Mayor? May Not? An Interview With Jack Seiler

Jack Seiler.jpg
Considering Fort Lauderdale mayoral candidate Jack Seiler was a state legislator until this year (when he termed out), he seems like the most likely among the four contenders to know how a big Democratic city like this one can wring a few extra bucks out of those tight-fisted Republicans who run Tallahassee.

Maybe a Republican on a finance committee has a second family, mm? Maybe one of 'em has had his photo taken with a stripper? Or worse, with Fidel Castro?

"I don't have anything that can be used as leverage from that perspective," says Seiler. "But I do have some pretty good relationships. I was always someone who could get along with members of both parties. I'm a friend of Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. I have a good working releationship with Charlie Crist. When you walk into that arena, you have to find areas of common ground."

Seiler represented Fort Lauderdale in the state legislature for eight years. But last spring, shortly after he declared his candidacy for mayor, Seiler faced questions about whether he could lead a city that he'd recently moved to. Since 1989 Seiler had been living in Wilton Manors, where he'd been mayor from 1998-00. Last February he rented a friend's Fort Lauderdale home, even as his family remained in their Wilton Manors home -- or two homes, since the Seilers owned the one next door, too. Then there's the place he has in Tallahassee... Does Jack Seiler have more homes than John McCain?

We'll clear up this matter and hear about Seiler's ideas for Fort Lauderdale, after the jump.

Seiler wants the record to reflect his Fort Lauderdale bona fides: "I grew up in Fort Lauderdale. I was raised there, went to grade school and high school there. From the Sixties to 1989 I lived in Northeast Fort Lauderdale, the Coral Ridge area." And even after he moved to Wilton Manors and became active in that city's politics, Seiler points out that he worked the whole time at a law office in Fort Lauderdale.

The candidate is still renting right now, but Seiler says it's only because it's taken time for him to sell the home in Wilton Manors. He and wife will be buying a place in Fort Lauderdale.

Having knocked on doors all over the city, Seiler says he's got a new appreciation for how the crash of South Florida's housing market has affected neighborhoods. "As I go door-to-door, I find lots of foreclosed homes," he says. "When I ask the neighbors who takes care of those homes, they say 'We do. We don't cats or whatever being there.' But it shouldn't have to be that way."

Seiler thinks a task force could make headway. "I want to put together lenders with code enforcement people, people in mortgage services community to see what we can do to prevent foreclosures. Even when they have to do it, there must be a plan for making sure we preserve the neighborhood."

It seems that the term "culture change" is as popular among mayoral candidates as "regime change" was in the buildup to the Iraq invasion. It's a reference, of course, to the personality clashes that happened during commission meetings, as well as the impolitic remarks by Mayor Jim Naugle about the city's gay community. "I haven't been talking about 'culture change,'" says Seiler. He has another euphemism: "What needs to happen is a change of the tone of city hall. My emphasis is on public service -- it always has been. I know that in the past the commission has been divisive. That's just not my style."

Seiler has lots of support in the gay community from having represented Wilton Manors as mayor then as state legislator. And though two of his opponents -- Dean Trantalis and Ed Rynerson -- are openly gay, Seiler thinks that big turnout among those voters will be to his advantage. "I've always had a good relationship with that community," he says. "I have a track record I can run on in that community." 

Of course, I had to ask Seiler to set the record straight on the November incident when his car was burglarized. Was this Fort Lauderdale's Watergate moment? "No," says Seiler. "I don't think there was any political motive." The thief took Seiler's portable XM Radio, scooped up all the loose change and made off with a BlackBerry full of Seiler's address book and emails. Sure sounds like something that Roger Stone might engineer, and at least one cop thought the theft might be politically driven. "That comment made at the police station was not made by the investigating officer," says Seiler. Rather, he says while he was at the station discussing the incident someone made a "crack" about politics being the cause.

But that doesn't mean that Seiler can't get some political mileage out of it, not to mention his ordeal trying to sell a home in this market. "Housing and crime are probably the two biggest issues in the campaign," he chuckles. "If you want your candidate to have firsthand experience with those issues, I've had it."

Stay tuned to the Juice next week for more candidate interviews. To read our conversation with mayoral candidate, Dean Trantalis, click here.


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