'I Can't Undo The Past': Interview With Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter
Our If I Were Mayor project continues as we bring your ideas to the mayors. We spoke with Homestead's new mayor, Jeff Porter. Mayor Porter, a former councilman and vice mayor, took office last fall. He follows Steve Bateman, one of the three mayors arrested in August of 2013 for corruption charges.
The position of Homestead mayor pays $6,000. It is intended to be a part-time position.
We spoke at Homestead City Hall and began by discussing the referendum coming up in May. Homestead residents will vote on a tax increase for bonds to fund the renovation of the Seminole theater and build a new police department.
Below are excerpts of our interview.
Persuading voters to support the bond given Homestead’s recent corruption scandals
What we’re trying to prove in this whole exercise is that we’re not trying to hide anything. We could have just started building and just increased taxes, but the choice was not to do that. The choice was to include the voter in the process.
I can’t undo the past. All I have is my word. Council as a body is what serves the public. It’s not just the mayor. I’m not the guy who’s in charge of everything. I think that’s what’s put out to the voter, but that’s not how it is.
Whether a two-year mayoral term works
You start campaigning basically 14 months after your election. Fifty percent of the time is basically spent waiting to find out who the next mayor’s going to be.
And that’s the cycle the city gets stuck on. It’s go, go, go, stop and wait and see who’s going to be the mayor. It’s unproductive for the city because so much of the time is wasted. If you had a four-year cycle, you’d have three-fourths of the time doing something and the other quarter spent finding out who’s going to be the next mayor.
All the council members have four-year terms, but the mayor only has two-year terms. For some reason the voters when they’ve been asked, they’ve not been receptive to giving the mayor’s office four-year terms.
Being a part-time mayor
Part of the dynamic of having a private business and working at a public entity is being able to keep them separate. If I’m here [at City Hall], I should be doing city business. If I’m not here, I should be able to do my own business. So I have to be careful not to bleed them together because I think that’s what got the last mayor in trouble.
The biggest misconception of Homestead
People think that we’re country bumpkins. We’re out of the main part of the county. But it’s interesting how all the people in the north end of the county can’t wait to come to Homestead to do some of the things we have that are more rural, more outdoor, more family.
The balance is to try to keep that hometown flavor, that country feel and still grow and be prosperous.
Watch the full interview below.