Stop the Press!

How thin is the county manager's epidermal layer? Just ask the folks in Homestead

Steve Shiver grew up in a family where he was made to feel he could do no wrong. He was his mother's pride and joy, and the one chosen not only to carry his father's name but also to follow in his political footsteps.

Roy Stephen Shiver -- known to everyone as R.S. -- has been a city commissioner in Florida City for 41 years.

Roy Stephen Shiver, Jr. -- commonly referred to as Steve -- was elected to the Homestead City Council in 1993 and ran unopposed for mayor in 1997.

Ross Hancock hopes to turn the Homestead Sun into a daily newspaper within a year
Steve Satterwhite
Ross Hancock hopes to turn the Homestead Sun into a daily newspaper within a year
Ross Hancock hopes to turn the Homestead Sun into a daily newspaper within a year
Steve Satterwhite
Ross Hancock hopes to turn the Homestead Sun into a daily newspaper within a year


Read related New Times Steve Shiver stories

In size and pedigree it may have seemed like a trailer-park version of Camelot, but that never stopped the younger Shiver from adopting an arrogant sense of entitlement that members of dynasties often assume. Nowhere is that arrogance more prominent than in his dealings with the media.

Shiver's abrupt firing of county communications director Mayco Villafaña is only the latest episode in a long history of attempts to control the press. Villafaña believes he was axed because Shiver was afraid he was leaking to the news media embarrassing information about his administration. The manager also has been developing plans to curtail the day-to-day flow of information to the press from various county departments.

Shiver's antics hardly come as a surprise to Yolanda Ulrich. As the editor for the past nine years of the South Dade News Leader, a thrice-weekly community newspaper in Homestead, she knows just how neurotic and controlling Shiver can be. "He's always been very thin-skinned," she says.

For years Ulrich has written a column in which she occasionally teases local politicians, giving them what she refers to as "little zingers" from time to time. In one column, for instance, she kidded Shiver about losing his car keys and showing up late for a meeting. In others she would make note of his age and how young he seemed. "Of course the older I get," Ulrich laughs, "the younger everyone else gets."

Shiver, however, didn't like being teased. "He used to call all the time to complain," she recalls. "He would call constantly. He had a very thin skin."

At first Shiver would play the role of a wounded innocent, whining to Ulrich: "What do you have against me?" and "Why don't you like me?"

Ulrich tried to tell him that it wasn't personal, but he wouldn't believe her. "We treated everyone the same," Ulrich says, "but Steve was the only one who felt we were picking on him."

When Shiver ran for mayor in 1997, Ulrich wrote that it was a shame Shiver was unopposed. "I thought people should have to knock on doors, campaign, ask for people's votes, and not just win a race because no one else wants to run," says Ulrich. "But Shiver perceived that as being an attack against him."

She tried to placate him, offering him space in the paper to write his own opinion pieces. Even though he would turn in long, rambling columns, Ulrich says she never edited them for fear Shiver would go ballistic. But even granting Shiver these opportunities to vent in print didn't satisfy him.

Over time, Ulrich remembers, Shiver's complaints became increasingly strident. "They were laced with threats," she reports. "He would always tell me: I'm going to be here a lot longer than you are.'" And he attempted to make good on those words, Ulrich says, by repeatedly trying to have her fired.

Shiver regularly complained to Ulrich's boss, publisher Glenn Martin. "He would tell me that as long as she was here, he would not be treated fairly," Martin says. "And he wanted her gone."

When the publisher refused to fire Ulrich, the newspaper's owners in Pennsylvania began receiving complaints that Martin believes originated with Shiver. The owners also refused to fire Ulrich.

I asked Martin if there was one particular incident that caused Shiver to behave this way. He replied, "He's so thin-skinned and vindictive, and he holds grudges for so long that I don't know what festers in his mind."

A year and a half ago Shiver began making a new round of threats. He told Ulrich and Martin he was launching his own newspaper to compete with the News Leader. "We're going to start this paper to put your paper out of business," Shiver vowed, according to Martin.

Shiver even attempted to hire one of the News Leader's reporters, José Lopez. "It came up during a casual conversation," Lopez recalls. "He wanted to know if he opened a paper, would I come to work for him? I told him he probably couldn't afford me." Nothing ever came of the discussion, but a few months later, in early 2000, the Homestead Sun hit the streets. A weekly newspaper, the Sun's office is located on Krome Avenue in the historic section of downtown Homestead. "It's widely perceived that the Homestead Sun is Steve Shiver's newspaper," says Ulrich.

Ross Hancock was dreading this day. As editor and publisher of the Homestead Sun, he knew for more than a year that eventually he'd be confronted with questions about Steve Shiver's involvement in his newspaper.

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