FORT LAUDERDALE — Seven local applicants to replace former Palm Beach County Commissioner Warren Newell met Wednesday with Gov. Charlie Crist.The Palm Beach Post editorialized today on they thought was the best candidate.
Key talking points during the interviews included integrity, honesty, taxes and property insurance reform, candidates said. But Crist has not decided who he will appoint of the 26 who have applied.
Interviewees include several candidates whose names have been circulating for weeks and one who emerged Tuesday: Diane Birnbaum, a suburban Boynton Beach resident who was a local aide to former U.S. Reps. Dan Mica and Harry Johnston and who helped found the Palm Beach County Women's Chamber of Commerce.
Others who interviewed were former Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations President Dagmar Brahs, former commission candidate John Carroll, former state Sen. Don Childers, school board member Bob Kanjian, Boynton Beach's mayor, Jerry Taylor, and vice mayor, Jose Rodriguez.
All the candidates are Republicans except Birnbaum, who is a Democrat.
In cutting the field of 26 applicants for ex-Palm Beach County Commissioner Warren Newell's seat to seven finalists, Gov. Crist chose three with the right mix of credentials and integrity. The best of the three is Dagmar Brahs, a former west Boynton community leader.The Post pretty much dismissed the other four candidates, two I feel with good reason. The City Commision of Boynton Beach, where Jerry Taylor and Jose Rodriguez both serve, is under scrutiny for pay to play allegations. They shouldn't be appointed to Newell's seat.
Since Newell faces prison time for public corruption, whoever the governor chooses for District 3 must have no ethical issues. Ms. Brahs is construction administrator for former Palm Beach County Engineer Herb Kahlert's Karl Corp. Mr. Kahlert lost his county job in 1991 after The Post revealed that he owned land in the path of county roads, over which he had authority.
Ms. Brahs, however, manages property and construction - not real estate - and says she would quit if appointed. And as a former president of the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations, which represents roughly 80 neighborhood groups and perhaps 80,000 residents, Ms. Brahs is the best-prepared on issues.
Palm Beach County School Board member Bob Kanjian would bring business experience and community involvement to the job. But Mr. Kanjian, a reluctant applicant, has no plans to quit his real-estate businesses. He owns a title company and a company that markets and sells housing for small builders, both of which could present conflicts on a commission that doesn't need any more. Appointing Mr. Kanjian also would leave a void on the school board, where he has served well.
A third good candidate, Democrat Diane Birnbaum, has been retired since 2000. In this area, she is known best for her 17 years as an aide to former U.S. Reps. Harry Johnston and Dan Mica. She has lived in the district for nearly 10 years, has a common-sense understanding of government and has no plan to seek the seat permanently.
I disagree with the Post's selection of Brahs. Charlie Crist should pick Diane Birnbaum. All being equal, she is the only one of the three top candidates to actually live in the district. If Brahs or Kanjian want to be on the County Commission, fine let them run where they live.
We'll now wait and see who Crist appoints.
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