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Meet Our Mayor: Jane Bolin

If you live in Oakland Park, you might have crossed paths with Jane Bolin. And you most likely knew her before she became the Mayor of Oakland Park or maybe even before that, when she was a City Commissioner. That should come as no surprise, because that’s just who Jane is, an active member of our community, a person who is everywhere, helping whoever needs a hand, caring about everyone’s life as if the community were her very own family members. 

In this interview you’ll have the chance to get to know her as a representative and also a more personal side, the woman behind the official position.

Watch the Interview:

Jane Bolin: The Mayor of Oakland Park

Q: What do you want Oakland Park residents to know about their Mayor?

I want local park residents to know that I was elected in 2018 and I’m a first time elected official. The reason I ran was because I wanted to make an impact in the world. And when I looked around at the opportunities I realized if I want to lead people beyond the nonprofit boards… you have to learn to walk before you can run.

Being a resident of Oakland Park, I should be involved, I should be learning about what’s most important. This is the level of government that touches us directly in our day to day lives… what happens on a day to day basis, your trash pickup, your sewer, traffic congestion – that is all at a local level. And it starts with your city, and then your county, and then your state, and then the national politics. So for me, it really was an evolution in leadership.

And I love the city of Oakland Park, I purchased my home in 2012 because of the vibe and culture of Oakland Park. And because we have many neighborhoods that are unincorporated, which was important to me in terms of the ability to make decisions about what I do with my home. So now this is my way of giving back. 

Q: Public life is very different from private life. Was it hard to adjust to public life?

It’s not that it’s difficult, it’s just that everybody is now watching everything that you do. I love social media, I love to put out good messaging, I like to say positive things and really highlight great stuff. At the same time, as I’ve evolved from Commission to Vice Mayor and and now Mayor, I also see the downside of social media. I can’t respond if any of my other Commissioners have been tagged in a post, it’s a Sunshine law violation. I can’t lead through Facebook, I need to stay focused on leading, at the Commission meetings, responding to anyone who contacts me.

So that’s the most difficult part, as public figure people will tag you and talk to you, but they don’t realize there are 15 ways to contact you. It’s impossible for any human being to keep up with it. I kind of joke with my husband (saying) “I can’t go to the store just in my ‘umbros’ and a T-shirt, because I could run into anybody at any time”. So that has changed things a little bit.

Q: So what are some of the greatest satisfactions in being a public figure?

Being able to help people. I think many times people just need to be heard. Myself and my colleagues are super committed to returning phone calls, returning emails, having conversations, being in dialogue.

I think the joy is having those conversations, it’s meeting people. I’m a really social person, I like to meet people. Humanity is diverse and interesting, and everyone has got a different point of view and different stories. There’s so much to learn from each other! So the biggest way for me is meeting other people and that sometimes starts with a complaint or somebody is upset and then I get to know them.

It’s just a beautiful symbiotic relationship, because I think mostly people understand nothing is ever really personal, right? You can not like how I voted on something and I can understand that, and I can hear your point of view and you can hear mine. I don’t take that personally. There’s nothing wrong with you because we have a disagreement…

I’m not perfect, I make mistakes. I’m sure I’ve missed a phone call or missed an email. But that’s the idea, just be straight with people. And do that do the best you can. It’s challenging, it’s wonderful. And I love it!

Q: What can Oakland Park residents expect of their Mayor?

I’m available, that’s what they can expect. I’ve been thinking about my year as Mayor because we knew it was coming. It’s an ascendancy in the City of Oakland Park. I was excited for all of our events: OktoberFest, Dancing the Streets… And being able to be the Mayor and meet and greet and talk to everybody. And here we are on Zoom…

But what can you expect from me, that I’m here, I’m responsive that I care. And that I want to hear your point of view, even if you think I don’t agree with you. Please give me a call, tell me what your point of view is, let’s discuss it. Because the decisions we make today we are going to see 6, 8, 10 years from now. Many of the decisions we are dealing with were made by former Commissioners…being a Commissioner is being dropped into a business with a short employment contract. It’s really wild. And so you got to get that the business is still running. And there’s been all of this work that’s been done. And you’re constantly balancing what’s right, what’s right now, in your opinion, and what’s been done and why. So it’s challenging, but I love it. 

Oakland Park City Commission Inauguration 2020. From left to right: Dr. Mitch Rosenwald, Vice Mayor Michael Carn, Mayor Jane Bolin, Matthew Sparks, Aisha Gordon.

Q: This is your third year serving on the City Commission. Can you see the difference from when you started to where you are today?

Absolutely! When you first start, you’re a little bit deer in the headlights, you campaign hard, you have your issues, and then you get there. It’s like “Oh, wait a second. This is not what we’re making decisions on today”. And in fact, if you look at the quadrant of what is urgent/important – urgent/not important you start to realize that there’s a time and place that this issue is going to come up. And there are issues that I’ll bring up.

From when I started to today, today I really much better understand how the City works. It’s hard to explain, you almost have to be in office to really understand all the inner workings. Even the most dedicated citizen who talks to department heads and comes to meetings, when you’re in you see it differently, but just the point of view, the perspective is so different.

I think the first year I was really green. I was learning and I was listening and then started to pick up theme, but then you have to remember, life happens. The world happens. We have major events that shift and change what’s happening and what’s important. And that balancing is what I want to bring, the makeup mark, and what’s important, which is me helping the City continue to thrive and grow.

Q: You mentioned other Commissioners had made decisions in the past that you are now dealing with, can you talk about that? And what projects do you think are going to have the greatest impact on the city?

It’s the GO bond. The general obligation bond that was voted in, when I came into office, the $40 million to revamp our firehouses, our community centers, and our library. I think those are the most important development projects, because those are the projects that are City owned.

And we do have some private public partnership happening around all of it. At the same time, that’s what touches us those are community centers, that’s the Rec Center, that’s after school care, pickleball, adult athletics. That’s our Fire Rescue, having them in a situation where they’re in the best facilities, so they’re feeling the best that they can do their do the best job that they can. I think that’s the biggest impact.

There’s a lot of private development happening, which is the reality of how cities work, the ability to have private property and develop it… But when you say your question is what what’s going to impact us, it’s our General Obligation bond, that’s the biggest project. And even though that came in the year that I got elected, that was many years in the making, right? The actual ideation around it, what it took from staff all of it to even get it on the ballot… We have to thank previous Commissioners for that work, to get to the point where we are today.

The Bond is a proposed $40 million general obligation bond for the City of Oakland Park intended to raise funds to make improvements to critical public facilities. These improvements include the modernization of the City’s three fire stations and multiple community centers that provide services to Oakland Park’s population.

Desiree: And that just so anybody that’s not familiar exactly with it, because I find a lot of people don’t understand what the bond is for, it’s to update our public infrastructure, like you said, things that impact us directly as residents of Oakland Park. And I think also from the real estate point of view, because we’re both in that business for an investor, it’s great to see that a city has all this updated infrastructure.

Mayor Bolin: Speaking of our infrastructure, we did an incredible job with our sewage and with our water maintenance in years past, and so it was almost perfect timing for us now, it’s time to update these buildings. And the opportunity to do them all in one big sweep the way we are is pretty unique, because it allows us to look at that design facade and actually create a look for the city that’s consistent throughout. It’s pretty awesome and exciting.

Q: Being in public office you have haters or naysayers. How do you deal with that when you come across it?

I just take it on. It’s about having the conversation, and if both parties are willing, and that’s what I try to bring to the space is my willingness, so even if there’s not willingness on the other side, some may creep up and creep through,  and that’s just how I deal with it.

I think the old saying to never take it personal is important. I don’t know how someone is feeling or what’s happening in their life when Public Works comes by and I’m not saying Public Works does, this was an easy example, and they forget to pick up your trash. I don’t know what happened in your life that weekend. So if you come at me strong, I’m just there to say “Okay, I got it”, and I remind myself that what’s behind the message is something I don’t know, it’s not my business. People sometimes project things out, that’s totally okay. And I also understand many times, when residents contact me they may have had an issue that they’ve been dealing with on their own for months and then it just sort of comes to a head and explodes.

A lot of the lighting issues that I’ve dealt with where lights are coming into your home from your neighbor or from the new 95 project. Which I actually dealt with in my neighborhood, we contacted FDOT and we got ever lights put up. The people that contact me about that have been dealing with that for months. And then they finally call me and it’s like “I’m gonna deal with it”. But for them, it’s just what happens, you just come to a head, you explode, you’re not happy, and I get it. So again, the number one rule is never take it personally.

You can’t know what’s happening in anyone’s life, and that’s okay. That’s just what we signed up for was to be here and to be available.

Q: Is there anything else you want the public to know about Mayor Bolin?

Yes, as I’ve said before, I want people to know I’m available. I’m interested in having conversations, I want to know what’s important to you. And I also want to educate, be curious about how things work. Because I can’t flip the switch and say, “The truck will be back to pick up your car”. That’s not outward.

But be curious about “What does the City do?”. I think sometimes, because we are the closest and there is what we touch on day in and day out, there’s also what we can only shape and form because it is handled at the county level or the state level. So get interested, get involved and start to pay attention. Because right now we’re in legislative session, there are a lot of bills that are being proposed that will highly impact us.

And I think you need to look at both sides. Don’t just take the argument, what you believe if this is what you believe, what I say to you is to challenge yourself and find out why the other side believes what they believe. And just look at it.

I’m open to all those discussions. And by the way, if I don’t know it, and I don’t know what it is, I will find out and we will you know, I’ll take the time to do that and and get together and get back with you and have meaningful conversation based on facts. No doubt about it.

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*LivingInOaklandPark.com is an independent publication, not affiliated with the City of Oakland Park.

Desiree Avila

EDITOR, PUBLISHER, WRITER, PHOTOGRAPHER, REALTOR®

Désirée Ávila has called Oakland Park her home for over 33 years. In addition to publishing LivingInOaklandPark.com, Désirée 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.

Désirée consistently professionally develops herself and has earned several different professional designations and certifications in real estate including the PSA, e-Pro, AHWD, SRS, ABR, and SFR. She was also awarded the C2EX, Commitment to Excellence award by the National Association for Realtors (NAR). This award is given to Realtors® that distinguish themselves for their commitment to excellence in the real estate industry.

She is esteemed by her real estate colleagues and has consistently received 5 star reviews from her clients. Her philosophy about real estate is that being a Realtor® is a way of teaching and helping people, and in the process a real estate transaction may occur, that is to say her foremost priority is and has always been about helping others.

She is dedicated to her hometown of Oakland Park and works consistently on building and fostering a strong community. She is passionate about photography and loves to read books about history ; the more detail the better! In addition to English, Désirée is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian.

Check out her real estate websites:
DesireeAvila.com
OaklandParkRealEstateAgent.com
Search for New Construction Homes with Désirée : www.IWantToBuyNewConstruction.com
Visit her real estate blog at www.DesireeRealtor.com

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