WEST PALM BEACH — The only African-American member of Palm Beach County’s highest elected body has resigned, citing health reasons.
During a March 6 news conference, Palm Beach County Commissioner Addie Greene announced her resignation, effective on April 30. The announcement comes just four months after her second re-election in November.
She said she now plans to train young leaders to follow in her footsteps.
Her commission seat is the second this year to become vacant, after Commissioner Mary McCarty resigned in January in the middle of a federal corruption probe.
Greene, 66, a Democrat, represents a minority-dominated district that extends from Riviera Beach to Delray Beach.
Although she is stepping down, Greene said she is not out of the political ring. She plans to serve as the part-time executive director of the Palm Beach County Caucus of Black Elected Officials, an organization she helped found in 2000.
Having served on the county commission since 2000, she said that last year her doctor hinted that she should slow down.
But she sought re-election anyway after former Riviera Beach Councilwoman Elizabeth Wade challenged her. Wade had the support of the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association, an organization that had criticized Greene’s statements on police shootings.
Soon after trouncing her Republican opponent with more than three-quarters of the vote, Greene decided to heed her doctor’s advice.
“My appointments became more frequent, every two months instead of six. I knew then I had to read between the lines or else I would be out of here,” she said.
A survivor of breast cancer, Greene added that she was “under stress,” but stated that it [stress] was not “precipitated by the ongoing investigations” nor did it [the investigations] prompt her decision to step down.
“I am cancer free because it was detected early,” Greene shared, “but the job-related stress is a factor that weighs heavily on my overall health going forward.”
Greene was diagnosed four years ago, when she said she was “getting ready to go in and chair the commission. I didn’t want anyone to know. Had the facts leaked to the media, everyone would have had their own opinion of my ability, or lack of, to handle my business. I did not want that pressure.”
Greene’s current term runs through November 2012. After she steps down, Gov. Charlie Crist will appoint someone to serve through 2010, when there will be an election to fill the final two years of her term.
A native of Alabama, Greene has been a Palm Beach County resident since 1965. She served as vice mayor (1988) and later, mayor (1991) of Mangonia Park.
In 1992, she was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, and served four consecutive terms as the District 84 representative.
Greene said she will apply for the position of executive director of the Palm Beach County Caucus of Black Elected Officials.
“I don’t need anyone to feel that I stepped down, set up a job for myself, and then it was given to me,” she said.
The organization was founded to produce strong leaders within Palm Beach County’s communities, to identify issues impacting the African-American community, and to train young people of color to follow in the footsteps of professional leadership.
Greene said she has spoken with the organization’s president, Mangonia Park Mayor William Albury III, and they are “getting a contract together that includes the duties and responsibilities.”
She added that it is a position that will be posted.
“Other people will apply,” Greene said, “but I will do it for one dollar per year. Instead of paying a salary, that money can go to our students.”
Greene has earned a healthy pension and retirement after more than 30 years of working for the state, beginning as a teacher and continuing through her terms in the state Legislature, and on the county commission.
After Greene leaves her county commission seat, she will receive a lump sum of more than $300,000 from a state retirement fund, she said. She will also receive pension payments of $4,600 per month after a cost-of-living increase in July.
In her new position, Greene said, she will have “the freedom to help other people of color in government without the stresses of campaigning or being labeled as corrupt.”
She added that being the only African American in Palm Beach County who served eight years in Tallahassee allowed her to garner the experience and training necessary to work with the government.
“I want to pass those skills on to other elected officials here,” she said.
Photo: Palm Beach County Commissioner Addie Greene