Wayne Slaton got his old job back as the new mayor for Miami Lakes, while Frank Mingo grabbed Council Seat 4 in Tuesday’s special election to fill two vacant seats created by a political scandal that landed the former mayor in jail.
Slaton, 61, will serve out the rest of Michael Pizzi’s four-year term following his arrest in August on public corruption charges, and Mingo will serve on the Town Council to fill the unexpired term of former Councilmember Nelson Hernandez, who resigned to run for mayor.
In the five-man mayoral race, Slaton defeated Hernandez, Dr. David Bennett and political neophytes Luis Espinosa and Edwin Romero in a special election called 90 days after Pizzi’s suspension from office.
Slaton mustered 1,626 votes to Hernandez’s 1,127 votes, while Espinosa collected 383, Bennett had 250 and only eight residents cast their ballots for Romero.
Mingo, 53, beat Lorenzo Cobiella in a close race and Star Rodriguez finished third. The supply chain manager for Oliva Cigar Corporation had 1,337 votes followed by Cobiella with 1,217 and Rodriguez had 758 votes.
The special election drew a relatively low turnout as among 17,212 registered voters, 3,425 cast their ballots for a 19.9 percent voter turnout.
Residents selected a mayor who can bring back honest government in the wake of the political scandal that had some residents seeking to disband the government. For Slaton, an electrical contractor, it was a sweet victory to reclaim his old seat he held from 2001-2008 and replaces the man he lost to in last year’s election.
The 41-year Miami Lakes resident ran on a platform of restoring the town’s five-year Strategic Plan, which he called the residents’ plan, with operating principles, core values and goals that are implemented with unyielding respect for all.
“The plan that is the very foundation of our town should protect our children, residents and businesses,” he said. “Provide good and timely maintenance at a reasonable and efficient price. Provide the service that our residents want and deserve, new capital improvements that the citizens want, when we have the money to pay for them.”
Slaton won despite trailing Hernandez, 27, in campaign fundraising and support from State Senator Rene Garcia, as he collected $2,000 to Hernandez’s $24,262 as of September 24.
Mingo, who raised about $22,565, was thrust into the political spotlight after Miami Lakes flirted with the idea of annexing Palm Springs North. He’s pushing for residents input through a referendum to determine if they want to increase the size of Miami Lakes. According to the town’s charter, the decision lies in the hands of councilmembers. A resident since 1986, Mingo wants to keep property taxes low as well.
“I am pushing to restore transparency and ethics in our local government to move Miami Lakes forward and back on track are my priorities,” said Mingo.
Rodriguez, 48, said she was disappointed over the results but was encouraged by a lot of supporters in the community and the fact that the candidates ran a clean campaign. She said she’s considering running again next year.
“I’m leaning toward it but I want to talk to my family to make sure it’s the right thing for me,” said the real estate agent.
Cobiella raised $15,415 for his campaign and drew support from former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, while Rodriguez raised $4,275.
Hernandez, Cobiella, Bennett and Romero couldn’t be reached for comments by press time.
Slaton and Mingo will be sworn into office during the October 8 regular Town Council meeting at Miami Lakes Town Hall.