Following a nine-year professional basketball career in the WNBA as well as in Israel and Europe, lifelong Dania Beach resident Tamara James is now taking a shot for a seat on the City Commission, squaring off against four other candidates for three open seats.
Though she has not held elected office before, James, 32, is hardly an unknown in the Broward County town, serving on the city’s Marine Advisory Board, Charter Review Board and Parks and Recreation Community Affairs Advisory Board. She also lives on a street named after her.
In addition to James, businessman Bill Harris and attorney Lori Lewellen round out the challengers. Current Vice Mayor Alfred C. Jones and Commissioner Chickie Brandimarte are running to keep their seats in the Nov. 8 election.
Former Commissioner Walter B. Duke III resigned earlier this year after announcing a move to Fort Lauderdale. Paul Fetscher was appointed in March to complete Duke’s term, but pledged not to seek a full term.
James acknowledged there has been some apprehension about her transition to politics, but she credited the sport for fostering her ability to be a good leader.
“Basketball has prepared me for this moment,” said James. “We had to work as a team, but I naturally understood how to delegate. I knew how to keep the team together.”
As of June 7, James has received about $40,000 in campaign contributions – nearly twice as much as any of her competitors – according to campaign documents.
Once elected, James said she plans to implement programs for the youth. In collaboration with park officials, she said she wants to enhance park facilities and also incorporate a program for seniors.
The campaign marks just part of a busy year for James. In March, she was inducted into the University of Miami’s Sports Hall of Fame for the highest collective score – 2,406 points – in either men and women’s basketball. Now, she spends what spare time she has with family, including her 4-year-old son, Dion K. Dowell, Jr.
“I want him to grow up and live in this area,” she said of her son. “I don’t want him to go outside the city of Dania because we don’t have quality in our schools.”
Current Commissioner Bobbie Grace praised James’ commitment to the community and said she would be a great addition to the dais.
“She is a great basketball player, but to me she is a great human being who cares about the city of Dania,” said Grace.