Islamorada race sees two longtime residents vying for seat

Challenges are across the board as 10 candidates vie for five seats on the dais in Islamorada, and one particular race welcomes two residents who have extensive familiarity with the village.

In the race for village council’s seat 3 are sixth-generation resident Joseph “Buddy” Pinder and former Monroe County sheriff’s captain of more than 20 years, Jenny Bell-Thomson.  Both have retired from their successful careers and are ready to serve the public in a different capacity.

Joseph “Buddy” Pinder

Pinder owned and managed a successful business and worked with government entities on projects over the years. He says the village is his heart, and he believes quality of life is important for the residents who enjoy weekends in the pristine waters on the boat with their families.

“Being retired means I can dedicate my time to being an advocate for the residents,” Pinder said. “As a former local business owner, I know there are many challenging issues the village will face in the near future that will affect our residents, families and businesses.”

Bell-Thomson served with the sheriff’s office for 26 years, and she also has experience in the private sector, having been involved with a small business for six years. She was also the admitting manager at Mariners and Fishermen’s hospitals for eight years. 

“I welcome Buddy’s challenge,” she said. “Everybody needs the choice.”

Jenny Bell-Thomson

Bell-Thomson said she has a unique viewpoint with her experiences in the public and private realms. She said one of the top issues in Islamorada is the quality of life for those who live and work in the village. 

“We have seen a little bit of degradation in that, and it’s not just traffic,” she said. “There’s a difference between quality tourism and quantity.” 

Bell-Thomson has also said that a toll is needed on the 18-mile stretch, and “it’s a battle I am prepared to fight.”

Pinder says he’s looking forward to a respectful campaign.

“The residents will choose who they want to represent them, and their concerns will not fall on deaf ears if I am elected,” Pinder said. 

Pinder said he will work to alleviate strains on resources created by projects like the pedestrian bridge near Founders Park and Fills and “not let these projects become financial burdens to our residents.” 

More information is at or Pinder’s Instagram and Facebook, and or Bell-Thomson’s Facebook page.

The contest is one of five that will see two residents going head-to-head. Frank Lavin, an interior designer and real estate agent, and Pete Bacheler, village Land Planning Agency chairman, private land-use planner and commercial photographer, are vying for seat 1. Mark Gregg, former councilman and retired real estate lawyer, and Cheryl Meads, former councilwoman and an at-large member on the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board, will face off for seat 2. Current vice mayor Ken Davis will face Henry Rosenthal for seat 4, while Larry Zettwoch, former pilot, will square off against David Webb, who’s also a retired pilot, for seat 5. Winners in the Nov. 3 general election will serve a two-year term. 

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Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family (he's expecting a little boy in October).