Ex-commissioner, business leader run for North Miami Beach mayor

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Two people, including a former city commissioner, qualified to run for North Miami Beach mayor in a special election scheduled for Dec. 5.

Former North Miami Beach commissioner Paule Villard, 63, qualified to run for mayor in the special election to replace Anthony DeFillipo, who was removed from his post in May after he was charged with three counts of voting outside his district. DeFillipo’s trial is set to begin Nov. 13.

Villard will face business owner Evan Scott Piper, who was appointed commissioner in 2018 when Frantz Pierre was removed from office by then Gov. Rick Scott. Piper is president of The Piper Companies, which focus on construction, automotive and marine services, and medical services.

“We need a cop as a mayor who will fight hard for law and order in the city,” Villard wrote in response to emailed questions from the Herald. “As a retired 21-year police veteran, voters first elected me in 2018 because they saw me as someone with proven integrity and public service experience. I want to go back to the city commission to finish the reforms that I started.”

Villard touted her voting record to no longer outsource the water plant, and create ethics laws that banned staff from abusing their positions of power. “I personally championed the creation of the city’s first senior center,” she wrote. “I am the only one running with a record of putting the interests of residents first.”

Villard’s potential return would come as the city has faced turmoil and turnover in the past year stemming from allegations DeFillipo did not reside in the city but instead in the town of Davie. It also comes nearly a year after she lost her seat to Jay Chernoff, longtime commissioner and acting mayor.

RELATED: Months after arrest of mayor, North Miami Beach sets election to pick a new one

During her tenure, Villard’s time on the commission was marred by controversy stemming from criticism that she used a Publix gift card giveaway to campaign for her reelection bid, attempted to oust a city manager and fire the city attorney, and voting to give raises to commissioners.

“The only critics about grocery card giveaways are from those who are supporting my opponent and Republicans who hate the idea of helping people who need it,” Villard wrote when asked about the giveaway. “I only wish we could have helped the community more with those funds.”

Villard said she will address budget cuts to police staffing and noted the Washington Park neighborhood has been waiting for a community center. “Even our new senior center and library won’t be open at hours when people expect to use them the most because of unnecessary budget cuts,” Villard wrote.

She was also the subject of four complaints to the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission, all of which have been dismissed. Villard is a former Miami police officer.

Piper, 59, a professional speaker, was on the city’s planning and zoning board for 25 years and served as chairman. He is president of the North Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“The city is in a little bit of a difficult time right now. There is a lot of different things that are going on there,” Piper told the Herald when he first filed paperwork to run. “And I feel that I’m one of the few, if not only person, that has the background, the skills, the ability, and what it takes to start being effective on day one.”

Another challenger, David Zapen, withdrew from the race prior to qualifying.

In March 2022, Villard filed a lawsuit against blogger Stephanie Kienzle with allegations of stalking. A judge dismissed that suit, according to online court records. Later that year, Kienzle filed a civil suit against Villard alleging the lawsuit was “designed to retaliate against her for her exercise of her First Amendment rights.” She is asking for $30,000 in damages. The suit remains open.

Piper’s campaign has raised $36,761, including a $10,000 loan to himself, and has spent $14,537.79.

Villard has not filed a campaign finance report.

This story was originally published October 27, 2023, 2:03 PM.

Raisa Habersham is a local government reporter covering North Miami-Dade County. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia.



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