New Wellington Mayor & Council Member Elected–Both Support Global Dressage Festival
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WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 15, 2016–Anne Gerwig, a strong supporter of dressage, and a second candidate favoring equestrian sports recorded landslide victories to replace Wellington’s mayor and vice mayor in elections Tuesday. The ouster of the two ends control of the local government by members opposed to the Global show grounds.
However, a proposal to amend the village’s charter was overwhelmingly favored by 66 per cent to 34 per cent against. The corporation controlled by the family opposed to the Global dressage grounds pumped an unprecedented $760,000 into supporting the amendment campaign titled Question 3 that was aimed at banning major development projects such as hotels, motels, condo-hotels and apartments in the equestrian preserve. Two other amendments also passed that would make changes to the equestrian preserve more difficult to achieve.
In the election, Anne Gerwig received 61 per cent of the record turnout of 15,171 votes cast.
Robert Margolis, the current mayor and one of five members of the council that governs the community of about 60,000 people received 39 per cent. He was a leader of the group blocking development of the Global grounds,
Michael Drahos, a newcomer to elective office but who came out in support of dressage, received 56 per cent of the 14,386 votes over vice mayor John Greene, another opponent of equestrian sports, who received 44 per cent.
Two other seats were uncontested. A fifth seat will be filled by nomination by the new council.
Wellington is centered around the Global Dressage Festival and the Winter Equestrian Festival of jumpers and hunters at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center and the International Polo Club.
Anne Gerwig, the mother of three children and resident of Wellington for a quarter century, was elected with financial support from a large number of dressage families. She was first elected in 2010 as a member of the council but for the past year was often a sole dissenting voice to opponents of equestrian sports although it is one of the largest contributors in Florida to business revenues and to local and state taxes.
Michael Drahos received considerable support from the dressage community in his campaign to end division in the community,
The Delaware North Corp., one of America’s largest food service and hospitality enterprises with operations in Europe and Australia and owned by the Jacobs family, has contributed more than $1.3 million in the past two elections to control Wellington’s government.
The family has filed a lawsuit to have the Global grounds torn down, contributed $600,000 four years ago to elect three of the five members of the council, including the mayor and the vice mayor to strangle development of equestrian show facilities.
This year, the family donated $720,000 in support of the campaign to control all development including grooms’ quarters on horse farms in the equestrian preserve that is a significant portion of Wellington.
The Jacobs’ campaign for candidates was successful four years ago and so was their drive this time around that flooded the airwaves with television commercials supporting amendments to the community’s charter, the kind of campaign that is virtually unheard of involving a relatively tiny community.