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Financial planner for mayor? Advisor seeks to topple incumbent

A financial advisor is challenging the founding mayor of his town this year, in one of several elections this cycle with a contender from the wealth management industry.

Tim Schaffer, a 23-year finance veteran currently affiliated with the independent broker-dealer Calton & Associates, served four years on the Village Council of Palmetto Bay, a suburb in south Miami-Dade County.

He lost that seat in 2016, and now, he’s one of two candidates vying to unseat Mayor Eugene Flinn, who was also mayor from 2002 to 2010. Schaffer filed as a candidate for the nonpartisan, $24,000-per-year office in May.

It’s not uncommon for advisors and wealth management executives to run for public office. Earlier this year, Bronfman Rothschild CEO and Maryland U.S. Senate candidate Neal Simon also waded into electoral waters. Longtime Broker Dealer Financial Services CEO Mike Sherzan ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress in 2016.

Palmetto Bay 2016 election results

So far, Schaffer has received no campaign funds other than $5,000 he donated himself, trailing the incumbent’s $21,300 and the nearly $50,500 raised by Councilwoman Karyn Cunningham, their campaign filings show. Hillary Clinton carried the 23,400-resident village by 1,734 votes in 2016.

Schaffer didn’t respond to questions from Financial Planning about the campaign or his wealth management practice. He had said in an earlier email that he is keeping the race separate “for compliance reasons,” and that issues relating to the village are “not very applicable for your readers.”

“Sorry, but I don't know anything about your publication, and I don't see any benefit to my campaign in an article in your publication,” he said. “I also don't see any benefit for my financial consulting business.”

The entrance of Schaffer into the race came as something of a surprise to former Florida state representative Juan-Carlos Planas, who is supporting Flinn through a political action committee. He describes Schaffer’s service on the Village Council as “very balanced” between development and what Planas sees as "not-in-my-backyard" policies.

“You never take anything for granted,” Planas says of the race. “Gene is somebody who has worked hard to make sure that Palmetto Bay, while still moving forward, keeps that essence of community that made it incorporate in 2002.”

Miami’s Metrorail ends directly to the north of Palmetto Bay, Planas notes, casting the race as pitting the status quo against attracting rail with targeted development. The county transportation board approved a $243-million rapid transit bus system for South Dade in August, The Miami Herald reported.

Councilwoman Cunningham won her seat in 2014 after nearly two decades as a public school teacher in the county, according to her biography. She had also previously worked 14 years in government and community relations for United Teachers of Dade, a union for educational professionals in the area.

Schaffer lost the seat he won in 2012 by a little more than 2,000 votes, out of nearly 11,000 votes cast in 2016. Noting that he helped create Palmetto Bay’s Downtown Redevelopment Task Force, he told the Palmetto Bay News he would come up with a solution within his first 100 days as mayor.

“The residents of the village asked me to return to service,” he told the local newspaper. “The residents want leadership, action, honesty and a get-to-the-point approach. No politics like they have been getting. They know they will get those characteristics from me. It’s the residents that motivated me.”

Schaffer and his wife Elena moved to Palmetto Bay in 2005, according to a profile posted by the Village to YouTube the year after he was elected to the Council. He’s a “financial advisor by trade” who also worked a “side job” as a Miami-Dade County police officer for 15 years, Schaffer says in the video.

Prior to joining Calton in 2015, Schaffer had tenures with Park Avenue Securities, Royal Alliance Associates and Woodbury Financial Services, according to FINRA BrokerCheck. Representatives for his current IBD did not respond to requests for comment.

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