By: Sharon Aron Baron
Parkland residents know where to find Mayor Michael Udine when something is on their minds; he’s typically at the Coral Ridge Starbucks each morning at 6:30 a.m. drinking coffee. If they can’t talk to him there, they will send him messages on Facebook where he will quickly respond whether the crisis is big or small.
As Parkland’s mayor for ten years and city commissioner for three years prior, Udine has brought many new ideas to the growing city. When the current Broward County Commissioner, Stacy Ritter, was being considered for the position of president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, Udine thought it was a great opportunity for him to run for the open seat.
Udine said that district three, which covers Parkland, Coral Springs, Tamarac and parts of North Lauderdale was a perfect fit for him geographically. “When you look at this district, I know every nook and cranny,” said Udine. “I basically have been here my entire adult life other than college and law school, so I’ve always thought that was the next logical step for me.”
As a graduate of JP Taravella High School in 1984, he was living in Woodmont Country Club in Tamarac before leaving for college and law school at the University of Florida. After passing the Florida Bar, Udine began his professional career in the Commercial Litigation department at the Miami Office of White and Case, one of the largest law firms in the United States with offices throughout the world. In 1991, he began working with his father at the law firm of Udine & Udine focusing on insurance litigation, commercial collections, and real estate law where for the past 25 years their offices have been located either in Tamarac or Coral Springs.
“My dad and I always wanted to try to work together, but I wanted to first get some experience at a big corporate law firm for a little bit and this was the next step of what I wanted to do,” he said.
In 2003, Udine decided to run as a Parkland city commissioner when he and his wife Stacey had young children. At the time, the city was transitioning from a rural city with older residents to younger families attracted to the new housing communities. “The commission was great at the time, but all of the commissioner’s kids were older and I didn’t think there was anybody there for the young families,” he said.
After being elected mayor, Udine helped bring many innovative changes to the city like creating a free SAT and ACT program for students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He created an Educational Advisory Board which oversaw scholarships to deserving students. He also initiated free wifi in all city parks. Udine also established the Mayor’s Top Teen Program and also helped create the Farmer’s Market. Udine is especially proud that he helped maintain low millage rates, while property values remained high – all while keeping Parkland one of the safest cities in the country.
“I take pride in being the mayor of Parkland and celebrating the successes of the local Parkland students and also our older residents as well. As elected officials we sometimes take for granted what we mean to our residents.”
After he was first elected, Udine also brought the concept of open office hours where businesses and residents were able to come out and talk to him and their elected officials anytime. He also credits social media to being a huge benefit to him because he now has people that communicate with him through Facebook and Twitter as well.
On countywide issues such as Uber, Udine is clear that he is a proponent of the smartphone app-based ride service, even though Yellow Cab claims has lost 25 percent of its business since Uber entered the market. He sees the benefits of Uber firsthand, even using the service himself and said that many students used it after prom last Saturday night.
“I think Uber is a good thing and I don’t think any politician is going to be able to stop technology. While things need to have regulations for the safety of the public, we need to be helping to foster new technological advances that help people.”
As a mayor of a municipality, Udine said he is up-to-date on all county issues and he hopes to operate with the cities and county working together.
“The resident really is the end user,” he said. “They may live in Tamarac, Coral Springs or Parkland but they’re still in Broward County. As a county, we can’t be heavy-handed and step on the cities, we need to make sure that the cities are given adequate involvement and representation on the county level.”