A New Mayor in Oakland Park
The City of Oakland Park does not hold elections for Mayor. The City’s residents elect commissioners who then serve as Mayor for one year. This past year Vice Mayor Matt Sparks was sworn in as Mayor on November 2oth, 2019.
Living In Oakland Park asked Mayor Sparks for an interview so we, the residents of Oakland Park, could become acquainted with Matthew Alan Sparks, the Mayor and the man.
In this first part of our interview we are going to meet the Mayor and in part two we will meet the man.
The day we sat down with him he had Mustang ball cap on and low key Oakland Park shirt with his name as Mayor. Unless you were paying really close attention Mayor Sparks could pass you on the street and you wouldn’t even know it. It was really telling of who the Mayor is, a down to earth guy with the best intentions for the City. Read on and see for yourself as Mayor Sparks shares his thoughts about being the new Mayor of Oakland Park.
Q: What do you want Oakland Park residents to know about their new Mayor?
A: I want them to know that I am reachable. You can get my attention, my phone number is my phone number, the one that is out there. If there is an issue, I come to your house… usually I just try to get to the person and see the conditions they are talking about because when they describe it over the phone it is not always what you think it is in your head. Just get out there and make public contact. That is a big thing for me.
About myself, I think I sort of am in line with the majority of where the Commission is going with the City, we are on the same path. As far as where we may go, I am never at a point where I can never change my mind.
I will always give somebody a chance like when there is something on first and second reading. First reading, I will pass it, but if the issues that come up as maybe hurdles, if we can clear those by the second reading, I will pass it. If we can’t clear those hurdles, I usually reject it. So I am open to pretty much allowing people enough leeway to get their message across but if it comes to a point where overall it either hurts the community or isn’t harmonious to the surrounding areas, that is where I change my mind and say well ‘I am sorry, this isn’t going to work out’.
Why did you choose to run for the City Commission in the first place?
A: That’s an interesting one. I ran because the lot next door to my house was empty and they used it as a staging are for Bid Pack 9. When I was purchasing my home, the real estate agent would only show it to me on Sundays. I thought it was a little odd but I thought it was just because they were doing upgrades inside, and then we decided to buy the house and found out that Monday through Saturday from 7am-7pm that lot was bulldozers and trucks and dumping, concrete and moving, beeps and pounding (chuckles) and I can understand why they had a hard time selling that house (chuckles).
I brought my complaint to the Commission and I felt as though it fell on deaf ears. I went ahead and did the LGA (Local Government Academy), that was my first thing. Let me get more in tune with the City, because maybe I could help myself… Then I decided to run because I thought I could help others. I didn’t want other people to go through the same thing I did. I wanted to be helpful to other people so that they thought they had an ear on the dais.
Looking back on it I wouldn’t say it fell on deaf ears, I would just that it was kind of unfortunate. That it happened the way that it did, but if it didn’t happen that way, would I be where I am?
Was it hard to adjust to public life?
A: There was a little bit of adjustment because you are in a seat where you are accountable, and people expect, because nobody has a specific area. It doesn’t matter where you live in Oakland Park, I serve Oakland Park.
What are your biggest challenges as a public figure?
A: (laughing) Convincing the residents that I am worth another four years! (Mayor Sparks thinks for a minute and then responds in a more serious tone) Never to seem like somebody has my vote. I don’t ever want that perception out there. I am not bought, I don’t do favors for friends. If somebody calls me that I know and asks me a question about the City, it would be no different that a new resident asking me.
I just hope that people understand that we do the best we can, and that we are human too, we will make mistakes, I will flub up and forget to return a call, but call me back. I am so easy going! I am forgiving, and at the same time I also ask for people’s forgiveness too. I am human and I want people to understand that anything that they need they can always ask for and I will do my best.
What are the greatest joys and satisfaction of being a public servant?
When you get to help the one person who thinks that there just isn’t an answer… because that is where I started from. That is what is what sort of ignited my passion and that and I was just walking down the street and I said please send me a sign and I was standing on this postcard that said ‘Just do it!’… and I was like OK, I didn’t mean literally (laughs).
….It is not so much the decisions we make on a grander scale, it is the people, it is the residents, it is the interaction with them me the most joy. Finding out how to make something work for them.
What do you say to haters and naysayers?
A: People can say whatever they want, I don’t take it personally. I know that there is probably frustration behind that and that is OK. I would like to get to the root of what it is. And honestly, as my grandmother used to say, ‘Your opinion of me is none of my business’. I just let it go, not everybody has to like me, and that is the number one thing being in the public eye, you can’t please everyone, but some people just aren’t happy and that is OK.
What can residents expect of you as the new Mayor?
A: A lot more visibility as far as [public events]… because we have ribbon cuttings, and we have meetings that mayors get asked to, everybody wants a piece of your time and I would like to give them as much time as possible. I want to be a visible and effective Mayor.
I hope that nothing keeps me from any commission meeting or any type of meeting where it will do good for the City…. There are things that mayors get the opportunity to do that gets grant funding… that if you put yourself out there and go travel, get out and really represent the city you can probably bring in some change, some significant change to the City through grants, through making contacts, that’s how you get things done is through getting to know people.
Why are you choosing to run again in 2020?
A: I am running again not only because I want to see the progress and the track that we are on right now continue, I thought about it and I realize that putting three new commissioners on a dais that has so much groundwork already done and that there are so many projects in the works, it was brought to my attention that, yes, it would be really good if I stayed in office and then I realized that that particular statement I think it would be irresponsible, I think of me to leave, it would be selfish if I didn’t stay on and see these projects through. That is my main concern with 2020.
I could go to APFA (the airline union) but my City is more important for me because I have to live here for the rest of my life and I want to help shape that.
Stay tuned for Part Two of our interview with Mayor Sparks and get to know Matt Sparks, the man who serves as Oakland Park Mayor.
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About the Author
Désirée Ávila has called Oakland Park her home for over 31 years. In addition to publishing LivingInOaklandPark.com , Désirée publishes three other blogs and has been featured in print publications, locally and abroad. Désirée was an award winning teacher for 10 years and has a doctoral level education in Educational Technology. She is currently a licensed Florida Realtor® and is committed to a high-level of professionalism and to helping others with their real estate endeavors through education. Désirée is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian.