Politics wasn't something Jim Stork planned on getting into when he opened Stork's Café and Bakery in Wilton Manors, Florida, in 1997. But, he says, "when you invest your life's savings in a restaurant in a city you love, you have a stake in where the city is going." Stork, 36, became active in the community, and before long, he was appointed president of the chamber of commerce. On the boards of six organizations and involved in 10 to 20 others, the inner workings of the city became part of his comprehension, along with making a tasty cappuccino.
After organizing a successful neighborhood summit in November 2001, Stork became motivated to run for mayor. Although the incumbent had served 14 years, Stork was undeterred. "The sense I got from the community was it was time for a new person to take the city to the next level. With my business background and community involvement, I felt I was in a better position to [do that]." Because of the community support Stork had shown in the past, more than 300 volunteers devoted their time to his campaign. In a race against the incumbent and a councilwoman, Stork netted 57 percent of the votes.
Devoting 35 hours a week to business and 40 hours a week to mayoral duties, Stork is a busy guy. But that doesn't mean residents can't get ahold of him. Owning a restaurant makes him more accessible than past mayors, and he says employees learn about the city just by working for him. "People come in and ask them things all the time," says Stork, laughing.
His new outlook is also evident when talking Wall Street. "I wish people could buy company stocks on not only their profit and growth, but their involvement with their community. If people valued that more, we could have a better system."