What We Often Don’t See Is What Matters

the-iceberg-of-successI saw a great graphic the other day. (Look above).

The picture depicts success as an iceberg with only the good stuff visible on the surface.
But just below is what it took to achieve success. The trials, tribulations, setbacks, false starts, hard work, good habits and more that few see. But it’s the struggle that is essential for achieving success.
While the graphic is probably aimed at individuals, I think it also holds true for cities and other things we strive to build.
There are so many things that don’t appear on the surface. So many hurdles that few get to see.
And so it has been with Delray Beach and Boca Raton.
First Boca.
I moved here in 1987 and I remember the old mall on US 1. It wasn’t a very nice mall, but it had a bookstore and so I went there often.
I worked for a newspaper at the time headquartered on East Rogers Circle and it was a fairly desolate place back then. There were few places to eat, we had to drive to Tom Sawyer’s or into Delray where there was a restaurant sort of underground at Linton Towers. We sometimes went to Rosie’s Raw Bar, Dirty Moe’s  or to a barbecue joint on Linton and Congress.
Boca was always pretty with beautiful parks. But there was really no downtown. The best restaurant may have been La Vielle Maison. West Boca began to boom and often we would venture to Wilt’s or Pete Rose’s Ballpark Cafe and yes we saw Wilt a few times and Pete a whole lot. He did his radio show from the cafe which was attached to a Holiday Inn on west Glades.
Boca was a pretty nice place back then but at the risk of offending some folks, I like it now too.
Although I knew many of the city folks and elected officials through the years I wasn’t privy to the struggles they most surely dealt with.
I was too absorbed with Delray’s journey first as a reporter and later as an elected official.
And dear reader, there were some titanic struggles and make or break decisions to make.
When I think of the 80s, the first thought that comes to mind is crime. The town felt dangerous.
I remember walking into the old Phoenix at Atlantic and A1A as a naive 22 year old new to town hoping to shoot some pool and grab a beer. I actually wondered whether I would make it out intact.
Then there was the time I was assigned a “man on the street” interview and when I stopped a guy on Atlantic Avenue he turned around and ripped the sleeve of my shirt clean off. We both stood there shocked. It was a perfect tear, not sure how he did it and I guess he surprised too, because he ran off. I can’t remember whether he answered my question. Probably not.
I went to police briefings and neighborhood crime watch meetings and heard a litany of horror stories.
Back then, there was a major drug dealer in town named Deniz Fernandez. His network of dealers were brazen and actually hung a pig’s head off a street sign as a warning to cops. When he finally went down as a result of a task force consisting of Delray police and federal agents, the scope of his astonishing empire was revealed: 10 homes, acres and acres of property, a few businesses and duffel bags full of drugs were seized.

 Fernandez owned a place locals called “The Hole,“ a notorious crack house on Southwest Ninth Avenue in Delray Beach.

During the summer of 1987, the group`s business reaped an estimated $50,000 a day in gross profits by selling individual doses of crack cocaine for $10 a rock, according to federal agents and police  who worked on the investigation.

Check out that number, $50,000 a day in $10 increments.

When undercover Delray officers closed in on him on a dirt road wear of town, he brandished a blue steel revolver and pointed it at them before ditching the weapon. Germantown Road, steps from a popular Ford dealership, was Fernandez’ turf and drivers were brazenly hailed to pull over and buy crack rocks. When  officers showed up the dealers dispersed in seconds disappearing into the darkness. Our city was literally an open air drug market.

Once a month, the Sheriff’s fugitive task force came to town and teamed up with our officers to round up literally scores of felons who failed to show up in court or were on the run.
We rode with Charlie Comfort of PBSO, Lt. Jeff Rancour and the late Johnny Pun in an effort to find as many of the  worst offenders before word spread on the street that the warrant task force was out and about.
Augmenting those efforts, was the legendary or infamous–depending on what side of the law you were on–tact team also known as the jump out crew. They were tasked with fighting and disturbing street level drug sales which was rampant in parts of Delray. This is where I first met a young Jeff Goldman, now our chief and really amazing officers such as Mike Swigert, Don West, Eddie Robinson, Chuck Jeroloman, Toby Rubin and John Battiloro.
Mad Dads was active back then. They were citizens determined to reclaim their streets from drug dealers.
I saw K-9 officers like Skip Brown and Geoff Williams deploy their dogs in pursuit of dangerous criminals and a slew of incredible detectives solving one horrific crime after another. Legends like Bob Brand, Robert Stevens, Tom Whatley, Craig Hartmann, Dwayne Fernandes, Casey Thume, Brian Bollan were only a few of the people who labored long hours below the success iceberg.
John Evans, Terrance Scott, Robyn Smith, Tom Judge, Shirley Palmer, Randy Wilson, Marc Woods and Jeff Miller were road patrol cops who made a big difference. Vinny Mintus was a fixture in Pineapple Grove which was far from gentrified in those days. Very far. Tom Quinlan and Glenn Rashkind kept our beach safe and everybody knew their names.  There were more. So many more.
While police and fire lived most dangerously, in every department at City Hall there were people toiling below the success iceberg struggling with financial issues, code enforcement challenges and even zoning problems–all trying to find a formula to  unlock success. They found it. And that should give us comfort as we read about today’s challenges, which include a crushing heroin epidemic.
Our community has risen to challenges before, they will again.
Meanwhile, I appreciate the present because I saw the hungry years. And that’s what gives me and others civic pride.


  1. Jeff, Thank you for reminding/informing us about where we came from and a perspective on how it happened.
    I hadn’t moved back home to Delray in 1987 but I visited every holiday season. I remember my mother would not drive on west Atlantic because friends of hers had been stopped and the rings stolen off their fingers. I now live downtown and feel safe all the time.
    I regret all the backbiting that we are able to produce now in the tech age….facebook, twitter, etc. Too many complaints are public which should be on the bottom of the iceberg. I’m grateful that you point out the top of tyhe iceberg.

  2. I believe the bottom half of the iceberg is even bigger. Rocky was written in three days and people think Sylvester Stallone got lucky. Truth is he pitched the script everywhere, while being homeless he had to sell his dog to get more food to keep pitching. Luck comes to those who take action.

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