By Attiyya Atkins
Sylvia Poitier was a trailblazer with a vivacious personality. She climbed the political ranks from the first female commissioner in Deerfield Beach to becoming Broward County’s first Black Commissioner – male or female, and one of South Florida’s first Black mayors in the 1970s. She died at her Deerfield Beach home on November 7. She was 87 years old.
Setting precedents was in Sylvia Poitier’s family tree. Poitier was the cousin of famous actor Sidney Poitier through marriage. Sylvia was born in 1935 and grew up picking beans in Deerfield when the city was still segregated. Her mother was a midwife and her father a bean picker. She attended Blanche Ely high school and started her business career when she opened Deerfield Cleaners and Laundry in 1956. She was elected to the Deerfield City commission in 1974 and served there until 1985. Then she was appointed to the County Commission by Governor Bob Graham in 1985. She then won the election the following year and served on the commission until 1998. She was re-elected to the Deerfield City Commission in 2005 and served until 2012, when she was removed from office.
She was known for looking out for the underdog and did her best to make sure minorities got jobs and contracts with the county. She also pushed for the creation of the Sawgrass Expressway, the Tri-Rail, and affordable housing.
“The impact of your legacy will never be forgotten,” tweeted Neki Mohan, a former anchor and reporter for WPLG.
“So sad to hear of the passing of local icon, family friend and fellow (Blanche Ely High School) alum, Sylvia Poitier, ” tweeted Torey Alston, Broward County School Board Chairman.
Poitier died of natural causes, although her health began to decline after a stroke in 2019. The Deerfield Beach Housing Authority’s Business Skills still bears her name on South Dixie Highway.
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