Baxter and McGovern vying for District 6 seat on Palm Beach County Commission


In the race to replace term-limited County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, two candidates are seeking to represent Western communities on the Palm Beach County commission in District 6 — real estate agent and small business owner Sara Baxter, the nominee Republican, and Michelle Oyola McGovern, former State Director of US Senator Bill Nelson, the Democratic candidate.

District 6 includes all communities in the West, as well as the Glades region. While the election will take place on Tuesday November 8, postal voting is already underway and early voting begins on Monday October 24.

Sara Baxter “Baxter is a second-generation Floridian. A resident of Acreage, she graduated from Palm Beach State College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Along with her husband, Baxter owns an auto repair shop called Foreign Auto Specialists on Belvedere Road. In real estate, she works with Continental Properties.

“I’m a wife and mother of three boys and a small business owner,” Baxter said. “My life story is being able to overcome challenges and work with the resources at my disposal and make them the most effective.”

Baxter said she decided to run after facing what she saw as unnecessary challenges while opening and running her small business.

“I encountered many challenges trying to find a space to open our small business, throughout the zoning and planning processes,” she explained. “I wanted to get into this race to help our economy improve, and that starts with growing and developing new small businesses and simplifying the process.”

Baxter said she wanted to use her experience as a small business owner to help better manage the county’s budget.

“People are in trouble. They are struggling to pay for their gas, their FPL bill and their groceries,” she said. “The county can do a better job of easing some of the financial burdens on their part by not increasing our county’s budget, which they’ve currently passed to increase it 13% from last year.”

During the home stretch of the campaign, Baxter said she was working to get in front of as many voters as possible.

“I’ve spoken to residents and found out what their issues are, so I can address them if they elect me their next county commissioner,” she said.

His campaign themes include cost reduction and better infrastructure. “I want to improve infrastructure, especially in unincorporated areas of Palm Beach County, by improving roads and reducing congestion,” Baxter said. “I would like to avoid the overdevelopment of our western communities. I would also like to identify unnecessary expenses and prioritize the budget instead of increasing it.

For example, she is not in favor of the affordable housing bond program the county placed on the November ballot for approval.

“Nobody wants to cut back, but people are struggling,” Baxter said. “Now is not the time to ask our residents to pay more for a general obligation of $200 million.”

She is, however, a supporter of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and said the county needs to pay its deputies better. “We need to keep the great sheriff’s deputies here and raise their salaries to match where they want to stay here,” she said.

Baxter is very concerned about affordability issues in Palm Beach County.

“A lot of people who can’t afford to live here are moving to northern counties,” she said. “The changes I would like to see would help the people who currently live here. Helping with affordable housing would mean giving tax relief to people who don’t benefit from the homestead exemption, so they don’t have to pass on cost increases to their tenants. That would be a better way to solve the affordable housing problem than asking residents to keep building more units.

Baxter thinks she has the right kind of experience to better serve county commission residents.

“We need people with more practical experience in our county commission, who have fought alongside residents through the issues, and less political experience, because we have already covered this,” he said. she declared. “We need a voice of common sense in our county commission, and that would be me.”

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Michelle McGovern – McGovern qualified for the general election ballot after winning a three-way primary with nearly 57% of the vote.

A Palm Beach County native of Puerto Rican descent, McGovern worked for former U.S. Senator Bill Nelson for 18 years as a state manager. She now works for Baptist Health. Married to Wellington City Councilor John McGovern, she is the mother of two teenage daughters.

McGovern said she relies on her long experience.

“I was Senator Nelson’s top aide for 18 years, and throughout my career I’ve volunteered in the community and have a track record of success,” she said. “I helped set up the first rape treatment center in the county, accelerated the levee around Lake Okeechobee, and served on the Wellington Education Committee. I have the experience that allows me to be operational from day one.

She said it was this unique experience that led her to run this year.

“The opportunity presented itself, and as I reflected on it, I realized that I had done a lot of public service in this district, and I know this district well,” McGovern said. “I know I have experience. I also want to bring a Latina perspective to the county commission.

She noted that voting is already underway, with mail-in ballots arriving this week.

“We communicate with voters by phone and knock on doors,” McGovern said. “People have probably already returned their ballots. We communicate with constituents throughout the district.

She explained that her campaign themes remain the same as for the primary election.

“I’m really focused on the issues that are on the minds of voters right now – affordable housing, public safety and transportation. Water is a big problem for me. I have a background in water policy,” McGovern said.

At the county commission, she will focus on these issues.

“I would like us to put a real punch on the affordability issue in Palm Beach County,” McGovern said. “People should be able to live where they work. This includes teachers, first responders and janitors.

She thinks this will require a multi-pronged approach.

“If the housing bond passes, that helps create more inventory,” McGovern said. “I think it has to be multifaceted. We need to think outside the box on housing issues, like rethinking old strip malls. We need to create more housing opportunities for everyone.

Regarding public safety, she said, “We cannot take our public safety for granted, and that is something I will always keep an eye on.”

Transportation goes hand-in-hand with affordable housing, McGovern said.

“Whenever we build, we have to make sure that transportation access is available at the same time,” she said. We need to expand National Highway 7. Meanwhile, the east-west and west-east journey is a struggle for everyone.

Women’s issues are also a top priority.

“Women are the decision makers in this country, not just in this county,” McGovern said. “We need to help them with the issues that matter most to them. Whether it’s access to affordable childcare or well-paying job opportunities, we need to think about these issues from a women’s perspective.

Water issues are also critical to the county’s future, she said.

“We can’t keep tabs on water issues, whether it’s water storage or drinking water. It’s our most valuable resource,” McGovern said.

She noted that the county was in the midst of a drought before Hurricane Ian. Now too much of this excess water will be wasted because the county doesn’t have enough opportunities to store it.

McGovern thinks voters should support her because of her many years of local experience.

“I think experience matters,” she said. “I have a record of service in this community, and I ask for their vote to allow me to continue to serve.”

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