Published On: Tue, Nov 27th, 2018

Boca’s Steven Abrams steps down after 30 years in political arena

Railroad fan will take over as director of Tri-Rail

By Dale King

The sixth-floor meeting room at the Palm Beach County Governmental Center in West Palm Beach was packed wall-to-wall on Nov. 20.

It was reorganization day for the county’s governing body. Some members were coming, some were going and others were just changing duties.

For District 4 County Commissioner Steven L. Abrams of Boca Raton, it was not just time to step down after nine and a half years on the county board, the day marked the finale of 30 years of public service. Those three decades also included five terms as a Boca Raton city council member, mayor of the city, past president of the Palm Beach County League of Cities, Planning and Zoning Board member and founding board member of the Florida League of Mayors.

As expected, his last address to his colleagues was rife with humor. He asked that everyone offer their comments about him before he spoke. “I wanted to make sure it was unanimous so I wouldn’t have to ask for a recount.”

He told fellow commissioners he doesn’t want to give up the seat. “I didn’t quit. I didn’t get fired.” However, the term-limit law prevented him from running again.

He told the packed audience he had a bag of gifts for fellow commissioners. “You won’t understand them; they are all inside jokes,” he said.

Jovial Abrams did offer some serious comments, saying his commission term “was a terrific nine and a half years.” He commended all his colleagues as well as County Administrator Verdenia Baker “for leading our staff” and County Attorney Denise Nieman, “who is the best.”

He noted that both his predecessor, Mary McCarty, and his successor, Robert Weinroth, were in attendance at the meeting.

With a nod to his new job as executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, he said, “I hope to see you all on Tri-Rail.”

On Jan. 1, Abrams will succeed Jack Stephens, who is scheduled to retire on Dec. 31 after leading SFRTA for more than four and a half years. The authority operates the 72-mile-long Tri-Rail commuter system.

Outgoing Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay, who represents District 6, presented Abrams with a pair of socks “so that every day, when you walk to the Tri-Rail train, you’ll think of me.”

District 5 Commissioner Mary Lou Berger, who represents western Boca, Delray and Boynton Beach, told Abrams: “I have enjoyed working with you, my partner in crime in the south. Your sense of humor has brightened up the board.”

Also on hand for Abrams’ departure was Wally Goose, the mascot of the Wawa convenience store/gas station chain based in Wawa, Pa., not far from Philadelphia where Abrams grew up.  The outgoing commissioner has been one of the store’s most visible promoters.

While Abrams kept his smile during his goodbye, outgoing District 2 Commissioner Paulette Burdick became tearful at the end of her farewell. She is concluding 24 years of public service. By stepping down, she intends to retire, acquire a recreational vehicle and travel the country.

Burdick has been a county commissioner as well as a school board member.

“Saying goodbye is harder than I thought,” she said, fighting back tears. “I was born in 1951; I grew up in the 1960s, as many people in this room did. I am going to give up my tent and my Coleman stove for an RV.  It will be hard to hang up this ‘uniform.’ I was honored and proud to be part of this organization.”

She concluded: “This has been a wild ride.”

Following the administration of the oath of office to new commissioners Gregg Weiss, District 2, and Robert Weinroth, District 4, and to reelected Commissioner McKinlay in District 6, board members selected District 7 Commissioner Mack Bernard to serve as county commission mayor and District 3 Commissioner Dave Kerner to be vice mayor for the coming year.

photos by: Dale King

 

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