younger generation,” DuBose said. “It’s a great opportunity not only for Fort Lauderdale, but District 3.”
DuBose, 38, was elected with more than 64 percent of the vote on March 10, defeating contender Pamela Adams, who garnered nearly 36 percent of the vote in a race marked by low voter turnout, according to the Broward Supervisor of Elections Web site.
Magdalene Lewis, who was appointed to fill Moore’s seat temporarily after his retirement last year, lost in the Feb. 10 primary.
Moore, who supported Adams’ candidacy, did not return phone calls from the South Florida Times. Adams declined comment.
DuBose described his leadership style as “a little different,” and pledged to take “an all-inclusive approach” with the district’s residents. “I will be more inclusive in terms of combating the apathy by bringing everyone into the process.”
DuBose said he will host a pre-agenda meeting, during which he can “sit down with the district and say, ‘this is what’s on the agenda,’ and we discuss it. There may be an issue that the district feels strongly about, and I can bring it to the commission.”
Sonia Burrows, 46, manager at Burrows’ Electric Company, a family-owned business that has been in District 3 for 61 years, said she agrees that open communication can serve as an effective tool.
“We have a unique situation in our district,” Burrows said. “Dorsey-Riverbend in particular.’’
Burrows was referring to the economically struggling Dorsey-Riverbend neighborhood south of Sistrunk Boulevard, where her business is located.
“There are a lot of people there, many of them tenants,’’ Burrows said. “Yet overall, their voices are not as strong as the populace.”
Burrows said that although the homeowners association meets in the neighborhood, the district meetings are in City Hall.
“Up to 25 people can attend,” she said, “but it’s not the same at the commission meetings, where only five may attend. That makes it difficult for your voice to be heard.”
At any given time, DuBose explained, the community has the opportunity to come before the commission and express concerns.
“But at pre-agenda meetings, we can discuss what’s on the agenda for the upcoming commission meeting,” he said.
DuBose said increased commerce is fundamental in the redevelopment of the Sistrunk area, despite the challenging economy, adding that he considers it a “good time for many to start a small business.’’
He added: “There are many people with high skill levels who have been laid off. We can, through the CRA, [Community Redevelopment Agency] develop small business incubators. This can assist entrepreneurs in starting up as well as create jobs within the district.”
A location for the incubator space has not yet been selected, DuBose said. “It’s in discussion with the CRA director at this time.”
Burrows said there are several abandoned homes along the Sistrunk corridor, and “we need to do something to ensure that they are not torn down.
“The community should stay ours,” she continued, “so it should not come to developers just taking over. People should not have to relocate.”
DuBose stated that he is not in favor of people being displaced, but “we just don’t have the luxury to be anti-development.”
There are many vacant lots along Sistrunk Boulevard that are CRA sites and are designated for CRA development, Dubose said, referring to the agency that uses tax dollars to revitalize blighted areas.
“For example, if a developer comes in and wants to build houses, and through demolishing existing ones forces people to move, I would definitely fight against that,” he said.
Many of the district’s residents, including DuBose, own land and have deep roots in the community.
“Their parents and grandparents were here; I grew up here. We don’t want that to change,” he said.
Germaine Smith-Baugh, president and CEO of the Urban League of Broward County, congratulated DuBose on winning the seat, adding that she hopes that when he transitions into the role,
“he remembers his focus—education, the community and economic development. I’d like to see it [the community] develop while being respected at the same time.”
Although the Urban League’s building is not located within the district, the district is a major service area for the organization, Smith-Baugh said.
District 3 is not a “highly trafficked” area, Smith-Baugh said, “but I am hard pressed to think that we can’t bring back the economic support necessary for growth.’’
She added: “We need every person who sits in that seat to dream big for our children and our children’s children.”
Photo: Bobby Dubose