Election day in Key West started with a steady rain that slowed turnout, but by the time polls closed, nearly 40 percent of the voters in New Town Key West elected first time candidate Tony “Fat” Yaniz to the Key West City Commission.
Yaniz bested former city manager Julio Avael by more than 2 to 1 with 69.6 percent of the vote.
“Of course, I got up this morning and there are 40 texts and 30 voice mails,” said Yaniz on the morning after the election. “I want to say that the people in District IV realized that this was about them. Now we need to forget about the things that divide us and work on things that unite us.”
He replaces outgoing District IV Commissioner Barry Gibson, who filed as the republican candidate for Monroe County Supervisor of Elections.
“I think Tony will do well in the seat,” Gibson said from the Harvey Government Center minutes after the returns were issued. “He really has a passion to want to get things done, and if he can channel his passion in the right direction on certain projects, he will be able to convince the other commissioners to support his projects.”
This coming Tuesday, Yaniz will take his seat on the dais during a ceremony that will also usher in the second term of Mayor Craig Cates, who received 2,779 votes – 40 points more than his nearest challenger, Margaret Romero.
A common fixture at local meetings, Romero promised to remain a vigilant watchdog as she contemplates her future aspirations.
“I am not stepping back from any of my involvement,” she said. “Either with the school board issues or the city commission issues. I will still go to Key West Housing Authority meetings and Land Authority – oh yeah. If anything, I might do more.”
Romero secured 1,087 votes and was followed by fellow challenger Carie Noda, who received 92 votes.
The Key West Utility Board, the governing body that oversees the $134 million Keys Energy Service budget, retained one incumbent, Charlie Bradford, who defeated challenger Tony Estenoz by 834 votes for the Group 5 seat.
For Group 1, Barry Barroso defeated Ty Symroski by 273 votes to take his first elected office.
On the eve of the election, the fourth generation Conch and small businessman attributed his upset to “a lot of hard work.”
“I feel real good about it,” he said. “It has been a long two months since I have been able to get a good night’s sleep. I plan on going in slow and learning from the people who have been there and taking my time.”
Barroso, Bradford, Cates and Yaniz will be sworn into office at the next City Commission meeting on Tuesday, October 11 at 6 pm.