He Was A Great One…

Harold Ostrow was 90.

A really good man died last week and I’m afraid that his passing might get lost in the fire hose of information that is our world these days.  


Harold Ostrow passed away March 10 and it’s important to stop and reflect on his legacy because he was really important to our community. One of those unsung heroes who provided quiet but steady leadership for decades. 


Harold lived west of Delray Beach and is best known for founding the Voters Coalition of Palm Beach County. 
The Voters Coalition was a non-partisan civic association that quickly grew into a powerful and respected force in Palm Beach County and beyond.


Elected officials from Governors, Senators, County Commissioners, School Board members, judges and mayors beat a path to the Voters Coalition door seeking endorsements and an audience with its leadership. 


They did so because the Voters Coalition stood for what was best for the community and they commanded respect as a result. They also influenced a whole lot of votes. 


I got to know Mr. Ostrow in my newspaper days. I would attend Voters Coalition meetings and dinners because that’s where you’d find all the newsmakers. 


When I ran for office, Harold was generous with advice and encouragement even though he didn’t live in the city limits. He believed in good government and cared about Delray Beach. His synagogue, Temple Sinai, was in our city and he saw himself as a stakeholder. 


He was a kind, gentle and very intelligent man and I enjoyed every one of our many conversations over the years. 


I also admired his dedication to community service. He chaired the Palm Beach County Health Care District, where his leadership led to the creation of the Trauma Hawk; helicopters that ferried those in need to two trauma centers including one in Delray. 


Later, when I served on the Board of Directors for Delray Medical Center, Harold was a great touch stone and gave me solid advice on issues relating to health care in our service area. 


To give you further insight into his dedication, Mr. Ostrow was affectionately known as “Mr. Civic.”
He served on the Palm Beach County Finance Authority, Solid Waste Authority’s Citizen Advisory Committee, Judicial Nominating Committee and countless other boards and task forces. 


As chair of the Health Care District, Mr. Ostrow he worked with the School District to create behavioral health programs that served 170,000 students. 


All of this after a lengthy career in the textile industry and as the owner of a popular ice cream shop in New York City. 


He “retired” in West Delray and created a whole other rich life. All while still being there for his family and his wife of 70 years (that’s not a typo) Lenore. 
It’s really remarkable when you think about it. 


There are other examples of course, role models all. But Harold was extra special. 
And we will miss him. 


I’m not sure they make them like that anymore. But I sure hope they do. 
Men and women dedicated to the community, in it for the long haul and for all the right reasons. 


They give back, they pay it forward. They were members of the “greatest generation” and they have a lot to teach us. 
Farewell, my friend. Thanks for teaching so many so well for so long.

The Power of Quotes

Doris Kearns Goodwin

I love quotes.
I seek them out.
They inspire me.
When I find a good one I write it down, then come back to it when I need a lift.
I’ve been doing it for years.

Recently, two quotes jumped out at me so I thought I’d share.
Here goes…
“The penalty that good people pay for not being involved in politics is being governed by people worse than themselves.”- Plato

I find this quote by Plato to be remarkably relevant.
It’s amazing (or depressing, I’m not sure)  that someone who lived so long ago could express something that fits our cultural moment.

The dysfunction of our national politics has sparked a lot of energy on the political front.
Scores of candidates are running for Congress and the presidency, more people are voting and more are consuming political news on a variety of platforms.
People are fired up on both sides of the divide.
But I have a sense that on the local level there’s less interest, less participation and a lot of apathy. That’s too bad because in many ways, what happens on the city, county and school board level affects us more than what happens or doesn’t happen in Washington.

Plato was really onto something. We really do need to be involved.

This week’s municipal elections is a case in point. The winning candidate in the West Palm Beach Mayor’s race received 5,616 votes. West Palm is our largest city–candidates for city commission in a much smaller Delray Beach received more votes 30 years ago.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, there were 438,829 people registered to vote in the Broward communities with elections, unofficial voter turnout was 9.49 percent. Palm Beach County’s elections website didn’t break out turnout. It should. We have a long way to go in Palm Beach County when it comes to elections.

The other quote that grabbed me was something that the great Doris Kearns Goodwin said  at the recent Festival of the Arts Boca.
Here it is…

“Through my study of leadership these past five years, I found a family resemblance of traits and patterns of behavior—among them humility, empathy, resilience, courage; the ability to replenish energy, listen to diverse opinions, control negative impulses, connect with all manner of people, communicate through stories and keep one’s word.”

Isn’t that a wonderful quote?
Doesn’t it sum up what we’re craving in our leaders? Humility, empathy, courage, the ability to listen and I would add learn and grow.

The basket of traits Ms. Goodwin notes can also be called emotional intelligence.

I want to support, vote for, emulate someone who can grow in office, who can bridge differences, explain the issues, seize the opportunities and bring us together to face our challenges.

To paraphrase Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally”: I’ll have what Doris Kearns Goodwin is describing.

Forever Young…

The Franchise

It’s hard when your childhood heroes are leveled by life.

I don’t know why, but for some reason the heroes of our childhood remain vibrant, young and strong in our mind’s eye.
We remember their primes and often don’t “age” them in our memories.

So when I think of Tom Seaver, I still see a powerful young pitcher rearing back and dragging his knee on the mound firing fastball after fastball past the best hitters of his era.
But those days are long gone.

Today, “Tom Terrific” is 74 and last week his family announced his retreat from public life as a result of dementia.

For those of us of a certain age and a certain geography, Tom Seaver is an icon. He’s the best New York Met ever. A legend and one of the best pitchers ever.

I saw him pitch once at the old Shea Stadium and watched many other times on WOR Channel 9. When he pitched it was an event and even when we watched we looked the next day at the box score in Newsday because seeing his pitching “line” was also a  thing of beauty.
He was that great.
Truth is, I hadn’t thought of Tom Seaver in quite some time but I was still floored by the news.

Dementia?
Seaver was always an analytical pitcher, who despite his physical gifts was cerebral on the mound. He mentored younger pitchers and they hung on his every word.
74?
That doesn’t seem right. And then I realized that all of us kids who followed him are eligible to receive AARP magazine every month.

The decades have flown by.

I read a lot about Tom Seaver over the past week. By all accounts, he lives a peaceful and happy life tending to his family’s vineyard in California.
While he will fade from public view, I’m confident he will never fade from our memories.

The truly great ones never do. Their accomplishments live on. They change the world in their own distinct way and they change us too.

Tom Seaver brought a generation of fans tremendous joy.

He gave us lasting memories of endless summers watching baseball with our friends. Only the summers weren’t endless. They fade into fall and then winter. If we remember that, we will cherish the seasons all the more.

iPic Opens

A quick note about last week’s grand opening of iPic Delray.

In a word, it was amazing. A great party, a great night and most important the new theater and office complex is terrific. Truly, a new level.

IPic CEO Hamid Hashemi and his development team are to be commended for their vision and execution. They should be thanked for their belief in Delray and their willingness to make a colossal investment and create 250 jobs.

During the needlessly brutal approval process, the iPic team were called amateurs by a former elected official. It was a nasty comment and unbecoming of Delray. It’s possible to oppose a project without belittling those seeking to invest in your city.

Take a trip to the new Ipic and you’ll see firsthand that Mr. Hashemi and his company are far from amateurs. They are innovators and we are lucky to have iPic’s corporate headquarters in our city.

Mark Twain Was Right

I miss album covers (and vinyl too).

 

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” –Mark Twain

It’s amazing the impact that a few kind words can have.

A well placed sentence delivered at just the right time can change your life.

It has happened to me—a time or two.

I’ll get to that in a moment,  but first I want to share how a few words changed two friends lives.
I’ll bet if you give it some thought you’ll find that a sentence or two changed yours.

Last week, I was at the gym when a really great song came on.
I’m a music fan and I can guess many songs if they were released between 1964 and the late 80s. After that, my ear gets fuzzy.

Anyway, I didn’t know this particular song so I asked who was singing and my friend said it was Dave Mason, a classic rock artist who once played Delray Beach’s Old School Square pavilion.

The song led my friend to share his Dave Mason story.

My buddy was writing  a music column for the school paper when a very pretty young woman suggested he write about Dave Mason. Of course, he agreed. But he didn’t know who Dave Mason was so after school he made a beeline to the local record store (remember record stores?) and picked up the new Dave Mason album.

He loved it.

And a lifelong appreciation of Mason’s music followed. He wrote about the album–made a new friend in the popular young lady–and enlarged his fan base at school.

But more than that, the brief but very positive interaction with one of the most popular girls in school gave my buddy the confidence to transform just about everything from his appearance to his outlook on the future.

Sounds like an exaggeration?
Guess again.

He showed me before and after pictures. It was dramatic…from shy and unsure to big man on campus.

Pretty powerful wouldn’t you say?

That’s the power of a well placed sentence delivered by someone you respect or in this case fancy.

I saw a similar experience play out with an old friend in junior high school. This particular friend struggled with a nerdy reputation which wasn’t helped by his “bowl” haircut and “flood water”  pants. He was relentlessly teased.
Then one day everything changed.

A few of us were there when one of the most popular girls in school complimented my old friend on his new haircut—no more bowl, but parted in the middle and feathered back which was the style at the time. That one compliment fueled my friend for a decade or more. I kid you not.

He hit the gym, changed his appearance and outlook and the rest is history.

But it’s not just the opposite sex that can work magic with a sentence.

It can be a favorite teacher who tells you that you are good at math, a favorite coach who tells you that yes you have potential or a business mentor who tells you that you have something special.

We have these opportunities to uplift every day, if we choose to look for them. Leaders look for opportunities to uplift.

Consequently, we also have the power to hurt people with a few careless words. A callous sentence can leave a lasting mark.

So what about my own experience?
Well, I’ve written a few times that a lunch and a few words with former Delray Mayor Tom Lynch two decades ago inspired me to run for public office. (So blame Tom when you see him).

I know another former mayor who was inspired to get involved when he stopped by the Chamber of Commerce when he came to town and was urged to get involved by former Chamber President Ken Ellingsworth.
And I’m pretty sure that a few words were the reason that a friend of mine decided to become an entrepreneur instead of going the safer route to corporate America.

Words matter.
Think about their impact on your own life.
And just as important think how your words can encourage, inspire and motivate someone else.

Good Versus Bad Congestion

Miami traffic…..ugh

Around this time of year, with the sun shining in South Florida and the snow falling in the northeast we start to hear a familiar lament.

It goes something like this:
“Wow, it sure is crowded this year. The traffic is atrocious… 95 is a parking lot, the avenue is a zoo and you can’t get across Glades Road.”

All true.

Last week, it took me 90 minutes to go from Fort Lauderdale to Boca because I-95 was an absolute mess. Was I frustrated?

Heck yes. (I used stronger language at the time).

But when I stop and think about life in South Florida, my frustration lifts a bit and I get some perspective.

I’m lucky to live here. We all are.

We live in a desirable place.
A very desirable place.

People are flocking to Florida, some for the season, some for vacation and some to ditch the cold and income taxes of other states.

The front page of The Wall Street Journal recently noted the huge influx of people to Florida from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois—even governors of those states are lamenting the loss of residents which they blame on new tax laws that cap state and local tax deductions at $10,000 a year.

Regardless of the reasons, it’s a safe bet that for the foreseeable future (or until rising seas engulf us) Florida is going to remain a hot destination.

Which leads me to traffic and congestion.

We can make light of the issue by quoting the late, great Yogi Berra who once said: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

But with all due deference to Yogi it’s not that simple.

There is such a thing as good congestion.

Heresy you say…but hold on… let me explain.

Good congestion is a place where everybody wants to be.

A beautiful main street or a lively downtown are examples—and those places are typically full of people. You find good congestion in a great destination. Downtown Delray is a great destination and yes it is congested. Sometimes annoyingly so, but consider the alternative. It could be dead. It once was and it could be again if we don’t tend to its health.

Consequently, bad congestion is a place where you just want to get through—but you can’t get through fast enough because of the congestion. Bad congestion often occurs in miserable places to be—like an interstate or a major arterial road lined with strips malls and big box stores. We don’t need to list examples—they’re all around us.

So how do you tell the difference between good and bad congestion?
In a place with good congestion, you will see people outside of cars—walking, biking, sitting outside etc. You see people having fun. You see them talking and dining. You see life.

In a place with bad congestion, you don’t see people— you see cars. As I sat motionless on I-95 last week, I looked at the people in the cars. They were miserable like me. I saw a lot of sad faces.

When I inched my way to the off ramp and drove through more sprawl, I saw more cars. I didn’t see people.

So yes, it’s busy.

Yes, if you drive down Atlantic Avenue and miss the bridge you may be sitting in traffic for a bit but you do see people. You see diners, walkers, a few dogs and some smiles too.

Sure, sometimes we’d like to fly down Atlantic Avenue but just know that if you’re able to speed consistently on your Main Street, it’s probably because you’ve lost your vibrancy. I’d rather we have good congestion with people and successful businesses than a place where you can bowl on Main Street and not hit anything.

 

Fourteen Years Gone

Jerrod Miller

Fourteen years ago yesterday, Jerrod Miller, 16, was shot and killed outside of the Delray Full Service Center by a rookie Delray Beach police officer.

Jerrod was shot exactly 7 years before Trayvon Martin, 17, was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida sparking a national conversation that still boils.

In the ensuing years, we’ve experienced countless stories that are eerily similar.

I’m not sure how many people are thinking of Jerrod Miller these days in Delray, but I am. I think about him all the time.

I know a few police officers are thinking about him too because I got a text from one of them. I used to get a lot more—time passes I suppose.

When the shooting happened, we heard over and over again how Delray would never be the same and I suppose in some ways that is true. If you were there, if you were his brother, father, grandmother, relative, friend or teacher you most certainly were changed by what happened.

But time marches on, relentlessly. And so does life. It’s a cliché sure, but reality too.

Today, most people probably don’t know what happened in a breeze way at a school that now serves as an adult education center. Back in those days, it was an alternative school.

But I remember and I will never forget. That’s why I am writing this today…a very small way to keep a memory alive.

We’ve lost a lot of young men and women to gunfire in the 14 years since we lost Jerrod.

That’s a real national emergency if you ask me.

But I’m afraid we are becoming immune. I fear that our hearts are hardening.

I heard about a fatal shooting in Delray a few weeks back, but I don’t remember seeing much on the news and nobody I knew really talked about it. Maybe we’ve become numb to violence. I sure hope not.

Because the day we become numb to violence is the day we become untethered from our humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

Things We Loved In February

Radu Albot rode a string of upsets to win the Delray Open.

Things We Loved in February

Joni 75 at iPic.

This special concert film captured a magical night marking Joni Mitchell’s 75th birthday.

Great performances by Graham Nash, James Taylor, Norah Jones, Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile, Los Lobos, Seal and others.

Just amazing. And the iPic experience is sensational. Can’t wait for the Delray version to open in March.

As for Joni, her music is timeless.

 Killer App

Don’t miss the “sweet angels” appetizer at Papas Tapas one of my favorite restaurants on the planet.

 Great Young Minds

My team had a chance to work with a cohort of graduate students from the University of Miami as we contemplate options for the old Office Depot headquarters.

The students are studying design and real estate development under the tutelage of placemaking expert Chuck Bohl, a UM professor.

I’ve been a big fan of Dr. Bohl for years so it’s a thrill to work with him.

The students are bright and passionate. Can’t wait to see what they come up with.

 In Praise of La Cigale

La Cigale never fails to impress.

Delicious food, wonderful service.

 In Praise of Independent Film

The Movies of Delray is an independent theater that shows some films you can’t find anywhere else.

We saw a gem called “Heading Home” the story of Team Israel which shocked the world with an impressive performance in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

The film won the Boca Raton Jewish Film Festival’s top honor and is very special. A rowd pleaser from start to finish the documentary tells the story of  how a group of Jewish American ball players bonded with each other and discovered their roots.

A special treat: the director of the film and one of its stars Cody Decker of the Arizona Diamondbacks made a surprise appearance to answer questions and talk about the future of America’s pastime in Israel.

It was a cool experience.

 Off the Beaten Path

We like to venture off the beaten path especially during the busy season and as a result we’ve discovered some culinary gems.

Hacienda, a large Mexican restaurant on the southeast corner of Atlantic Avenue and Military Trail, is one of our finds.

We had a large family dinner there in February and enjoyed the food and attentive service. The San Gria wasn’t bad either.

We recommend you venture off the beaten path every now and again. There’s a lot to be discovered in our community— off the beaten path.

 Shout out to Lori Nolan

We noticed that the wonderful Lori Nolan celebrated 20 years with the Delray CRA on Valentine’s Day. How appropriate since we love Lori and her stellar work running the CRA Green Market all these years. Wishing her the best on the next 20! She’s been terrific and invaluable.

 A New Chief

Congratulations also to new Delray Police Chief Javaro Sims who was chosen for the post by City Manager Mark Lauzier.

It’s a tough job but after nearly 27 years of service we have confidence in Chief Sims.

 Meet the Beatles

What better place than Old School Square to spend Valentine’s Day?

And what better way to spend it than listening to a great Beatles tribute band with the love of your life.

We saw the Mersey Beatles at the Crest and they played Abbey Road start to finish to mark the 50th anniversary of that landmark LP. They also played a huge array of hits from early albums including my favorite Rubber Soul.

The Mersey Beatles are four lads from Liverpool and are widely considered at the top of the list of Beatles tribute bands.

As a special treat, we got to see John Lennon’s sister Julie Baird who was in Delray to raise awareness for Strawberry Fields, a non-profit in Liverpool that works with youth. It was a special Delray night.

We would have went to Dada after the show. After all, Yelp just named it the 100th most romantic restaurant in the United States but alas it was late and we are too old to be out late on a school night.

 History at the Delray Open

I like the Delray Open. Pro tennis is good for Delray. The event distinguishes us as a city. It’s worth the money and drives economic development.

It was great to see Radu Albot make history as the first person from Moldava to win a pro tennis tournament. A few years back, Kei Nishikori became the first man from Japan to win an ATP event.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Bryan Brothers captured their 117th title…a record for doubles.

 Last Resort

We saw The Last Resort at Living Room Theater.

It’s an affectionate look back at Miami Beach’s 1950s-1980 heyday through the lens of two talented photographers.

It’s also a must see. A great documentary.

 In Search of Manatee’s

Thanks my sister in law we discovered Manatee Lagoon in Riviera Beach in February.

It’s a beautiful facility where manatees and other fish gather to swim in waters warmer by FPL equipment.

Even though we didn’t see any manatees we did see tarpon and barracuda and enjoyed the exhibit space. A great place to hang.

 Happy anniversary

A hearty congratulations to our friends at Plastridge Insurance on their 100th birthday.

In today’s complex world, it is truly special to not only last but to grow and improve. Plastridge has done all three.

That takes leadership, vision, an ability to adapt and the courage to evolve.

In addition, the agency and its employees have served the community in a vast array of ways. For its 100th birthday, Plastridge donated $100,000 to local charities.

Tom, Connor and Brendan Lynch and the entire Plastridge team have much to be proud of and we have much to admire as we celebrate one of Delray’s historic businesses.

Here’s to the next 100 years. Congratulations!

 Due South

I belong to a truly terrific business group led by Bryan DeFrances and Matt Kutcher of JP Morgan Chase.

Really special group of people who get together each month.

Last month, the group took a guided tour of Due South, a great brewery in Boynton’s Brewery District.

Joe, our guide, was excellent— as was the beer. If you go, and we highly recommend that you do, try the Cat 5 and Caramel beers—incredible. Also don’t miss the gourmet food truck. It may be the best around.

Kudos to Boynton Beach for creating and supporting the district.

Here’s to March!

 

 

 

 

 

Love, Delray

Dear Delray,

 

This year, you will celebrate your 108th birthday.

What a milestone for you and citizens like me who love you so much.  So often people talk about you and focus on your challenges and problems—political division, crime, drugs, parking issues etc.

But, you can’t let the naysayers get you down – you’re still the precious gem that your founders saw all those years ago.

Sure, I know you have some blemishes after all this time, but I also know about your boundless potential.

I’ve always known about your boundless potential.

Last week, on Valentine’s Day, the National League of Cities sent out a series of love letters like the one above from mayors, city council members and others to their cities. I read beautiful notes to places like Portland, Maine, Lexington, Kentucky and Ames, Iowa and I thought they were heartfelt and wonderful.

None of the love letters glossed over problems—they mentioned crime, vacant buildings, heroin overdoses, homelessness and inequality but they also found so much to love about their hometowns.

Which is a good thing, because far too often, we are fussy and overly critical about where we live.

Recently, I ran into an urban planner who consults in cities all over the country. He made it a point to tell me how he thought Delray was “so hard on itself.” And I agreed.

At a recent, Urban Land Institute meeting, Delray was mentioned as a role model for other cities in South Florida. Not that cities want to be Delray, just that they admire who we are and where we’ve come from. It was good to hear this, but I have to be honest, my first thought was “well, they ought to talk to the people who live here because wow are they critical.”

But you know what?

I was wrong.

Most people who live here do love Delray, they just get drowned out sometimes by some of the…ahem… loud voices who tend to tilt a little toward the negative.

If you didn’t know better (and we do) and if your view of Delray was limited to social media here’s what you’d find. This is a sampling from a two minute cruise down the rabbit hole last week. Excuse the syntax…

“What happened to this beautiful Village By The Sea charm?! It’s a large metropolitan greed city!”

“Traffic is getting worse every day at some point I will not go to in town Delray !!”

“The only reason for me to go to downtown Delray is the Elks Lodge and the bank.”

It is so tempting to respond….but it really wouldn’t make much of a difference.

Right after my 2-minute dive into the negative— as if through some divine intervention –I got a notice through “Next Door” about a group called Love Delray.

Love Delray is a quarterly volunteer initiative that seeks to unite our community through collaboration and service. Here’s a link https://lovedelray.com/

The group meets and fans out to serve local non-profits such as the Delray Children’s Garden or CityHouse Delray. Sometimes they’ll just go and clean the beach. Isn’t that cool?

My strong hunch is that there are more lovers than complainers in Delray Beach.

As for the critics, the Elks Lodge is amazing but there’s some pretty good restaurants and shops too. Nobody likes traffic, but it beats the alternative which is a place that’s dead and buried and there’s plenty of charm if you would just open your eyes….how many cities have an Elvis impersonator, a professional tennis event and a really great Wine and Seafood Festival?

Answer: not many.

Last week, I took a left turn and within a few minutes I was sitting in the Crest Theatre listening to John Lennon’s sister introduce a truly amazing Beatles tribute band. People were dancing in the aisles…and the list goes on and on. Last night, I sat and watched the fourth best tennis player in the world and a rising American star play beautifully.

Sorry I couldn’t help myself. I answered the naysayers.

So Dear Delray, stay positive. You are a pretty cool little city. And we love you.

 

 

 

What A Good Officer Can Mean

Officer Skip Brown and Chief Rick Overman celebrate Rambo’s retirement. Rambo was a legendary K-9.

The Delray Newspaper broke a story last month that reminded me how much a dedicated police officer can mean to a community and to someone in need lucky enough to bump into the right cop at the right time.

In November of 1995, Officers Skip Brown, Dan Grose and Rosetta Newbold were on patrol when they responded to a call in a drug and crime riddled trailer park. In a rancid trailer that defied description they found two small children, ages 7 and 8, who were dirty, hungry and scared.

The two, a brother and sister, had roaches crawling on their faces and in their hair. When Skip carried the little girl to safety, she clung tightly to his neck. He promised her she would be OK. And he meant it.

Skip is that kind of guy.

I know that from personal experience which is why I cherish him and his wife Cheryl.

Skip took the boy and girl back to the Police Department and comforted them as best he could. The little girl would never forget his kindness.

Eventually state child welfare authorities intervened and the children ended up in foster care. Skip never forgot about the children and frequently wondered where they were and if they were Ok.

The little girl spent years searching for the kind hearted officer. But police officers can be hard to find and there are many Skip Brown’s in this world. (But none like our Skip Brown).

Then recently, she caught a break.

Regular readers of this blog will recall that about a year or so ago, Skip—now happily retired in Alabama— came home to receive a much deserved and long overdue Bronze Star for his heroic service in Vietnam.

He chose Old School Square as the venue to receive his medal and he chose me to pin the star on his chest. It was the biggest honor of my life. We are close friends and Skip has been an older brother to me—which means he can be tough on you but you also know that he’d jump in front of a train to save you from being run over. I would do the same for him.

The publicity around the Bronze Star ceremony prompted a story in an Alabama magazine and that led to a discovery….the little girl…saved in 1995 and now an adult… wrote to the magazine’s editor with a request.

Could she be put in touch with the man who showed her such a big heart all those years ago?
The editor reached out to Skip and a reunion via email and phone ensued. It’s a heartwarming story and our Associate editor Marisa Herman did a remarkable job writing about the saga.

Here’s the link: https://delraynewspaper.com/former-delray-police-officer-reconnects-with-girl-he-rescued-24-years-ago-27572

Please read the story and share it. It’s a heartwarming saga in a world that needs to see more of these kind of stories.

But this column is about my friend and brother Skip.

By all accounts, we are an odd couple. I’m moderate/liberal, he’s conservative. I’m 5’9”, he’s well over 6 feet. I’m a New Yorker, he’s from Ohio. I’m young (wink)…he’s…OK we’ll stop there.

Yet our friendship has always worked.

Which shows you that surface differences really don’t matter. What matters is what’s in your heart and what you really care about. On that measure, we have just about everything in common.

Skip has a heart for people in distress and animals, especially dogs but also birds, cats and just about anything that crawls. I do too.

Skip cares about community. We bonded over our mutual love for Delray and our rock solid commitment to try and make this a better place for everyone, young, old, black, white, east, west you name it.

Skip made a big difference in his 20 years of service. He started as a cop in a vastly different Delray Beach—working the road, serving as a K-9 officer, staffing midnight shifts where gunfire and violent crime happened every night.

We spent many of those nights talking late into the wee hours on my driveway at the end of his shift about Delray, great dogs and life itself.

Over time, like the layers of an onion, he revealed much about himself and his experiences—the heartaches, what  combat is like, the stresses of being a police officer and the ability to make an impact in some instances while other times you are just helpless and watch as your heart breaks over some situation—whether it’s an elderly volunteer succumbing to cancer, the loss of my mother, the loss of Skip’s brother, the nastiness of politics and the plight of a little girl and her brother living in a squalid trailer.

When Jerrod Miller was shot, 14 years ago this month, Skip was there as we worked to try and keep our city from falling apart in the wake of tragedy.

These experiences bond you—as brothers. They forge you and make you stronger even though you are never quite the same and the scars accumulate.

We’ve been there for each other through the loss of loved ones, the loss of great dogs (Rambo, Olk, Magnum, Casey), moves, career changes, divorce, illness and all the changes that come with time.

He has always had my back and I love him for that and for always having the backs of everyone in his life.

On the side of most police cruisers in America is the saying “protect and serve.”
For the best officers, the ones who make a real and lasting difference, those words are more than a tagline they are a bedrock philosophy and a way of life.

Even when they retire, the best officers continue to protect and serve—their family, friends and neighborhoods. My friend is one of those special people and I just needed to share that with you.

 

 

Lessons Learned

ULI is a global non-profit.

I’m a huge fan of the Urban Land Institute.

ULI is a global organization that promotes responsible development and the organization is often called on to provide expert advice on how to build great communities.

I’ve worked with the organization on a few special projects over the years including public leadership seminars and an in-depth dive into the future of Winter Park, Florida.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with a talented panel seeking to help Tamarac, in West Broward County make sense of their potential.

It was a great experience and I got to meet some terrific elected officials and very dedicated staff. The ULI panel also consisted of some really smart people including economic development professionals, a real estate broker for a large firm, a cutting edge developer and a very talented urban designer from Miami. I thought I’d share a small portion of my session on public leadership.

 

Ten Lessons Learned

 (Some the hard way, but most by watching other leaders and learning from talented mayors).

  1. Focus on the Big Rocks (Don’t Major in the Minor)

Being an elected official is like drinking from a fire hose… you will get lost in the weeds if you’re not careful. Successful elected officials learn to lead and leave the management to staff. They also focus on large meaningful goals—“the big rocks.”

 

2. Trust But Verify

(Trust movement but outcomes are more important than words)

 

Even if you focus on the big picture, you will be blamed for the potholes. So empower staff to do their jobs but also hold them accountable for getting things done—both large and small. Outcomes are what you will be judged on. Process is important, but sometimes you can have process without outcomes. Make sure that doesn’t happen. You have to deliver. Have a sense of urgency.

 

3. Have a Vision-

The “Grassroots” (your constituents) depend on the “Grass Tops” (elected officials and senior staff) to get things done.

The most successful cities have a vision for what they want to be and how they’ll get there.

The best cities are aspirational, so dare to dream but also understand who you are as a community.

Visions Should Be Community Based—coming from the Grassroots.

Community Visions Should Be Sacred– Elected officials (Grass tops) are Stewards and have a responsibility to deliver.

Visions allow you to say no to projects that don’t fit and to say yes to projects that fit the vision.

 

4. Find Shared Goals

 The most successful councils/commission’s have shared goals.

Not having shared goals leads to:

Dysfunction

Staff Confusion

Inaction—whose ideas, projects should we pursue?

Creates Winners and Losers

End result—it’s hard to make sustained progress.

Once the other side gets in or the players change, policies, directions and progress are often reversed. One step up, two steps back syndrome.

 

5. Celebrate Success

(Blame is a given in public life, might as well celebrate when you succeed)

Let the community know when you fulfill a promise or achieve a goal.

It’s important to celebrate—it builds civic pride and confidence in City Hall. You need to build a reservoir of good will to take advantage of opportunities and to weather setbacks.

 

6. The Loudest Voices Aren’t Necessarily Representative of the Community

 

Be wary of people who claim to speak for “everyone”

Our jobs as elected officials is to leave the city better than we found it. Sometimes that means making tough decisions that may not always be popular at the time we are asked to vote.  But if  your votes are tied to a community vision or goals, you will survive and thrive.

 

7. Mayors and Commissioners are the architects of their city

 

We are responsible for holding developers to high standards…but we are also responsible for making sure there is “rule of law” and a predictable process. If we allow our cities to become nightmares, we will chase away investment and or attract the wrong investors. Mayors and commissioners set the tone for their cities. Are we nice? Are we civil? Are we professional? Or are we mean and petty? Mean and petty is a recipe for failure.

 

8. The Best Economic Development is a Clear Vision and Predictable Process

 

If you can develop a compelling vision for your city, it will serve as a great sales and marketing tool for your town. If you can get investors through your process without it becoming a clown show or worse you will see progress. It’s that simple. The best incentives are a compelling vision and a predictable process with high standards.

 

9. Once Votes Are Taken, It’s Our Responsibility to Make Sure We Get the Best Outcomes Possible


We won’t always get our way. We will lose tough votes. But once the roll is called and the votes are cast we must move on and not re-litigate over and over. If the decision is horrible, it will tend to reveal itself in time and you will have another chance to right the wrong. If it moves forward, we must move forward too.

 

10. Municipal Math

(Math can be cruel)

 

It takes 10-20 years to build something of value, 1-2 years to mess it up and there is no guarantee you will recover. So think about the future and leave your city better off than when you were entrusted with its welfare.