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8887: Desir optimistic about his bid for commission seat (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Desir optimistic about his bid for commission seat


Ossmann Desir says running for Miami-Dade County Commission is a logical 
progression for him. Haitian Americans have made considerable gains in South 
Florida politics for a decade.

Desir is preparing to challenge incumbent Dorrin Rolle,
who has held the District 2 commission seat since Gov. Lawton Chiles 
appointed him in 1998 to replace the ousted Bruno Barreiro. If elected, he 
will become the first Haitian American on the Miami-Dade County Commission.

Philippe Derose became the first Haitian elected to political office in the 
United States when in 1993 he was elected to the El Portal Village Council. 
Five years later, Desir became the first Haitian American elected to the 
North Miami council.

In January 2000, El Portal again made headlines when it became the first 
municipality to have a Haitian American majority, electing Derose, Laura 
Charlemagne-Vancol and Islande Salomon to public office. Derose became mayor 
that same year.

The following November, Rep. Phillip Brutus was elected to the state 
Legislature, and in May Josaphat Celestin became North Miami's first Haitian 
mayor and the North Miami council became what many called the county's most 
prominent political power base. Three of the five council members -- 
Celestin, Desir and Jacques Despinosse -- are Haitian Americans.

While Desir says he is simply capitalizing on the newfound power of Haitian 
voters and broadening his horizons, some are wondering if Desir's actions 
will jeopardize the balance of power in North Miami.

``They're going to lose the majority when he vacates the seat,'' said 
Derose, 48, who serves as El Portal's vice mayor.

``I advised him that it would be better if he finishes his term, then he can 
seek some other office,'' Derose said. ``There are quite a few Haitians out 
there who want to run, but there is no guarantee that they will win an 

Ten days before the July 2, 2002, qualifying date, Desir will give up his 
seat on the North Miami City Council. The city will hold a special election 
to replace him in accordance with the city charter, said City Manager Lee 

Desir, who defeated Arthur ``Duke'' Sorey for the council seat in 1999, said 
he isn't worried.

``Haitian voters dominate North Miami,'' said Desir, 39. ``I believe if I 
step down, there will be someone there to take my place.''

Mayor Josaphat Celestin echoed Desir's sentiments.

``There are enough qualified candidates that can represent the interest of 
[City Council] District 4 just as Desir has,'' said Celestin, 45.

Roseline Philippe, vice president of the Haitian American Democratic Club, 
said she doesn't expect Desir's absence from North Miami's council to have 
any longstanding effect.

``I don't know why people see this as a political stronghold,'' said 
Philippe, who said she is contemplating running in the special election to 
replace Desir. ``It's not a strong-mayor form of government or anything. 
Each member has one vote. Just because you have three Haitians on council 
doesn't mean they all vote the same way on every issue.''

Said North Miami Councilman Michael Blynn, 58, ``I don't know what is going 
to happen in a year. Desir will be missed, without a doubt. He's done very 
well. He's diligent and has integrity and is a good representative of the 

The future of the county lies in its diversity, Desir said. Fluent in 
English, Spanish, French and Creole, Desir said he can provide the district 
with the leadership it needs because he can easily interact with its 
constituency, no matter where they are from.

The district is ``filled with a very interesting group of people and it 
needs special leadership,'' he said.

Rolle, Desir's opponent for the County Commission seat, was unavailable for 

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