Her High Hopes | Feature | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

Longform

Her High Hopes

Page 5 of 7

From that article also rose the "Judy Stern issue."
Prior to the campaign, Paul and Stern had a "professional relationship" built around the Fort Lauderdale High public-affairs program. As Paul remembers it, about two years ago she met Stern, talked about lobbying, and asked Stern to address her class because "I never had a lobbyist speak to the kids before." After the talk Stern joined the magnet program's adult advisory board, which mentors and helps find job opportunities. "She did nice things to help the kids," Paul said. "They got to meet influential people. I hoped to keep the school and the campaign separate. I don't agree with what she's done in the town, but she knows a lot of very important people."

According to Paul, everything changed during a showdown at Robbins Lodge, a park facility in western Davie. After the Community News article appeared, Paul said, she was working at the lodge on a charity ride-a-thon for the Davie Boys and Girls Club when Stern walked in and brought up Paul's criticism of her EMS client.

"She confronted me," Paul recalled. "She said, 'I take it very personally.' She is a very strong person. She can be intimidating."

This led to Paul's campaign crisis of the soul: "I wrestled with myself, whether to go full forward with the EMS issue. I didn't want to hurt the kids at school; that's my job, and Judy Stern is such a formidable person."

Paul claimed that, because of the stress caused by the Stern incident, and because she wasn't sleeping or eating properly during the campaign, she started to have heart palpitations. So she checked herself into Memorial Hospital for four days, then rested for another week at home as she contemplated abandoning her campaign or at least scaling back. Instead, "I decided if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it the right way. I didn't like sitting on the fence. What I don't like about politicians is they never give you a straight answer."

She returned to walking the neighborhoods, as a result losing 34 pounds, and expressed total support for the firefighters. Stern meanwhile left the school advisory board, saying, according to Paul, that she was too busy with other things.

On March 10, Paul won the District 4 election by 74 votes, took her council seat, and immediately discovered her legs were too short to reach the floor. She now rests her feet on a stool and props a pillow behind her back to keep from sinking into the big council chair.

Despite her victory the Stern wars continue: Following an EMS workshop, Stern filed a public-records request demanding Paul's private notes, and at the new council's goals-setting workshop a big sign announced, "Lunch compliments of Judy Stern Consulting."

"I didn't eat her sandwiches," Paul defiantly proclaimed, "but it indicates that Judy Stern still has control over individuals at town hall."

The nefarious sandwich strategy! Clearly it was time to give the devil her due.

Command center for Stern's evil empire turned out to be a windowless room in an office suite shared with a real estate firm along a strip of warehouses and auto repair shops in eastern Davie, near the cluttered intersection of State Road 441 and Griffin Road.

Understatement not being a Stern trademark, the office decor included, in addition to a photo of her conversing with President Clinton, a framed Miami Herald story with the headline, "When Judy Stern phones, politicians take her calls." But the best indicator of Stern's status in Broward County politics was a photo featuring super power broker Hamilton Foreman, for decades a dispenser of campaign megamoney and influence. In the photograph he's smiling and has his arm around Stern, a sign that even if she is driven from Davie, she probably won't lack for clients.

When a visitor arrived, Stern was talking with a slightly lesser power, the mayor of Davie.

"Say hello to Harry," she chirped toward the speaker phone, which sat next to the picture of her with Al Gore.

"Hello, Mayor," the visitor said.
"My office is making me sick!" boomed Harry Venis, whose voice then started to crackle and fade.

"I told you to get rid of that cheap phone and get a Bell South phone," Stern commanded, referring to one of her clients, for whom she lobbied to have cellular telephone towers built in Davie.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dan Lovely

Latest Stories