Riviera Beach swears in mayor

RIVIERA BEACH Mayor Thomas Masters and the three newly elected city council members were sworn into office in grand style Wednesday night, receiving a congratulatory telephone call from civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson in packed council chambers with more than 300 well-wishers.

Along with Masters, District 1 Councilwoman Lynne Hubbard, District 3 Councilman Cedrick Thomas and District 5 Councilman Shelby Lowe took office after soundly defeating a slate of candidates backed by former Mayor Michael Brown in the March 27 runoff. In sweeping fashion, voters rejected all four incumbents for a slate supported by a coalition of Singer Island and mainland residents.

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"I look forward to the future of Riviera Beach," Hubbard said. "It is bright."

The change at city hall was evident from the moment residents approached the complex, where hostesses in black dresses and white rose corsages greeted and directed them to the council chambers. At one point, City Manager Bill Wilkins had to announce that the chambers had exceeded its 250-person capacity and no other guests would be allowed in.

The mood was upbeat as the four political newcomers were sworn into office after voters ousted eight-year mayor Brown and his three-candidate slate. The election brings a changing of the guard to Riviera Beach politics, which has been mired in personality conflicts and infighting over the city's $2.4 billion redevelopment.

County Judge Nelson E. Bailey swore in Masters, who emerged to greet well-wishers with a thumbs-up. Masters was flanked by his 94-year-old mother, Isabell, and his wife, Sheila.

"I lost two years ago, but I always kept my eyes on the prize," said Masters, referring to his 2005 race against Brown, who did not attend Wednesday's ceremony.

Masters reminded the crowd that April 4 also marked the anniversary of the slaying of civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He likened his election and that of his new colleagues to keeping King's dream alive.

"The dreamer was killed, but the dream lives on," said Masters, 54, a bishop who is pastor of New Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.

On the council, the new officeholders didn't waste time making their mark.

Councilwoman Norma Duncombe's motion to elect Councilman Jim Jackson as chairman died for lack of a second. The new trio chose among themselves when Thomas nominated Lowe as chairman. Lowe was elected by a 3-2 vote.

Then, in a show of unity, Duncombe asked for a revote, and the group made his election unanimous. Hubbard was then elected unanimously as vice chair.

The four newest officials will serve two-year terms. The mayor and council chairman receive $20,000 annually, while the four remaining council members are paid $19,000 a year.

The swearing also drew an array of local elected officials, including West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel. Frankel said Masters had come to her swearing-in and that she thought it was time the two cities shared ideas.

Jackson called to congratulate Masters because the two have a long-standing working relationship in the civil rights movement.

Residents also expressed support.

"You're not here to please everyone," said Bill Contole, a Singer Island resident who worked to get the group elected. "We have faith in you."