Best Politician To Bid Farewell

North Miami Mayor Frank Wolland

In 1998, after eking out a victory in one of North Miami's ugliest mayoral elections ever, attorney Frank Wolland faced widespread doubts about his ability to overcome the town's growing racial and social rifts. At least a quarter of North Miami's 60,000 residents are Haitian; blacks now make up 55 percent of the population in this once-lily-white stronghold. Wolland's 1998 opponent, Joe Celestin, was the first Haitian to run for North Miami mayor, and his passionate supporters took the loss hard. But Wolland began an effort to encourage Haitians' involvement in civic life. He even inquired about enrolling in Kreyol classes but couldn't attend regularly. The feared ethnic polarization didn't occur in North Miami, and some Celestin supporters even wound up on Wolland's side for re-election. Thus his decision to take a breather from politics prompted a flood of calls to Wolland's law office, begging him to reconsider. "A lot of people were very unhappy," he concedes. "They came to me, and we talked it out. I just think it's time to spend a little more time with my kids and my [law practice]. So I decided to sit this one out." In retrospect Wolland's departure ushered in, as gracefully as one could hope, a new era of majority black leadership in North Miami.

 
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