In a shakeup Tuesday at Sweetwater City Hall, three newcomers were elected to the city commission, one current member discarded her “interim” tag and two incumbents lost their seats.
David Borrero won the Group One seat while Marcos Villanueva, Joniel Diaz and Cecilia Holtz-Alonso received voters’ nods for the Group Two, Three and Four seats, respectively.
Holtz-Alonso, the interim commissioner for Group Three, received 1,112 votes, ousting current Group Four Commissioner Isolina Marono; Villanueva, a former Sweetwater lieutenant and 33-year resident, got 947 votes, beating current Group Two Commissioner Jose Bergouignan.
Bergouignan blamed Villanueva’s negative campaigning for his defeat.
“He used really dirty tactics to scare a lot of people,” Bergouignan said. “One thing is to be dirty in politics. But one thing is to blatantly try and, you know, throw dirt on someone’s name.”
Despite the outcome, Bergouignan said he will still serve his city.
“I’m not going to cry about it,” he said. “Everybody knows I’m still going to help out in the city. I’m not about doing stuff only because I’m an elected official.”
Villanueva responded that it was his opponent who resorted to dirty tricks.
“There were absolutely no tactics,” he said. “Unfortunately, my opponent sued me to kick my name off the ballot seven days prior the election. Politics is a contact sport. Let it go, accept the loss and move on with life. I’m trying to unite the city, and he’s trying to throw stones after his loss.”
For her part, Morono said she plans to continue assisting residents despite the vote tally.
“My city voted for me,” she said. “I lost from absentee ballots, not [in-person] votes. I will continue working for my city and serving persons that need help.”
In the other races, Borrero, a three-year resident, received 1,308 votes while Diaz, son of former Mayor Jose M. Diaz, received 1,092 votes and defeated opponent Saul Diaz.
“I’m really excited to be able to get to work with the other commissioners and to come together and do some meaningful projects that will improve the city,” Borrero said.
Borrero, who defeated challenger Isidro Ruiz, said he wants to change term limits and look into restoring the city.
“I would also like to see what our budget is for capital improvement projects. Right now, our roads are not in proper condition,” he said. “There are still floods, and our parks need complete renovation. So I want to see how we can dedicate city funds from our budget to improve these things.”
Borrero also said he plans to keep the promise he made to residents.
“I’m not going to let them down,” he said. “I’m not going to be a typical politician. I’m going to be someone who works on local projects, get things done and work together with my colleagues to improve our city and produce work residents will be proud of.”
For his part, Villanueva said he still could not believe the results.
“I feel great, it’s pretty surreal at this point,” he said. “My family and I are humble at the fact that the residents have chosen us to represent them.”
Villanueva said he wants to strengthen the relationship between Sweetwater and Florida International University as well as bring more revenue to the city via public transit.
“We definitely need to start streamlining the Metrorail to come to the city of Sweetwater,” he said. “We also need to strengthen our bond with FIU. I would love to see FIU offer two free classes a semester to the city of Sweetwater’s employees, training them and educating them to make our city better.”
Villanueva added he wanted to thank everyone that voted for him.
“It’s a huge thing to go up against a political opponent, take away from your family and life, and sit there and be dedicated, knock on doors, getting to know voters and them getting to know you,” he said. “It takes a lot of dedication, so all I can do is say thank you. My family and I are extremely grateful.”
Jose Mejia, who ran against Villanueva and Bergouignan, said he lost because he didn’t “get out and talk more to voters.” He said he plans on trying again in 2019.
Although he came short of a victory, Mejia said his status as a straightforward resident will remain.
“I’m still going to be a very outspoken critic and advocate,” he said. “I didn’t win, but I won at the same time. A lot of my political adversaries and a lot of my haters said if I was lucky, I would probably get 16 votes. And I didn’t. I got close to 200 votes. I think that’s very good for not walking, raising money and being self-funded.”
Joniel Diaz and Holtz-Alonso did not return calls requesting comment.
The winners are scheduled to be sworn in May 22, City Clerk Carmen Garcia said Thursday.
The Miami Herald published this piece on May 11, 2017. Interested in having low-cost, timely and professionally edited work for your news organization? Read about us here and contact News Director Dan Evans at email@example.com.