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8887: Desir optimistic about his bid for commission seat (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Desir optimistic about his bid for commission seat
BY GARIOT LOUISNA
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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