Mayor’s Career Forged During Earlier Deadly Illness





For Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, the fight against coronavirus is sadly familiar. 

Trantalis’ political career was forged in the crucible of  another deadly health crisis — AIDS. 



Dean Trantalis



Decades ago people were dying from a mysterious disease with no cure. Hospitals were paralyzed. Doctors scrambled to combat the unknown illness, which had multiple deadly symptoms and almost always ended in death. Anyone thought to be susceptible to the disease was shunned. Panicked condo boards even tried to ban those with HIV.

There was no leadership from the White House, from Tallahassee or from City Hall. 

Trantalis admits that when AIDS became an issue he was more likely to be found on the dance floor of Backstreets or The Copa than at a political meeting. But he found it hard to ignore the ever-increasing whispers of a deadly plague targeting gays.

And Trantalis watched as the nascent leadership of Broward’s LGBTQ community got sick and died.

During a candid interview last year for Venice magazine, Trantalis’ eyes misted and his voice wobbled as he discussed those tragic times in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

“A lot of the leaders died…Brad Buchman. Allan Terl.* Gary Steinsmith, Jamie Bloodworth,” he said. “All of them died. All passed away.… 

“Those guys who contracted HIV contracted it before we knew HIV was even out there. It was a very, very sad time..It was a terrible time.”

Trantalis could have hunkered down. Instead, he stepped up. 

“Because those guys passed away, I felt it was my responsibility to take the baton and continue a leadership role. That’s why I became president of the Dolphin Democratic Club.”

That was the start of Trantalis’ political leadership, which he shows so ably today.

He became a public face of the fight in the LGBTQ community against AIDS.

Just like he has become Broward’s public face of the fight against the coronavirus.

Broward Mayor Dale Holness? Not so much. He appears unable to transcend his earlier role as a district commissioner to speak for all of Broward. 

Broward Sheriff Greg Tony? He and his agency have played a subordinate role. 

Cool headed, optimistic and decisive under intense pressure, Trantalis’ leadership has been stretched beyond the borders of Fort Lauderdale by the media. 

He has stepped up once again. 

Those early leaders in the fight against AIDS, all tragically in their graves, would be proud.




*A personal note:  

I knew Allan Terl as a reporter for the Fort Lauderdale News. Like Trantalis, I admired him greatly.

There are probably many of don’t remember Terl and his role in forming today’s Fort Lauderdale. But I remember.  

We talked frequently and I found Terl a whip-smart, honest and straight forward voice for equality.

This was a community back then where political candidates were openly attacked in ads for their alleged pro-gay sentiment.  This was a community where some Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners publicly would utter the most abhorrent anti-gay slurs. This was a community where haters yelled “faggot” at Terl as he stood with a sign at a polling place.

Terl bravely battled against this.   

The director of county’s Intergovernmental Affairs office when I met him, he later was a lawyer for Legal Aid Service of Broward County Inc. and a board member of the state ACLU.

By 1984 I was calling Terl regularly about the firing of Todd Shuttleworth, a county budget analyst who lost his job because he contracted AIDS. Shuttleworth died in 1987.

Shuttleworth’s case focused nationwide attention on AIDS discrimination and much of the reason was because of Terl’s advocacy.

Influential for his role in the county’s domestic partnership and anti-discrimination laws, Terl continued his activism almost to his death from AIDS in 1997.  One of his last acts was writing the governor from his hospital bed a handwritten letter about the appointment of a new sheriff.

Trantalis told me that he follows in Terl’s footsteps. He still views Terl as a role model. 

The mayor couldn’t have a better role model, especially in these challenging times.

If I had to sum up Allan Terl, it would be this way:  He cared.

And that’s Trantalis during this crisis. He cares.

19 Responses to “Mayor’s Career Forged During Earlier Deadly Illness”

  1. Simone Collier says:

    The best mayor we ever had.

  2. Sto says:

    Dean. Jamie Bloodworth passed away from a brain aneurism

  3. Patti Lynn says:

    Well, Dean stood up. Let’s see what other folks in leadership positions do. This will subside in a month, but, it won’t go away unless restrictions are kept in place. The governor won’t do it, so, it will be up to the community to ensure that our people are protected. Just follow Dean’s lead, and we will be okay!

  4. A reader says:

    Trantalis is a refreshing change from the previous mayor who turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  5. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    I DARE anybody to find A BETTER ELECTED OFFICIAL DURING THIS PANDEMIC than Mayor Trantalis OE HAS WORKED BETTER WITH OTHERS. In terms of COURAGE only Rep Gov Mike DeWine comes close. About Holness n DeDantis.n Trump I shsll PASSOVER THEIR NON ACHIEVEMENTS.

  6. Tell the truth says:

    All on FLLCC gave themselves substantial salary increase, tossed 2000 voter approved term limits out the window and now wrestle with sewer pipe word. So the humanity/people sensitivity pitch will trump all that? Ok. Good to know. Include this in the budget advisory board back-up in a few months, and the millage increase notices in early Sept 2020. Will make it easier for all property owners to understand why.

  7. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    First I think Dale Holeness in the situation we r in is doing the best with what he has to work with.As far as Mayor Trantalis I stated( at the podium) on his very first meeting that he conducted as mayor that not only congrats but he was/is a pioneer in the LBGTQ community with emphasis in Wilton Manors.He and a few others put Wilton Manors on the map as the place to go,live and entertain in the gay community.Stated such.However,that being a no vrainy their are some issues under his reign.The homeless situation while the city spent millions from everything from free u name it.End result..there is nothing the residents can do( your wrong)…

  8. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:


  9. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    #6 Exactly.These pay raised to fancy office furniture to trips to China,Israel,etc.Again what u bring up there is no denying.This what u bring up is exactly the tone of the residents.Big big pimple on Dean is his overzealous support of this Aids in Rio Vista.They don’t t want it.Mayor Trantalis can say all he wants I don’t t Rio Vista to prevail..Will see.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Part of the reason Dean looks good is that the two before him were disasters. Jim Naugle was the mayor who made comments gays publicly and who still thought it was the 1960sFort Lauderdale. Jack Seiler only cared about developers and their money and ruined the town with too many big buildings.

  11. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Again ANONYMOUS attacks on Mayor Seiler (who with commonsense supported development in ecomically troubled areas because the 2006/2008 Real Estate Collapse destroyed the City’s tax base) n attempts to under cut Mayor Trsntalis by anonymous blohggrrs n non entities who NEITHER INVEST IN THE CITY OR GIVE TO CHARITY ot participate in cultural life here.

  12. Marc Dickerman says:

    Dean You and I have known each other since the mid 90s. This past year I have been watching from the sidelines. That will change once this Safer At Home restrictions are lifted. I feel as many others you have been doing a far more than an exemplary job. Your tenure started with our poor infrastructure finance led astray by former City Manager Lee Feldman. This pandemic has shown the leadership this city needs. I look forward to supporting you in your re election (not that it is important right now). Keep up the good work.


  13. 35 year resident says:

    #11 Having voted to suck the Water & Sewer Fund dry, Former Mayor Seiler seriously mused at a public joint meeting of the Budget Advisory Board & City Commission about raiding the city cemeteries’ $50 million Perpetual Care Fund. Stealing from the dead — just how low can a politician go?

    #10 is correct, in comparison to Barney Fife and Sargent Schultz, Dean is a regular Mr. Rogers. And then there was Bob Cox explaining to black elementary school students that all you needed to be mayor in Fort Lauderdale was be “free, white and 21”. Oh, and E. Clay Shaw who opposed a city anti-discrimination housing ordinance. It’s a veritable litany of mediocrity (at best). In my 3+ decades as a Fort Lauderdale citizen, Dean is by far the best mayor. Fort Lauderdale is fortunate to have him in that position now.

  14. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Sorry Buddy, rentors who in 30 years in Fort Lauderdale NEVER BROUGHT A HOUSE HERE aint my idea of FINANCIAL EXPERTS to criticize Lee Feldman WHO WAS A HOME OWNER.

  15. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:


  16. Ftl Beach says:

    Yes. Mr. Trantalis is, indeed, the best mayor, and, in my opinion, the best politician I have seen in my 34 years in Fort Lauderdale. Not that weren’t others who were passable, but no one has reached Mr. Trantalis’ level of humanity for us all.

  17. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Mayor Trantalis has done the best job he can do under this deadly virus.However,I would have shut down that facility on Commercial.I would have sent in National guard to take over and shut them down.The governor even stated how negligent and incompetent they were.Then they hire lobbyists to have gov.grant them and others immunity from law suits.Oh better believe they r going to get that check book out.Also I would have put unemployment reps at city hall to help these residents get their money.600/ per week plus the 1200.This state should be ashamed of themselves.Sorry they say,sorry my ass.This money again is not the States monies.This delay of payment is total BS.If I was mayor I would March right to Tallahassee with camera crew behind me to demand these residents payment.I would insist residents could drive to state capital and be given checks($) in person.Lastly this notion I’m hearing employees etc coming into city hall offices( get this) to give them their base pay and then overtime.Id say kick rocks.Don’ t count me out just yet because I got this itch( running for office) that I can’t t seem to stratch enough..

  18. Just one vote says:

    @17 City Activist Robert Walsh
    one Gov De Santis (and Trump) realize that this unemployment debacle will cost Trump FL on Nov 3 and then DeSantis his guv gig in Nov 2022 they may get the process in gear. Funny how that works with electeds. Maybe the same for the locals up for re-election in Nov.

  19. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    #18.Here residents going over 6 weeks w/ no money honey yet( this baffles me) city workers that were sent home, classified as non essential again please don.t show up for work.Ok so w/ Trump 2 Trillion( except for u Florida) and unemployment benefits u would think these employees would be laid off.Entitling them to collect benefits.Im hearing they were and r being paid like they were working,like everyother week.I hope I received misinformation regarding this.If accurate your telling me everyone termed non-essential gets laid off but city workers break out the fine China.While suckerboy ( story of my life) residents paying for all this.No way if I get my way.U put that monies for this paid vacation ( yes) back in the kiddie ( so to speak).These city managers are generous w/ other people’s money( yours)..