Commissioner Velma Palmer strides confidently into the room. Her classic outfit accentuated by a Versace scarf and scholarly spectacles seem to magnify an apparently all-knowing glance that must come from over 30 years of teaching youth. Before she has a chance to sit down, supporters try to pull her aside to confirm she is planning to run for re-election. After serving eight years as city commi s s ione r, Palmer has decided to meet with Community Newspapers as the seasoned commissioner contemplates whether or not to commit to another campaign.
“ In ever considered myself a politician and I still don’t. This all began nearly 10 years ago when I would help citizens fill out paper-work in order to connect them with local resources through the Community Action Agency. I got stopped by two residents at city hall one day who said they were looking for a strong commissioner to run for local office and that ‘I was the one.’” While Palmer sought the disavowal of such a preposterous idea from family and friends, she got a different response. “I talked to dear friends and my husband and kids and instead of agreeing with me that it was ludicrous, everybody encouraged me to proceed.”
And proceed she did, overcoming her own trepidations to visit nearly 10,000 residents over a year’s time with a simple message. “My name is Velma Palmer, I am a teacher. I do not have anything to give you but I will be your voice and I will represent you fairly in office if I become your commissioner.” The overwhelming reception and accompanying votes she received gave her the encouragement to go on and serve with authority and confidence.
“You have to say what you mean and mean what you say. Be truthful and consistent and speak up to probe things before making a decision. My voting record shows a consistent pattern. You have to be willing to compromise and not bring a one sided activist perspective to office. Without compromise you cannot achieve anything. We have to serve and protect the citizens and community as a whole. If you are not willing to work together and sometimes make concessions, nothing gets done.”
Palmer contends that shortcomings of the current commission stem from a myopic activist mentality that prevents issues from moving forward. “It is no secret that citizens are very disappointed with our leadership. Very little has been accomplished and it seems like we are spinning our wheels and even moving backward instead of forward. In some cases this commission has sought legal reasons to hold someone responsible for particular issues which have even expired under the statute of limitations.”
Calculated delay strategies meant to derail projects from taking shape are some of the impediments behind the limbo status of the Murray Pool and Madison Square according to Palmer. “There is a silent movement in my view preventing these projects from moving forward. Changing the date, changing the design, going back to the drawing board, and constantly redefining projects mean no progress. The pool has suffered constant setbacks from this approach as has Madison Square. How are we going to get developers interested in Madison Square with only two stories for building? I am not a developer but this project was intended as a mixed use commercial and residential development to draw business and it seems to need at least three stories to make it profitable. The original spirit of the project has faded out.”
Palmer attributes the lack of citizen participation at city hall to be a result of community fatigue when critical long term objectives like Madison Square flounder over the years instead of coming to life. “I hear people say, ‘I’m going to the soap opera tonight’ when they actually do come to meetings at city hall. Sometimes it is a perceived personality handicap that certain people are just not heard no matter what they say. You have to go beyond the personal and evaluate opportunities professionally while respecting other people and their unique ideas for change. As commissioners we need to be willing to make sacrifices and changes to accomplish what is most needed for our unique and wonderful city.”
A South Miami resident for over 24 years, Palmer’s zeal for her hometown comes from a love of the small town feel she gets here where people are warm and friendly, so unlike the mega-metropolis anonymity of most of South Florida. “It is such a pleasant environment, a walkable community where you can stroll to the post office or library and the hospital is just around the corner. The festivals and events we enjoy throughout the year are one-of-akind, and residents cherish their homes, making it also a lovely green oasis in a concrete jungle.”
Commissioner Palmer can be reached at 305-668-2483 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.