Broward Teen Selected to Guard $165 Million In Public Money

What to Know

  • Commissioner Kevin Biederman got to know Gelwasser last year when the teen worked for him as a campaign intern.

City officials went looking for one good kid to help watchdog how Hollywood spends $165 million in bond money.

They found Edward "Eddy" Gelwasser, a self-described history nerd and senior at South Broward High with political aspirations.

Gelwasser, 17, is now on a team of 15 residents charged with making sure those millions are spent in the way promised: a new police headquarters, park upgrades and new sea walls, among other projects.

"This is a real hot button issue in Hollywood," Gelwasser says of the bond, which will take 25 years to pay off. "People really care about this."

And so does he.

Gelwasser's fierce interest in politics does not run in the family. His mom is a doctor; his father is a graphic designer. If he ever runs for office, he'd be the first in the family to do so, says mom Elisabeth Cohn-Gelwasser.

"I love politics," Gelwasser said. "It's always changing and it's always moving. You can't really stand still. You can't get bored."

So who is this kid who revels in the idea of poring over government documents in his spare time — a job akin to watching paint dry for most kids his age.

An old soul.

"He's an older soul than I am," says classmate Adina Mujica. "He actually likes things my parents like. Like music. He listens to the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd."

His favorite book: George Orwell's "1984," the dystopian tale of government tyranny and totalitarianism.

His favorite movie: "Casablanca."

"The whole atmosphere and the black and white film and the mist," Gelwasser says of the 1942 Oscar winner. "Humphrey Bogart loves the woman but knows he has to let her go. I think that drama is missing from films today."

A theater buff, Gelwasser is as comfortable on stage as he is in the debate room, thanks to 11 years of summer theater camp at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

He can sing. He can dance. He can act.

"It teaches you how to work with others and come together to make something great," he said of his work onstage. "Before I go on stage, I feel the butterflies in my belly. But that taught me the confidence to be on stage — and that's something I can use in politics."

That one-track focus is vintage Gelwasser, those who know him say.

"It wouldn't surprise me if he was president eventually," Mujica said. "He's a dreamer. But he works hard."

Commissioner Kevin Biederman got to know Gelwasser last year when the teen worked for him as a campaign intern. He quickly wowed the commissioner with his smarts and enthusiasm.

"He's energetic," Biederman said. "His opinions are well-researched. He's willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals."

Right up his alley

Teacher Sonia Arteche, who had Gelwasser in her history class last year, describes him as smart, dedicated and mature beyond his years.

She was not at all surprised he wanted a spot on Hollywood's bond oversight committee.

"That is right up his alley," Arteche said.

Sooner rather than later, Gelwasser's keen attention to detail will likely come to the fore.

"He's going to look for everything. I'm sorry for the adults," Arteche said with a laugh. "He's not going to let go. I'm just happy I'm not on that committee."

Here's the bad news: Gelwasser won't be around for the next 25 years to keep an eye on the bond money.

Come fall 2020, he'll be off to college and Hollywood will need to find someone else to fill his shoes.

In the meantime, Gelwasser is approaching his new volunteer role as seriously as some teens tackle the latest video game.

"I always have a strange fascination with the most mundane parts of government," he said. "And it's now my responsibility to (pay attention to those details) now that I'm on the advisory board. And I would hope that all my colleagues are doing the same."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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