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WEST PALM BEACH — When Richard Ryles learned he won a closed City Commission race Tuesday night, he said the voters sent a clear message.
″(They) are tired of dirty politics,” Ryles said. “If I could say what I was praying for it would be to say that civility reigns and negative politicking at some point has to end and at some point we start dealing with the issues and … do what a city is supposed to do and represent the people it’s supposed to represent.”
Ryles received 50.3 percent of the runoff vote — 3,473 to Christy Fox’s 3,440 — with 6,913 of the city’s 68,254 registered voters casting ballots, a turnout of about 10 percent.
This was a close election and I’m disappointed by the outcome,” a Fox campaign statement read. “We had a big lead in the election two weeks ago and we worked hard to get our message out about the runoff. I appreciate the hard work of my supporters and will find other ways to continue my service to West Palm Beach, the city I love.”
Ryles, an attorney living in Lake Mangonia northwest of downtown, won heavily in the poorer and middle-class black neighborhoods — north and northwest of downtown — on March 12.
Ryles, a Howard University graduate who is president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Palm Beach County, says City Hall has long neglected those areas.
He said he wants to grow businesses in the city through incentives and loans and make sure it deals with rising seas brought on by climate change.
Ryles also sits on the Palm Beach County Zoning Commission and recently left the West Palm Beach Housing Authority, where he was chairman.
Fox, a downtown resident and public relations director at The Moore Agency, won votes on March 12 from gated communities west of Jog Road.
Fox said the city must address the root causes of homelessness downtown. She wanted to use technology to reduce violent crime in the northwestern neighborhoods that Ryles said remain neglected.
Two issues on which Ryles and Fox disagreed were development and taxes, their answers in The Palm Beach Post’s Know Your Candidates survey showed. Fox wanted to lower the city’s property tax rate. Ryles did not.
Fox supported, and Ryles opposed, creating the Okeechobee Business District, which included allowing a 25-story waterfront office tower. The site of the proposed skyscraper had a five-story height limit.
Both candidates opposed extending State Road 7 to Northlake Boulevard along the Club at Ibis, a big voting bloc Fox won March 12.
Fox boasted of receiving endorsements from Keith James, outgoing Mayor Jeri Muoio, Commissioners Kelly Shoaf and Christina Lambert, and Commissioner-elect Joseph Peduzzi, who ran unopposed.
Both candidates raised almost $47,000 as of March 7, campaign finance records show.
“I’ve been a resident (of West Palm Beach) for 56 years and Tamarind (Avenue) today looks likes Tamarind when I was 5,” Ryles said, “We are praying at least I can be a voice.”