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Fort Lauderdale's Jan. 16 Mayoral Election To Determine Who Will Tackle City's Real Estate Future

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis was a longtime city commissioner and real estate attorney.

Citizens of Fort Lauderdale could elect a new mayor Jan. 16, and the incoming official will have plenty of challenges to contend with: a real estate boom, transit woes and crumbling sewage pipes.

The city's population has grown by 10% since 2000, and new developments have transformed the downtown and the beach. According to the Downtown Development Authority, the area had 1,663 residential units, 93K SF of retail and 16K SF of office space under construction, with another 5,459 residential units approved and another 3,735 units seeking approval. Over the past year, Fort Lauderdale's rents jumped more than any other city in Florida, 6.6%. 

Contentious issues include a public lease for the Bahia Mar marina, which is slated for redevelopment, a sewage system that's failing under population pressures and underfunded because of mismanagement, and the proposed Wave streetcar, which faces ever-rising costs. The city recently contracted with Colliers International to evaluate its land holdings and handle sales of surplus property. 

Longtime mayor Jack Seiler is retiring due to term limits. Candidates for mayor include longtime city commissioner Dean Trantalis, a real estate attorney; ex-police chief and current City Commissioner Bruce Roberts; and former City Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom.

The January election is a primary, but mayoral races in Fort Lauderdale are nonpartisan. If any candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in the primary, he or she will win the race. If not, the winner will be decided in a March 13 general election. Three city commission seats will also be decided. 

Campaign treasurer reports show that as of December, Roberts had raised $100,311, Rodstrom raised $67,030 and Trantalis raised $45,142. Roberts and Rodstrom declared their candidacies almost two years ago, while Trantalis entered the race in the fall. 

Reached at his office, Trantalis said that the city needed to "pause" and address its infrastructure problems so that they would not become worse for residents or the tourists who drive the economy. He also said, "It's time to admit that the Wave was not a good idea for our city" and that plans for it should be terminated.