FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Broward County has a new mayor. Fellow county commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday morning for Michael Udine to replace outgoing Mayor Steve Geller, who delivered his State of the County 2021 Address.
The mayoral position in Broward is largely a figurehead position. County commissioners nominate and vote on the candidate, unlike Miami-Dade where the county mayor is elected.
Still, the Broward mayor is a leadership role and one that Udine takes very seriously.
Mayor Udine was elected to serve as a Broward County Commissioner in 2016 and served as Vice Mayor in November 2020. Politics is not new to him, he formerly served, for more than a decade, as the Mayor and City Commissioner of Parkland.
Looking ahead, he says his focus will be the back end of COVID, which at this point, is more under control in Broward than over the summer when the County had the highest hospitalization rate in the country. But now the positivity rate has been low for weeks.
Udine says his big focus is on mental health.
"My theme for the upcoming year will be a Healthy and Sustainable Broward," said new Mayor Udine. "This will include a focus on physical and mental health, financial health including jobs and personal finances and the overall health of our economy," said Udine.
"When students have been home from school for a while and elderly people haven't had the social interaction that they are used and that they deserve and I think they are going to stress the system and I think we are going to see more people who are vulnerable looking for help from governmental agencies, from non-profits and different agencies that backstop and we are going to have to make sure we're open and receptive to new ideas because these systems are going to get overloaded and we're going to need to make sure we are delivering them in the best way possible," said Udine.
Lamar Fisher, a former mayor of Pompano Beach, was selected as the county's new Vice Mayor. Fisher beat former State Senator Nan Rich by a narrow commission vote of 5 to 4.
Meantime, outgoing Mayor Geller, who will continue his term as Commissioner of Broward County District 5, spoke of his accomplishments of the past year during the COVID pandemic.
"My term as Mayor was interesting," said Mayor Geller. "I was the face of Broward during the worst pandemic in our lifetimes. My main focus was protecting the life and health of Broward residents while balancing this with protecting our economy," said Geller. "The State of the County is good and recovering," said Mayor Geller. He says the average number of new cases in Broward is eight per 100,000 of population. "We went up to 144 in August. We are better than we were, but still in a cautionary stage. With everyone getting together for the holidays I fear a future outbreak, especially among the unvaccinated."
Mayor Geller focused on creating jobs over the past year and discussed the numerous approaches that were taken to increase employment and stabilize the economy including the creation of a Film Commission, the opening of the Alan B. Levan/NSU Center of Innovation and creating of the Broward County Construction Apprenticeship Program.
He focused on the major recovery taking place in Broward County post pandemic.
Port Everglades reached "a record month in July for cargo volumes," said Geller and spoke about the recent announcement that Disney Cruise Line will begin operating at Port Everglades in Fall of 2023.
Passenger traffic at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International airport continues to improve and tourism has quickly recovered. According to Mayor Geller, Visit Lauderdale reports that leisure visitors were "king this summer with record setting rates" for hotel occupancy. Tourist Development Tax collections are currently up 35% from last year, said Geller.
Protecting Broward County's water and environment also took center stage. The Mayor noted the importance of a new updated Central and South Florida Restudy. "Sea level rise is impacting our canal capacity. This must remain a top priority," Geller said.
Other accomplishments include the completion of the Lauderhill Transit Center, the opening of the top floor of the new Broward County Courthouse and the future groundbreaking of the new Nancy J. Cotterman Center.
On a more somber note, the Mayor expressed condolences for the nearly 4,900 people who have died from the coronavirus in Broward. "I want people to know that you are thought of, and we do realize the extreme pain and suffering that has befallen us," said Geller.
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