By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein ended his term as mayor the same way it started, surrounded by his family.
After serving two terms as mayor, Cary Glickstein has relinquished the title to Shelly Petrolia, who served on the commission for five years. Glickstein and Petrolia ran on the same platform in 2013, but over the years the political allies separated.
During his last meeting last month, he was presented with a surf board from city staff, a hobby he will hopefully have more time for.
When Glickstein found out he won the March 2013 election, he wasn’t out at a watch party. He was at home doing laundry when his kids announced the good news.
“They ran in the laundry room all excited,” he said.
Now, he said he hopes they are just as excited to see more of their dad, especially on Tuesday nights.
The developer and attorney considered himself apolitical before throwing his name in the ring to run for office.
“The year before I ran, if you told me I would run for mayor and win, I would have said, ‘No way,’” he said. “I needed to be mayor like I needed a hole in my head.”
There were two topics that launched Glickstein into the political area, the proliferation of sober homes in the city and the Atlantic Crossing redevelopment project.
Glickstein was serving as chair as the planning and zoning board, at the time, when people began questioning how sober homes were opening in residential neighborhoods and the size of the Atlantic Crossing project.
“It was a confluence of things that in my adopted hometown indicated the train was going off the tracks,” he said. “I could have either jumped in or got out of the way.”
He jumped in during the summer of 2012 when he announced he was running for mayor. Many candidates wait until later in the year to announce their plans to run for office, but Glickstein said he saw no reason to wait to say he was committed.
He said it would the first and last political office he would seek. He mostly self-funded his campaign, which he said allowed him to speak candidly.
“It was a liberating position for me to be in,” he said. “I owed nothing to anybody. My independence infuriated a lot of people, but it allowed me to make my own decisions.”
First term in office
Glickstein said his first term in office was all about changing the mentality of “this is the way things have always been done” that he said plagued city hall.
He said the inadequacies in city management led to tortured commission decisions. The commission successfully challenged its garbage hauling contract and several other past decisions.
To change the mission statement of city hall from this is how we always did it, Glickstein said the tether to the past needed to be broken and staff needed to be purged.
Viewed by many residents as disruptive and as a huge loss of historical knowledge in the city, Glickstein said he saw it differently. He said change needed to happen.
“It was like sending Boy Scouts to Vietnam, but they were 60 years old because they were aging in place,” he said.
Glickstein saw a change in nearly every department head over his tenure. His goal was to hire the best person for the position. That job is usually left to the city manager, not the mayor.
But the position of manager was tumultuous as well. Recently, the city hired Mark Lauzier to the top role, a move Glickstein said was in the right direction.
“I feel good about who we have now,” he said.
Highlights of his tenure
Glickstein said updating the city’s land development regulations were one of the most important undertakings of his tenure. They provided clarity to both the developer and resident and he said showed that the city was listening to what residents wanted to see.
He also said working on eliminating unscrupulous sober homes from the city is something that has been a five year grind that is paying off with fatalities from overdoses decreasing, according to police and a lot of operations moving out of town.
And of course being named the All America City for a third time was nice.
Personally, he said he was proud to give city employees Veterans Day off as a holiday as a nod to his father who served in the Navy. That led him to meet Gen. William Ely, who died at 103. Glickstein will attend his memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in May.
“Without being mayor, I never would have known him,” he said.
Not all decisions came easy, he said.
He struggled with the iPic project and the vote that would settle the lawsuit with Atlantic Crossing wondering whether it was enough of a compromise.
“There were very hard meetings,” he said. “I would much rather be starting out as mayor now than I did five years ago.”
Final acts in office
One of his last votes in office on the Midtown Delray project was just as controversial as the Atlantic Crossing project that got him to run.
In a meeting that lasted more than eight hours, he supported the controversial redevelopment plan that will add shops, offices and restaurants to the city’s most historic district— an area many see as neglected.
He also took a political stand on gun control in the form of a resolution, which was unanimously supported by his colleagues. Before that, he helped organize a peace rally outside City Hall where survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School spoke.
“People elected me to do a job and that came to the detriment of other things,” he said.
Never missing a city commission meeting meant he missed a lot of other events in his life like his kids’ volleyball games, plays and helping with homework.
His kids were in elementary and middle school when he was first elected. Now, they are in high school and college.
“I missed a lot,” he said. “It was hard for me to miss those games. In time they will know I missed things for the right reasons.”
You are helping people you will never know.
Glickstein sold Ironwood Properties several years ago. He said his next career move will be in a different direction.
“There’s a lot of power in reinventing yourself,” he said. “Particularly when things are going well. I am not sure what’s next. But the mystery is part of the journey and I am not worried.”