Boynton Beach has long been regarded as the sleepy beach community wedged between West Palm Beach and Delray Beach. It's where everyone's grandma seems to live and, with a population of 70,000, the kind of place where you quickly run out of things to do after 10 p.m. But that's all about to change now that three young political newcomers were elected to the City Commission last month, ousting older incumbents and forming a youthful majority that'll usher in a new era for Boynton.
"I want Boynton Beach to be the 18- to 35-year-old district," says Steven Grant, the newly elected mayor and, at 33, the youngest in the city's history. "People are being priced out of Delray, Boca, and West Palm Beach. The next two years are a critical time for Boynton."
It's easy to complain about city leaders. But these political newcomers actually challenged them and beat them in the March election: Grant defeated 80-year-old six-term incumbent Mayor Jerry Taylor, 27-year-old Christina Romelus defeated 62-year-old Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick, and 32-year-old Justin Katz filled 70-year-old Commissioner David Mercker's seat as he ran (and lost) in the mayor's race.
Grant, an attorney; Romelus, an adjunct professor and local business owner; and Katz, a public high school teacher, share the same vision of Boynton: a livable, high-density, affordable, working-class community. Since the Boynton Beach Commission is composed of a mayor and four commissioners, these three form a 3/5 majority.
"We all care about the city," Grant says over chicken wings at DJ's Grille. "I ran for office because I knew that if I didn't do anything, there would be senior citizens running the city for the future, instead of the other way around. It didn't make sense."
Steven Grant grew up outside of Washington, D.C. As a teenager, he took up odds jobs as a construction worker, cashier at Hollywood Video, and a used-car salesman for Carmax. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a finance degree before attending the Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. Grant focused on finance and embezzlement and worked as a paralegal for the Jacksonville State Attorney's Office before moving to Boynton Beach in 2010.
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Grant purchased a home in the "heart of Boynton," a two-bedroom off Boynton Beach Boulevard behind the KFC. He drives a red, '92 Thunderbird and lives with his dog, a 10-year-old Australian shepherd named Daisy, and his cat, Milo. He watches Netflix, takes Ubers, and goes to local happy hours. Grant opened his business, FloridaLawOffice.com, and has been active at commission meetings since 2012. He served as chairman on the Finance Advisory Committee.
During his three-year stint as mayor, Grant hopes to reduce crime, foster a sense of community, save the old high school from demolition, and audit finances. He has not announced plans to run again in 2019 or any dreams of higher office, for that matter. He says President Ulysses Grant and John Kennedy are just a couple of his political heroes.
In the meantime, Grant is acclimating to his role as mayor. "It's like Sim City but real life," he jokes. Grant says that he fumbled a few times at the first meeting on April 5 but that the second went much smoother. "I've attended so many meetings, but it's very different to run them."
So far, he says some residents don't believe him when he shakes their hand and introduces himself as mayor. "I hand them my card and then they say, 'Oh, you weren't kidding. You really are mayor'."