Commissioner Mike Gelin is the District 2 representative for the city of Tamarac, Florida, which is just outside Fort Lauderdale in Broward County, FL. We asked Commissioner Gelin to share with us what he’s working on and what we can look forward to on his policy work.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Local Progress: What motivated you to run for public office?
Mike Gelin: It’s important that we are open, honest and transparent with our constitutes. I felt that was missing in my city and decided that I could assist in building trust between The City of Tamarac and residents. We get so lost in what’s politically correct and forget that we all are human. I wanted to make sure residents did not see another politician asking for their vote but someone who was just like them. Someone who wants a safe place to live, a thriving economy, good schools and someone who has their best interests in mind.
LP: Tell us about the community you represent. What should people know about it?
MG: Tamarac, Florida is a beautiful suburb outside of Fort Lauderdale. It is a diverse community with a large retiree population. Our city offers beautiful parks and recreation, city events that promote cultural awareness and inclusivity, and a strong and growing small business community.
LP: What are you most proud of from your tenure in office so far?
MG: I am most proud of sponsoring and gaining consensus from my colleagues on introducing a local business program to give local Tamarac businesses an opportunity to win contracts, a small business program, approving medical marijuana, and establishing a Sister Cities International program. I am also proud of promoting transparency in government. For the first time in the City’s history, we provided residents with a Popular Financial Report which is easy to read report detailing the City’s finances. I want the City of Tamarac to truly have an open government.
LP: What are some of your upcoming priorities in office?
MG: Next year, we will commission a disparity study so we can establish a minority business program and goals, introduce additional legislation to promote environmentally-friendly policies such as banning of plastic straws, include measures to hold police officers accountable for bad actions, and additional programs to expose our youth to local and international government through educational opportunities with the National League of Cities and Sister Cities International.
LP: Why are you a member of Local Progress?
MG: Being a part of a network with like-minded electeds makes this job a little easier. It’s great to be a member of an organization with some inspiring individuals doing great work in our communities. Local Progress also provides great resources and policy experts I can work with to assist in drafting progressive and constructive legislation.
LP: You’ve received a lot of attention for a recent ceremony in which you confronted the officer who falsely arrested you. What are some of your reflections on that attention you’ve received? And what would your message be to your peers around the country who are fighting for thriving communities and against the criminalization of people of color?
MG: It’s been extremely humbling to receive the support, love, and attention I have received since this news spread across the country. People have shared their personal stories and personal losses with me and some have asked for my advice in their current circumstances. The support has been across the board and includes those of the Jewish community, whites, hispanics, blacks, law enforcement professionals, and active military personnel. It’s also been very sad to know that so many people have had negative experiences with police officers. It demonstrates that a significant change is needed so all people can get justice especially when they are abused or taken advantage of by law enforcement professionals.
Before addressing my peers across the country, I would encourage my fellow citizens to document their experiences and file a formal complaint with the respective law enforcement agencies. Secondly, they should be sure to notify and or copy their elected officials on all levels including local, county, state, and federal representatives regarding their experiences. If elected officials don’t know the extent of the abuse and problems in the system, they will have no incentive to change or improve it.
To my peers across the country, I would say to them that we need to do our job and develop nationwide accountability standards to ensure bad police officers are held accountable for their bad actions. This is especially beneficial to the good police officers who are working hard to maintain the integrity of the profession and keep us safe. There are many police officers out there who would welcome independent accountability standards. They see the injustices daily but are afraid to speak out as it can damage their career advancement goals. Most of them would love to come out of the shadows of the Blue Wall.
We also have to address the over-criminalization of people of color all over the country. It starts with us at the local level. We need to find other ways to treat people other than sending them to jail. We know that jails and prisons do not solve problems. In fact, they only add to the problem and increase the chances of someone living a life of crime. I don’t need to go into the numbers but they are staggering and will only get worse unless we change how we view criminal justice reform. I will do my part to help in this role and hope other bold and progressive elected officials will as well.