Serving the community is something Marlon Bolton, 31, a criminal justice major at North Campus is drawn to. So it was natural for him to make the leap from pastor at the 300 member Praise Experience Church in North Lauderdale to candidate for public office in Tamarac, going door to door and introducing himself to more than 9,000 registered voters.
Bolton, who is running for Tamarac city commissioner for District 1, is the youngest person to throw his hat in the ring for the position. Tamarac is located in western Broward County.
He is competing against incumbent Pamela Bushnell, 74, who has held the position for the past eight years.
“The people have expressed that they want a change,” Bolton said. “They are grateful that somebody has stepped up to make that happen. It’s a sigh of relief and a breath of fresh air to have somebody running and challenging the incumbent. Some of them feel that she’s not representing them…I really believe that now is the time for me to run.”
Bolton said the issues facing his district include a deep socioeconomic divide, blight and lack of city services for children and families in the lower income, racially diverse east side.
Lacking a public bus system, a library, a community center and a clinic, Bolton said his district is far less developed than the west side, which covers Districts 3 and 4 and has all of these services in addition to parks, restaurants and the only fire station. It is for this reason, Bolton said, that District 1 residents feel neglected.
“It’s wonderful that a young minority male wants to get engaged in public office and serve his community. We need varied representation,” said Samantha Carlo, a professor at the School of Justice at North Campus and Bolton’s former instructor. “When young people see someone that looks like them doing good and trying to make change, it motivates them or at least gets them to reflect on what their potential is.”
Bolton earned an associate’s degree in mass communications from MDC in 2013 and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s in public safety management with a criminal justice concentration at North Campus.
He is married and has a one-year-old son. Originally from Jamaica, he officially moved to the U.S. in 2007 and became a naturalized American citizen in 2013.
On his campaign website, Bolton describes himself as a business owner in Tamarac. His LinkedIn profile says he is the owner of Forecast Holdings, LLC. with a description of marketing, advertising, new business and church administration compliance consultant. It also says as pastor of the Praise Experience Church he “mentors a following of thousands.”
Bolton owned a modeling company from 2003 to 2010. He has two blogspot websites that feature images of nearly nude male and female models with Miami Beach addresses—marlonbolton-no23 and marlonbolton-frontsteam— that list Bolton as a model booker.
“In my past life, and at the time it was very lucrative,” Bolton said. “My convictions at that time were not religious. They have changed.”
Still with a show business flair, Bolton has posted videos and singles on YouTube and iTunes of him singing in the praise style for his church and other groups.
Bolton said he plans to address the issues in the Tamarac community by improving the current bus system so that it goes past State Road 7, creating a youth empowerment program focused on academics, athletics, and counseling and a clinic for senior citizens and pregnant women, as well as beautifying the district by planting trees and repairing houses.
He has higher political aspirations. Bolton hopes to run for a state representative office in District 95.
“For anyone who wants to do something like this, learn about what the opportunity entails, the hard work it takes,” said Mike Gelin, a campaign contributor who ran for Tamarac mayor in 2014. “And the hard work is really meeting the community, going door to door to the voters and find out what the issues are directly from them. There’s no special educational requirement; it’s all about public service, and we need regular people to serve in these roles because if they don’t, lobbyists and other different interests will control our community instead of people who live there every day.”