Her High Hopes

Councilwoman Judy Paul wants Davie to look like the Old West. Lobbyist Judy Stern is prodevelopment. Is the town big enough for the both of them?

Speeding along I-595, it's difficult to comprehend how isolated Davie once was. The first permanent settlers didn't arrive until 1909, when Florida Gov. Napolean Bonaparte Broward began to drain the swamps. For most of the next decade, folks usually traveled east by canal boat, until a narrow rock road opened between Davie and Fort Lauderdale in 1917. By 1925 Davie still had only 2000 residents; it was a land of farms, citrus groves, and ranches. In the '30s, as horse professionals opened stables, Davie became a center for breeding and training thoroughbreds.

Preserving that open-space heritage, Davie restricts the zoning in many residential areas to one-acre lots. In 1989 the town's voters approved a $10 million bond issue to buy and preserve hammocks and ridge land, and to build a trail system linking the nature preserves.

In downtown Davie, town ordinances require that buildings feature Old West signs and architecture, and at council meetings they talk of the bull-riding events at the Bergeron rodeo grounds, of "preserving the dignity" of a two-lane road. Davie even has an official belt buckle, and long-time residents in the west refer to traveling to downtown Davie as going "back east," as though heading from California to New York.

Paul represents Old Davie, and it is threatened. Since 1990 the town has grown from 47,000 residents to more than 60,000 and is projected to jump another 10,000 by the year 2000. That growth is apparent in Paul's council District 4, south of I-595, from Flamingo Road west to I-75. Although drivers still see horses grazing behind country fences, even more evident are the frames of houses rising behind development walls. Along Flamingo Road flags announcing "New Homes" wave across the street from nurseries offering plant sales, and on Griffin Road, Burger Kings and Super Shells crawl toward the citrus groves.

On a secluded one-acre property off Southwest 145th Avenue, Paul has built behind her home an Old Davie retreat: roofed stalls, tack room, paddock, and riding ring, a retreat she shares with the two appaloosas, three dogs, and six cats. Her pride is Tanya Lee, who comes from foundation stock of the appaloosa breed and also has in her some thoroughbred; indeed, according to the genealogy Paul had traced, Tanya Lee was crossbred with one of the sires of the legendary race horse Man o' War, who died in 1947. On Paul's council office wall hangs a picture of Tanya Lee pulling a horse-show cart.

These horses are what brought Paul to Davie. Growing up in Teaneck, New Jersey, she started riding at age nine, and remembers, after her family moved into an apartment, trying to persuade her mother to let her keep a pony in the bathtub. When she visited relatives around Paramus there was a nearby stable presided over by a stable master who rode up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt, and who taught kids to hold tightly to the horse by having them put quarters between their legs and the horse. If the quarters dropped, the stable master kept them, and no more quarters meant no more riding.

"I use to beg my mother for quarters," Paul recalled. "She'd say, 'Four quarters and that's it. You'd better learn how to ride.' And I did."

In 1972 Paul moved from New Jersey to teach in Broward public schools and first lived in Pembroke Pines. Two years later she bought Tanya Lee and stabled her in Davie. She remembers seeing real cowboys work the ranches in far west Davie, then riding into downtown on a Friday night to drink and carouse at the Long Branch Bar. Back then she could ride Tanya Lee from Davie to Pembroke Pines. "If I tried that now," she says, "I'd get squished."

In 1980 she bought the Lone Ranger and kept him in the Davie stable as well. Over the years she got more and more involved in Davie horse issues and in the effort to save the town rodeo grounds. Finally she concluded: "I spent so much time in Davie. My horses lived here. I decided I wanted to have a say." In 1986 Paul bought her Davie acre and began to develop "Pauldarosa."

On weekdays she leaves Pauldarosa at about 6:30 a.m. for the 35-minute drive to Fort Lauderdale High School, where she coordinates the Pre-Law and Public Affairs Magnet Program. With more than 400 enrollees, the program is designed for students interested in legal, government, and law-enforcement careers.

In Davie, Paul's involvement with horse-related issues led to her appointment to the town's Open Space Advisory Board, the duties of which include the critical function of approving the location of horse trails. She was later appointed to the Charter Review Board, which was responsible for adding a charter clause to preserve Davie's rural character and equestrian lifestyle.

In late 1997, as the March council elections approached, Paul and friends talked about the effort to unseat Councilman Monroe Kiar, whose opponent was retired law professor Dean Alexander, a well-known candidate who had almost defeated Kiar in 1995. Although Paul had "tongue-in-cheek" conversations about a council run, neighborhood activists convinced her that by entering the race she risked splitting the anti-Kiar vote, which would permit him to be reelected. Then Kiar dropped out, so there was no incumbent. It was a wide-open race.

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