Power Women Issue
How do you get to be a real estate powerhouse doing zillion-dollar commercial deals by the time you’re 47? For Donna Abood the route to success zoomed along the triple track of focus, hard work and a natural talent for the art of the deal.
The high point of her 25-year real estate career came just a year ago when Abood Wood-Fay acquired Colliers South Florida and Donna Abood became Chief Executive Officer of Coral Gables-based Colliers Abood Wood-Fay. Colliers International is one of the top three commercial real estate firms in the world and Abood is the only female CEO of a Colliers partnership anywhere.
Her career path started early on; as the daughter of a Tampa Bay developer, Abood grew up learning about the business and earned her real estate license when she was just 18. After earning a bachelor of arts degree in Marketing Management from Florida State University in 1981, she relocated to Miami to work for Hank Green a pioneer of suburban commercial deals and developer of the Datran Center. Then came a four-year stint at Terranova Corporation in the mid-1980s, developing and implementing marketing plans for the turnaround of distressed office property and represented several big-name companies such as the Polaroid Corporation, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and Club Med in their search for office space.
Stepping out on her own came next and in 1989 she set up Abood and Associates, Inc., which grew to be the largest privately held, locally-based commercial real estate firm in Miami-Dade County. Then came a merger with Michael Fay to form Abood Wood-Fay Real Estate Group, culminating in the partnership with Colliers. Latest figures show Donna Abood heading a company that last year leased more than 4.5 million square feet of commercial property throughout South Florida. It also listed $650 million in property for sale and racked up more than $1.4 billion in sales.
Donna Abood, a mother, business owner and community leader, starts her day at 5:30 a.m. to get her daughter off to school before heading to her Coral Gables office. She’s always found time to mentor and train dozens of leasing agents over the years and continues developing strong successful brokers. Abood says she never wasted energy and angst on the “only-female-in-the- meeting’ syndrome but does advise up-and-coming executives to “lose the purse and use your briefcase when you go into a power meeting.”
For the record Abood has been named one of the Top Women in Florida Commercial Real Estate; received the Price Waterhouse “Up & Comers Award” for the real estate industry; and the “Small Business of the Year Impact Award” in recognition of outstanding company entrepreneurial spirit, community service and ethics. In recent years she has been honored as an “Ultimate CEO” in Miami-Dade County and as “Rotarian of the Year” by the Rotary Club of Coral Gables. Her company consistently ranks on lists of the top 20 women-owned businesses in South Florida and has its share of awards marking its continuing success in the commercial real estate industry.
XXXXXXX Elaine Adler
North Miami-Dade powerhouse Elaine Adler has held the position of president of the Aventura Marketing Council since 1991.
Generally considered one of the most active, organized and influential business-based organizations in Miami-Dade County, the Aventura Marketing Council owes of good deal of the credit to Adler for her unbridled energy, enthusiasm and willingness to work with members, other businesses, city and county government, and regional organizations.
Adler graduated Summa Cum Laude in August 1980 from Nova University in Broward County with a B.S. degree; she majored in public relations with a minor in mass communications, with special emphasis on psychology.
From 1976 to 1991, Adler served as president of the North Dade Chamber of Commerce where she was charged with overseeing the growth and management of the regional chamber of commerce comprising of approximately 600 members. Her responsibilities included new membership development and retention; all new and existing programs and projects; editing the monthly newsletter; liaising between the chamber and other community organizations; participating in 20+ committees of the chamber; public relations and communications; and supervising the chamber staff.
In 1991, Adler joined the Aventura Marketing Council and has been the driving force in that organization’s growth and influence. There she was tasked with growth and community involvement of the nonprofit marketing council dedicated to promoting the greater Aventura community as a destination location for businesses, residents, shoppers and travelers. Her responsibilities include: programs and speakers; new membership development and retention; liaison with tourism and hospitality organizations and educational institutions; creation of new projects targeted at bringing residential communities into working relationships with the council; liaison for city, county and statewide issues; and public relations. Adler was organization winner of “Dade Partner of Excellence” award for four consecutive years and inducted into the Dade Partners Hall of Fame for three consecutive years; she raised more than $1 million for charities and nonprofit organizations by creating and implementing Aventura Marketing Council events.
Adler has been part of a litany of civic and business development, as well as charitable causes. She has also served on the board of directors of the Super Bowl XXIII, XXIX, XXXIII and XLI Host Committees.
A brilliant networker who brings often-diverse interests together, a motivator, and a friend to many in the north Miami-Dade region, Adler is a power woman driven by skill and an irrepressible persona.
XXXXXXX Toby Lerner Ansin
Miami City Ballet founder Toby Lerner Ansin is a philantropist with a soft spot for the arts.
An avid supporter of Art Basel Miami Beach and the Florida Grand Opera, she has also supported the Broward County Convention Center’s “A Celebration for Youth” campaign.
In 1991, Ansin won the Carbonell Theater Awards’ George Abbott Award – named in honor of the beloved Broadway director – for excellence in theater for her efforts supporting area arts.
She raises money for MCB through various fundraisers, of course, but her involvement doesn’t stop at walk-on fundraiser parts. She is also an advisor to the company.
And when MCB christened its new home the Ansin Foundation donated $1 million to help the company she co-founded settle in. The foundation is headed by Ansin’s former husband Edmund Ansin, of Sunbeam Television Corp. and WSVN-Channel 7 fame. They have three children – Andrew, James and Stephanie – at least one of whom is following in Mom’s philanthropic footsteps.
When the Miami Shores Theatre found itself without players, Ansin’s daughter Stephanie recruited her mother’s help to take over the lease and revitalize the theater.
Now Stephanie Ansin and her husband, Oleg Kheyfets, are in their third season as co-Artistic Directors of The PlayGround Theatre.
Toby Ansin doesn’t just support the arts financially, but also physically. “I am in rehearsal for a walk-on part as a gypsy in Don Quixote with Miami City Ballet for opening night,” she explains. “I am living out a lifelong dream to be onstage.
“My joy is to introduce as many new people to Miami City Ballet as possible,” Ansin said. “My reward is when they are so enthralled they return again and again.”
Ansin takes the stage on opening night, Oct. 13.
XXXXXXX Marleine Bastien
If you didn’t catch Marleine Bastien on The Oprah Winfrey Show, don’t sweat it. As the founder and central driving force behind Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, an organization created in 1991 to support and educate Haitian women and their families, finding Bastien is as easy as locating the nearest podium and crowd protesting before it. A social worker to the core, the sharp-tongued, no-holds-barred Pont Benoit, Haiti, native has become a voice for Miami’s underprivileged, oft-ignored contingent no matter what their gender or ethnicity. Aligning herself with causes that range from the plight of university workers seeking a living wage to affordable housing for the city’s most down and out, this mother of three has come to be known as a staple in the social rumblings of a city that is often more concerned with real estate appreciation than whether those just around the corner will be able to find their next meal. Armed with a fiery delivery reminiscent of latter day civil rights activists and an inherent drive that comes from spending her first 22 years in one of the world’s most depressed countries, Bastien, 47, is impossible to ignore. Spending five years making daily visits to Krome Detention Center as a Haitian Refugee Center volunteer, as Bastien did upon arriving to the city in 1981, has the tendency to inspire that in a person.
Now the one organizing volunteer efforts rather than simply taking part, the Florida International University alum has more than 20 Haitian nonprofit organizations under her activism umbrella. With a small army of advocates rallying beneath her, one of Little Haiti’s most recognizable faces shows no signs of stopping, much to the relief of exiles and underdogs near and far.
XXXXXXX Nancy Batchelor
Nancy Batchelor, a nine-year veteran of the South Florida real estate market, prides herself on her expertise in luxury real estate. Now calling the firm of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Inc. (EWM) home, she lays claim to a Florida real estate license and a Colorado brokers license. Batchelor might just have discovered the secret to success – a love of the city she helps build.
“I love Miami,” she said. “I’m familiar with all of the art and cultural programs. The hospitals. Where do you go when you have a child with challenges? Opera or sports, I know all of the best little things Miami has to offer.”
Batchelor moved to Miami Beach in 1984 and became a licensed yacht broker, fostering a love of boating. The family moved back to Aspen in July 1999 and, until 2002, she sold luxury properties with the high-end firm of Carol Dopkin Real Estate. Now back in town as a full-time real estate agent with EWM, she works mostly through referrals, while juggling a handful of important titles: wife of almost 15 years; mother to a 9- and 11-year-old.
Batchelor can put another title on her business card too: philanthopist.
In April of this year she joined forces with her husband, Jon Batchelor, to help raise $20,000 to benefit Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation’s Hugs and Kisses program.
She was a table sponser at The American Cancer Society’s fifth annual Cattle Barons’ Ball, which netted $230,000. Her philanthropic efforts have supported Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and The Education Fund.
The Cushman School, The Voices for Children Foundation, Audubon of Florida and a long list of others all count the Batchelors on their lists of supporters. Nancy Batchelor and her husband’s philanthropic Batchelor Foundation year after year put South Florida charities on their dance cards in one way or another.
The most recent Batchelor Foundation gift is a challenge grant totaling $5 million to the University of Miami’s Department of Pediatrics. The department will receive $1.25 million from the foundation each year it can match that amount through endowment gifts.
This gift is another in a long and endearing relationship the foundation has had with the department.
The Miami Children’s Hospital is another endeavor Batchelor is happy to support.
“We’re lucky to be in Miami and have great resources like those,” Batchelor said. “These kids would not be alive if not for them.”
This November Miami Children’s Hospital will honor Batchelor at its annual Queen of Hearts Luncheon.
XXXXXXX Judge Beth Bloom
In her courtroom on the 11th Judicial Circuit Court, Judge Beth Bloom has sat in judgment over supermodels, athletes, protestors and petty criminals, but off the bench, she fills her docket with community programs and charity fundraising. Her interests include helping foster kids move out of the care system to become valuable, independent members of the community. Bloom is also very active in fundraising, much of it in the area of speech impediments. Together with her husband Lyle Stern, Bloom co-founded the Children’s Craniofacial Association after their son Oliver was born with a cleft lip and palate. The organization is dedicated to improving the lives of children born with “facial differences”.
As part of her justice related activities, one of her main goals when she was the president of the Florida Conference of County Court Judges was to open communication between the courts and the public and to educate citizens on the role of the justice system. She also serves on the 11th Judicial Circuit’s Professionalism Committee. Hoping to improve on the recidivism rate, she has implemented programs such as the DUI In Jail Treatment Program and the Smoking Tobacco Offender Program (S.T.O.P.) to help offenders get a head start on treating the problems that landed them in jail.
Judge Bloom has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida. She graduated cum laude from the University of Miami’s School of Law and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1988. She worked at Floyd, Pearson, Richman, Greer, et al., until 1994, when she was elected to the bench. She was re-elected without opposition in 1998 and again in 2004 for a six-year term. Her duties include being Traffic Magistrate (1992-1993) and then a county judge since 1995. Bloom also serves on the faculty of the University of Miami School of Law’s Litigation Skills Program, the National Judicial College, Florida Judicial College and the College of Advanced Judicial Studies.
XXXXXXX Matti Bower
If Miami Beach voters approve a referendum on unalterable height limits, advocates of controlled development will have Matti Bower to thank. At the same time, developers will have Bower to blame. A few months ago, the Miami Beach commissioner expressed concern over the Board of Adjustment’s power to grant height variances. Her colleagues on the commission agreed. And so a referendum was placed on the agenda forbidding future height variances that exceed three feet.
Miami Beach has quite the dynamic City Commission. At any given time one of the seven elected officials will propose some sort of legislation (governing beach access, campaign reform or whatever) or become a swing vote on an important issue. It just so happens that for the past five years Bower has been the only woman on the commission.
And Bower, 67, has some history. She was a strident PTA and Miami Design Preservation League activist in the 1970s. She also became active campaigning for the rights of Hispanics (she was among the founders of the Miami Beach Hispanic Center) and low-income residents living in Miami Beach. Bower even served on the Miami Beach Housing Authority. Among her more controversial decisions — voting to approve a land swap with Thomas Kramer, allowing the developer to gain control of Goodman Terrace in exchange for scatter sites that, to this day, the agency has not used. Bower would also run twice for commissioner — once against incumbent Martin Shapiro in 1996 and a second time against political newcomer Simon Cruz in 1997 — before finally being elected in 1999.
As an elected official, Bower has sponsored an ordinance requiring that lobbyists disclose their fees. In spite of threats from various attorneys the law remains unchallenged. More recently she was a pivotal vote in placing both the controversial Bay Link and 63rd Street Flyover on the November ballot as a nonbinding referendum. Ironically, although voters overwhelmingly backed the construction of the Bay Link and preservation of the 63rd Street Flyover funding shortages made the light rail connection to Miami nearly impossible and the flyover has just been demolished.
Another unique aspect of Bower — she is a voice of the working-class and under-privileged. Prior to being elected she raised four daughters on a dental assistant’s salary. (She now has six grandchildren.) As such, Bower has been particularly concerned about the region’s affordable housing crisis. When Miami Beach elected officials went back and forth on an ordinance banning panhandling near sidewalk cafes, Bower consistently voted against it.
XXXXXXX Joyce Bronson
Even with the real estate market cooling, the Related Group of Florida continues to be the most prolific developer in this region. All over South Florida the company is making proposals, partnering with other developers and sometimes even taking over future projects entirely. Taking the lion’s share of the credit for fueling the Related Group’s development machine: Jorge Perez, the firm’s CEO. But as a quick search on sunbiz.com reveals, the name “Joyce Bronson” comes up nearly as often as Perez’s in the Related Group’s various ventures.
Why? Because Bronson is the senior vice president and regional manager of the Related Group.
Bronson moved to South Florida in the name of development. Armed with experience converting apartments to condominiums throughout the United States, Bronson arrived in Miami-Dade in 1985 to help organize the development of Mystic Pointe and The Bay Club in Aventura. As the president of Ben Franklin Properties, she constructed and sold 2,000 condos, 700 rentals and a 122-slip marina. Bronson later became the managing director of Multiplan USA, which developed Il Villagio in South Beach.
For the last seven years, Bronson has been affiliated with the Related Group and is “responsible for the coordination and oversight of the multiple facets” of new projects “from site selection to product development, construction and sales management,” as her official bio states.
In short, Bronson has a lot of responsibility making sure the Related Group continues to build high-rises and mixed-use projects throughout Florida and beyond in a more challenging real estate market.
Today Bronson oversees the construction of Trump I, II and III in Sunny Isles Beach, Apogee and Icon in South Beach, 50 Biscayne and One Miami in Miami proper, Harbour House in Surfside and The Residences on Hollywood Beach.
Bronson is also a young president of Mount Sinai Hospital and a patron of Miami Children’s Hospital.
XXXXXXX Debbie Cenziper
Why is a Miami Herald reporter on the SunPost’s Power Women list? Three words: “House of Lies.” The investigative series, written extensively by Cenziper with assistance from staffers Susannah Nesmith, Tim Henderson and Larry Lebowitz, went into extreme detail about how millions of dollars meant to develop housing instead were funneled to the pockets of politically connected developers and consultants who produced nothing. The series also revealed that a land giveaway program where publicly owned parcels in Liberty City that were given away to buyers who promised to construct affordable housing were instead sold to investors planning to build homes at market prices. Among the recipients of housing money was Oscar Rivero who was a member of the Miami Parking Authority.
“Today the land where Rivero promised dozens of homes for the poor is still vacant, cordoned off by fences — eyesores in already distressed neighborhoods. Rivero hasn’t delivered a single house even though he’s held onto million of dollars in public money — while buying personal properties and an office for more than $4.9 million,” describes an Aug. 26 Herald article by Cenziper and Lebowitz. According to the article, Rivero and his wife bought five houses in South Miami plus an estate where Rivero was constructing an 11,000-square-foot, three-story home that has a wine cellar, library, billiard room, spa and a “grand foyer.” “It is Oscar Rivero’s dream house,” stated the article. Soon after the article was published, Rivero was arrested for grand theft and “committing an organized scheme to defraud.”
The Herald series won praise, even from county administrators – like County Manager George Burgess, who announced he was terminating or placing on administrative leave top housing employees.
This isn’t the first time Cenziper-penned articles have drawn attention. This year she was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist for explanatory reporting for “her deeply researched examination of breakdowns in hurricane forecasting,” stated a McClatchy Newspaper profile. Cenziper also won a National Headliner award in health and medical science for her 2006 “Blind Eye” article. In 2005, Cenziper and Jason Grotto won awards from the Florida Society of Editors and the Florida Bar Media Awards for their “Long Road to Clemency” article. In 2003, Cenziper and Grotto received a certificate from Investigative Reporting and Editing (IRE) for their “Crumbling Schools” series, which revealed the dismal shape of Miami-Dade public schools in spite of the school district spending $6 billion. Contacted regarding her Power Women nomination, Cenziper decided to keep her role as reporter intact, declining to be part of the story herself. She responded to the SunPost politely via her Herald e-mail on a Sunday at 8 a.m., “…I’d like the community to focus on my work, not me, while I’m doing this project.”
XXXXXXX Alicia Cervera Lamadrid and Veronica Cervera Goeseke
The year is 1979. Iran becomes an Islamic Republic. Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island spews out radiation. Voyager I photographs the rings of Jupiter. Pluto moves inside the orbit of Neptune for the first time in scientific history. The Vietnamese oust the Khmer Rouge from Cambodia. The Chinese invade Vietnam. Israel and Egypt sign a peace pact.
And in Miami-Dade County, Alicia Cervera founds Cervera Real Estate. In the following years, Cervera’s company would rise to become among the most influential in South Florida — assisting developers in their bids to understand real estate trends and market their companies, and leasing, selling and managing properties. Today Cervera Real Estate employs 140 agents.
Recently, Alicia Cervera Senior passed the torch to her daughters, Alicia Cervera Lamadrid, 48, and Veronica Cervera Goeseke, 51.
The current president of Cervera Real Estate, Veronica Cervera Goeseke was studying engineering at the University of Miami when her mother asked her to help out in the business. “She learned the business directly from her mother, who coached and groomed her in every aspect of real estate,” Goeseke’s bio states. Thanks to that “grooming,” Goeseke oversaw such projects as The Residences at Ritz-Carlton, Coconut Grove, Grovenor House, and Bellini on the Ocean. Cervera Real Estate’s latest project: handling the exclusive sales for Epic Residences & Hotel, a high-rise being developed by Ugo Colombo in front of the Miami River where Dupont Plaza used to be.
Meanwhile, Alicia Cervera Lamadrid has opted to go off on her own. Capitalizing on her professional relationship with The Related Group’s Jorge Perez, one of the region’s most prolific developers, Lamadrid founded the sales and marketing agency Related Cervera Realty Services. Past projects include W South Beach Hotel & Residences, St. Regis Resort & Residences, Icon Palm Beach, Trump Hollywood and City Place in West Palm Beach. Lamadrid also chairs the Master Brokers Forum, a sort of networking club for real estate professionals who have generated high residential sales volumes in South Florida for at least five years.
XXXXXXX Bonnie Clearwater
As director and chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) for almost a decade now, Bonnie Clearwater, though petite in physical stature, is indeed a heavyweight in the local art scene. This is the woman with the power to give Miami emerging artists their big break by curating a solo show that just might attract national attention, as she’s done for the careers of locals Hernan Bas and Bhakti Baxter. Hence, ultimately, Clearwater is one of Miami’s most prominent art world tastemakers. And, well, this is a good and bad thing. On one side, she does support some local artists. On the other hand, some claim she has focused on a limited group of Miami talent (e.g. the Fred Snitzer protégés or New World School of the Arts graduates). Nonetheless, Clearwater’s accomplishments in the art world – local and beyond – are undeniable. She received an M.A. in art history from Columbia University (following a B.A. from New York University). Before she arrived at MOCA in 1997, she was the executive director of the Lannan Foundation Art Programs in Los Angeles and director of the Lannan Museum in Lake Worth, from 1985 to 1988. Back in New York, she was the curator of The Mark Rothko Foundation and, in 2002, served as an advisor to the 2002 Whitney Biennial (a paramount survey that attempts to showcase the best in contemporary American art every two years). Among the shows she has curated at MOCA, standouts include “David Smith: Stop/Action,” an Anna Gaskell exhibit, “Making Art in Miami,” “Roy Lichtenstein: Inside/Outside,” and “Frank Stella at 2000: Changing the Rules.” Additionally, Clearwater is the author of such art books as Mark Rothko: Works on Paper and Edward Ruscha: Words Without Thoughts Never to Heaven Go.
XXXXXXX Cynthia Curry
County Manager George Burgess told the Miami Herald that he sensed there was something amiss in the Miami-Dade Housing Authority—even prior to investigative reporter Debbie Cenziper, in Burgess’ words, “laying it out there.” That was why he hired Cynthia Curry to be his senior advisor for economic development and housing initiatives or — as Cenziper put it in her July 26 article — “to track the money flowing to affordable projects.” She has quite a task ahead of her. According to the Office of the Inspector General, most of $4.1 million allocated for affordable housing was wasted on “inadequate program administration and case management.”
If her record indicates anything, though, it is that Curry can handle the job. From 1985 to 1995, Curry was an assistant county manager, overseeing the General Services Administration, Department of Business and Economic Development, Office of Development and Facilities Management, Office of Contract Coordination, Office of Community Development, Special Housing Programs and the Independent Review Panel, according to her official bio. After that she was vice president of business and finance at Florida International University from 1995 to 1998. During her FIU stint Curry basically worked two jobs for she was appointed by the Governor’s Emergency Financial Oversight Board to help straighten out the city of Miami’s troubled financial situation from 1996 to 1998. Curry then “led the charge,” as her county bio described, to establish Federal Empowerment Zones in Miami-Dade in 1998. After that, Curry went into the private sector and founded the consulting firm CWC and Associates.
And then County Hall beckoned. Curry was appointed as senior advisor in February 2006 and charged with “developing and guiding the implementation of critically important housing and economic development strategies that touch every sector of our community.”
In short, Curry will need to fix up a questionable housing agency and deliver on promises the county has thus far broken. “We have to change the culture that has permeated in that department for so many years,” she told the Herald. And, as part of her new job description, Curry will have to lead the charge to change that culture.
XXXXXXX Teri D’Amico
After Barbara Baer Capitman founded the Miami Design Preservation League in the late 1970s, protecting Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival buildings became pretty popular in these parts. So popular, in fact, that by the 1990s preservationists would eventually set the tone for planning and policy-making in Miami Beach. But while it was considered honorable to fight for the protection of structures built between 1915 and 1940 in Miami Beach, no one seemed to notice the remaining buildings constructed here in the years after World War II.
That is, until Teri D’Amico came along in 1992.
The 1985 graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in industrial design and art history would later study interior design at Parsons School of Design in New York City and Miami-Dade Community College. In New York, she worked for Henry Myerberg Architects and William Green Associates as an interior designer. “Her experience included working on showroom design. But it was Henry’s West Broadway Restaurant and Café that changed her understanding of the ‘50s mid-century design and exposed her to the excitement of hospitality design,” states D’Amico’s bio, posted on the Web site www.dadausa.com. By the early ‘90s, D’Amico was in Miami Beach and designed for firms such as LPWK Architects and Michael Rosenthal Associates. She would later go into business for herself, founding Teri D’Amico Interiors, later rechristened DADA —D’Amico Design Associates.
Still she found time to volunteer for the Miami Design Preservation League as a tour guide. This put D’Amico in touch with locals like Randall Robinson, a onetime director of the MDPL who also dreamed of protecting buildings constructed between the late 1940s and early 1960s. During that time they commonly used phrases like “cheese holes” to describe features of the architecture they promoted and compared it to the futuristic style of The Jetsons cartoon. By 1998, D’Amico and her allies had coined the term “MiMo” or Miami Modern and initiated an awareness campaign to protect MiMo buildings in North Beach by holding “sparkler” demonstrations in front of places like the old Bel Aire on Collins Avenue. The initial response from developers? They knocked them down even faster. D’Amico raised hell. Eventually MDPL followed suit.
Long story short, a MiMo historic district now exists along Collins Avenue in North Beach. Developers now have to get permission from the Historic Preservation Board prior to altering or destroying these buildings. And an architectural style once ignored is now used by architectural writers around the world as an excuse to come to South Florida.
Funny thing is, D’Amico, 43, has just gotten started. Hired recently as the interior designer for the renovation of the Vagabond Hotel in Miami, D’Amico has spearheaded efforts to create an historic district for Biscayne Boulevard in Miami’s Upper Eastside area. She is also campaigning heavily in Bay Harbor Islands for preservation in her own town of Bay Harbor Islands, where D’Amico says MiMo structures are plentiful. At times these actions have ruffled the feathers of the powers that be in that town but, as a member of Bay Harbor’s architectural review board, D’Amico is not afraid to question the actions of elected officials.
XXXXXXX Lucia Dougherty
It may be safe to say that the law firm of Greenberg Traurig has a lot riding on the rezoning of land near and at One Herald Plaza. For one, much of this land is contracted to be sold to an “of counsel” partner, über-developer Pedro Martin. For another, well, this is Greenberg Traurig — the all-powerful land-use firm. A complete loss here would mean a black eye for the team.
So Lucia Dougherty was chosen to make the case before the Miami City Commission last month. It wasn’t a complete victory — a proposal to rezone One Herald Plaza itself to allow residential condos was denied. However, a slew of other requests that would make the Martin’s Square Plaza project a reality were approved. One city commissioner even did a guilt trip on those in the audience, warning that developers would soon not find Miami as interesting and thus investments would be slowing.
But Dougherty is hardly new at this. Earning law degrees from Oklahoma City University and the University of Miami, she was quickly hired as the Oklahoma City assistant city attorney in 1976. By 1982, Dougherty was the city attorney for Miami Beach (from 1982 to 1984) and later Miami (between 1984 and 1988).
Needless to say, Dougherty’s legal background in those cities would serve her well when she represented developers. Dougherty has been hired by Constructa for CocoWalk’s specialty center in Coconut Grove and Ocean Steps in Miami Beach, The Millennium Partners’ Four Seasons Hotel on Brickell, Ugo Columbo for his Bristol Tower and Santa Maria projects, and the Ritz-Carlton for its projects in Miami and Miami Beach. Actually, that’s just a small sample of her work. Go to a Miami Zoning Board meeting, sit back and watch. Chances are half the applicants will be represented by Dougherty.
Why? Well, Florida Super Lawyers magazine has a theory: Dougherty has superhuman legal skills. Hence she was named a Super Lawyer by them. South Florida Legal Guide listed her among the top lawyers in South Florida. Dougherty is also named in the 2006-2007 edition of Best Lawyers in America. And, we are willing to bet, she is in the nightmares of every activist who wants to prevent a controversial project from being constructed in or near his or her neighborhood.
XXXXXXX Judy Drucker
Judy Drucker has presided over South Florida’s cultural arena for four decades, nurturing the region from its undeveloped, seedling beginnings; raising the stature of South Florida and increasing its visibility on the world’s cultural stage, culminating in the construction of the new $460 million Carnival Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.
Drucker, who will celebrate her 40th anniversary season at the helm of the Concert Association of Florida during 2006-07, and whose company will be one of the four resident companies to inaugurate the Carnival Center, gained international attention as a presenter of the world’s greatest classical music orchestras and conductors, soloists, opera stars, and ballet and dance companies to audiences throughout Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The scope and magnitude of Drucker’s acumen can be gauged by the quality of the artists she has presented — Luciano Pavarotti, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Zubin Mehta, Leonard Bernstein, Beverly Sills, Cecilia Bartoli, Yo Yo Ma, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Wynton Marsalis, Valery Gergiev and others of equal brilliance; and such world-renowned orchestras as the Israel Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Kirov Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Berlin Staatskapelle, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Boston Pops and many others. In addition to her accomplishments as a presenter of the world’s preeminent opera stars, musicians and musical ensembles, Drucker is also celebrated as a pioneer who brought the world’s great dance companies to Florida.
Drucker currently oversees the Sanford L. Ziff Prestige Concert Series at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts and the Premier Concert Series at Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Judy has also produced arena concerts featuring Luciano Pavarotti with the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra at the American Airlines Arena; Plácido Domingo and Paloma San Basilio at the Miami Arena, which is now regularly televised throughout the world; José Carreras at the James L. Knight Center; and an outdoor concert, “Pavarotti on the Beach,” with Luciano Pavarotti that attracted 211,000 people.
Judy Drucker is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees. Among them are the Chevalier de L’Ordre Des Artes et des Lettres from the French Consulate, the Governor’s Award in the Arts, and honorary doctorates from Florida International University and Miami Dade College.
XXXXXXX Susan Gottlieb
Susan Gottlieb, the only female ”head of state” of a municipality we can think of in our coverage area currently, has come a long way since being elected in the most competitive mayoral race in Aventura history. But if there’s one thing years of politics have taught her, it’s how to adapt. Gottlieb was elected to the Miami Beach City Commission in 1991 and held the mayor’s seat until 2001, when she was termed out. After her term ended in 2001, Gottlieb moved to Boca Raton. In 2003 she moved to Aventura, where she didn’t find things so excellent and declared her intent to run for public office. In 2004 Gottlieb defeated five competitors in the mayor’s race, including then-Commissioner Manny Grossman. Right away the newly elected Mayor Gottlieb began to let her colleagues know things weren’t all that perfect in the City of Excellence. They in turn patiently (and sometimes not) explained why the City of Excellence was not like other cities. Eventually Gottlieb’s rocky start smoothed as she adapted yet again.
Still, there are many facts of life. Water falls from the sky. The sun sets in the west. Projects managed by Miami-Dade County will run late.
But not in the City of Excellence, they won’t — especially when that project is Aventura’s much-beloved regional library, which was undergoing renovations when Hurricane Wilma paid a visit and ripped the facility apart. While county administrators tried to put a positive spin on the library delay, Mayor Gottlieb wasn’t buying it.
“The library is creeping along at a very slow rate,” Gottlieb said. “We need to push this project to the forefront. It’s a polling place, and our citizens need a library.” When the library bureaucrat tried to explain that facilities all over Miami-Dade were damaged, Gottlieb just got more annoyed and announced it would be faster if the city of Aventura took over the project. “You give us the funding, and we’ll build it to your specifications,” she told him. “We are not prepared to wait three or four years to see a library there. I’m so disappointed….”
And so the county said, “Here, take the damn project!” Sure, replied City Manager Eric Soroka. And now a county project becomes a city project. As a bonus, Soroka turned the mezzanine level of the Aventura Government Center into a temporary library, something Gottlieb is quite pleased with. “I think it is a good effort by the city to accommodate our citizens while we build a new library,” she told the Miami Herald.
XXXXXXX Kimberly Green
Miami Beach resident Kimberly Green is a vibrant woman whose response to life’s tragic elements is deep, sympathetic, and even sometimes funny. Through her work as president of the Green Family Foundation (GFF), she has tackled global health initiatives, extreme poverty in Haiti, and supported grass roots programs serving youth, education and HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.
The private philanthropic foundation was founded in 1991 by her father, Steven Green, the former U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. GFF provides seed money to organizations and programs that improve access to healthcare, combat extreme poverty, provide treatment of preventable diseases, support youth arts, and drive community education.
One of Green’s projects is a partnership with the University of Miami through the Green Family Health Initiative (GFHI) to help drive the school’s groundbreaking work in the fields of pediatric infectious diseases. She has also played a vital, hands-on role in helping to fund the University affiliated Project Medishare program to improve community healthcare in Haiti. Project Medishare has helped improve the lives of more than 72,000 Haitians while supporting the Haitian Ministry of Health and assisting in the construction of a modern medical center in Thomonde.
Green recently wrote, directed and produced the award-winning documentary Once There Was A Country. The film, narrated by noted poet Maya Angelou and Guy Johnson, documents the current healthcare crisis in Haiti and showcases the inspirational stories of the organizations and individuals who are working to improve the country’s healthcare structure.
In her life, Green has been a special events director for the United Way; a Head Start counselor on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota; a teacher of Religious Studies at the Baypoint Schools, Juvenile Correctional Facility; and an event coordinator for the Children’s Health Fund.
Recently, Green was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Far from retreating into depression, Green responded with her trademark pluck and humor.
She took a planned trip to Africa to explore the foundation’s support of AIDS programs in Mozambique, and drafted famed academic Jeffrey Sachs to work on a new plan for Haiti.
Then she came home to Miami Beach and threw a party to say goodbye to her left breast, a wild and heartfelt affair in which some of her artistic friends read poems and made an art project out of her impending loss.
Just days after surgery, Green attended a Clinton Global Initiative function in New York to work the halls filled with wealthy moguls and world leaders in support of her foundation’s many projects. She felt out of sorts with newly short hair and in considerable pain, but the work helped her deal with that.
“It is a pretty harsh reality to face,” she wrote to friends. “Especially after coming back from a place and spending so much time in Haiti, where people have nothing at all. No basic health care or clean water, and here I am getting the best treatment on the planet just because I won in gene pool roulette. This is making me more committed to my work and see the value more in each and every life on the planet.”
Green’s treatment isn’t over. She’ll be spending a few months in New York, but plans to continue working with Columbia University’s Earth Institute. She’s also completing a short film on how development in Miami is affecting the poor.
XXXXXXX Linda Haskins
Long before the city of Miami’s resident number-cruncher was a contender for a permanent seat on the commission and forced to ward off activist accusations of being the latest in Mayor Manny Diaz’s stable of developer-friendly pawns, District 2 interim Commissioner Linda Haskins was just a small-town Wisconsin girl in a one-room schoolhouse. Fast-forward a few years and Miami’s break-out female politico of 2006 was driving into the city in a beat-up old car only to spend her first night at one of Calle Ocho’s infamous hooker hotels. This daughter of a Fort Myers 7-Eleven operator is blue-collar to the core. Just ask her. Or, better yet, sit in on a candidate debate and listen to her woo her way deeper into the dark world of Miami politics.
But no matter whether you find Haskins’ stories endearing or a little on the trite side, there’s no denying that the woman has a way with money, a talent that’s much more impressive than her self-proclaimed keg-tapping skills and probably a little more useful to the city. She’s pulled Miami out of economic ruts before and the University of Florida grad and former finance professor at the University of Miami definitely knows the city-as-a-business shtick thanks to her tenure as the city’s Chief Financial Officer under former city manager Joe Arriola. Another plus — she could take Arriola’s verbal bombs and retaliate with a few of her own. Though she claims to have considered going into teaching once more, it’s hard to believe this CPA will ever be able to permanently trade in her power suits for pencils and protractors.
XXXXXXX Ulrike “Uli” Herzner
Uli Herzner is the 35-year-old contestant on Bravo’s addictive third installment of Project Runway. A German native and resident of Miami Beach, Herzner has been a freelance stylist for the last eight years. Her fashions are self-described as “colorful” and “happy,” and she has become famous on Hedi Klum’s runway for constructing flowy, beach-inspired dresses out of wild prints and colors.
Earlier this year, Herzner took part in another selective exhibition of her work—she was one of five designers chosen from 30 applicants to take part in Gen Art’s third annual Fresh Faces in Fashion show in March. Gen Art is a nonprofit organization which seeks to showcase new talent in the fine arts.
And talent she’s got.
The last episode of Project Runway challenged the designers to create a garment that symbolizes the collection they would show at Olympus Fashion Week, were they to be selected as one of the prestigious “final three.” Herzner won that challenge, impressing the judges with an uncharacteristically short, keyhole design, beaded cocktail dress. Her design will also now be featured in Elle magazine.
The plot twist sends four designers down the runway, and proved that Herzner is a top contender for the win.
With that compliment under her belt, and Herzner’s construction skills, it’s even more impressive that she’s self-taught. Apparently a keen fashion sense goes along way - as a stylist she creates the glossy look for the fashion shoots that make Miami Beach one of the world’s fashion hotspots.
Her designs have reportedly ranged from $200 to $900, available at select boutiques around Miami Beach. But Herzner has said if she wins she might use the money to open a small exclusive studio of her own. The final Project Runway episode airs October 18th and will determine if Miami Beach can boast another nationally renowned fashion designer.
XXXXXXX Sally A. Heyman
A longtime resident of north Miami-Dade County, a friend for decades to most in the community, open to discussion with constituents of any stripe, Heyman is one of the most influential persons — male or female — in the north Miami-Dade County region.
Heyman, 51, was first elected to the District 4 seat of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners in September 2002 after serving in the Florida House of Representatives for four consecutive terms. Prior to being elected to the Florida Legislature in 1994, Commissioner Heyman served as an elected council member for the city of North Miami Beach for seven years, and worked for the city of Miami and North Miami Beach Police departments.
Commissioner Heyman has an educational and professional background in criminal justice and law enforcement that includes a bachelor of arts from the University of Florida, a master of science from Nova University and a juris doctorate from the University of Miami. A member of the Florida Bar, she holds state and national certification in crime prevention. She is a crime and loss prevention specialist and attorney, has her own consulting firm specializing in premises liability and criminal victimization, and is an adjunct professor.
As a legislator, Commissioner Heyman displayed untiring energy in supporting human issues, especially in the areas of funding social services; the protection and care of women, children and vulnerable adults; public education funding; protecting personal freedoms; and promoting responsible gun laws. She is still active in support and legislation of these issues.
Since her election to the Miami-Dade Commission, Heyman’s priorities have included bringing government closer to the people (with local access decentralized services, etc.); intergovernmental outreach to her district’s 13 municipalities; championing passage of the General Obligation Bond (GOB) and subsequently prioritizing District 4 projects in the first bond series; equalizing funds for district distribution; and work with regional, state and national government for Miami-Dade County legislative needs, authority and appropriations.
Commissioner Heyman grew up in South Florida and attended Dade County Public Schools. She has been and remains active in charitable groups, women’s issues, political and community organizations and activities. She also knows how to have fun. Earlier this year Heyman used some of her discretionary funds to buy Segways for the police in Biscayne Park, Sunny Isles Beach, North Bay Village and Miami-Dade’s Intracoastal station and has been promoting the futuristic-looking two-wheeled transportation devices by attending public events scooting around on them.
XXXXXXX Cynthia Hudson-Fernandez
The Spanish Broadcasting System touts itself as the largest Hispanic-controlled radio broadcasting company in the United States and apparently it’s growing larger. Soon it will own and operate 20 radio stations across the country and Puerto Rico — including in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Miami. To be more exact, the Spanish Broadcasting System owns three FM radio stations here in Miami: Clasica 92.3, El Zol 95.7 and Romance 106.7.
But SBS is not satisfied with just being a corporation that owns a bunch of radio stations. Just last July, SBS purchased WDLP-TV Channel 22, also known as Mega-TV. Oh, and SBS also owns LaMusica.com, a bilingual Web site “providing content related to Latin music, entertainment, news and culture.” And wouldn’t you know it, SBS is based right here in Miami-Dade — Coconut Grove to be exact.
To help make the newly purchased television station, and the network’s other creative endeavors, a success, SBS has hired Cynthia Hudson-Fernandez. Her official title: executive vice president and chief creative officer.
Some hope for any journalists reading this section who feel aimless in their current gig — Hudson-Fernandez started as a television reporter in 1984 for Univision, eventually becoming a producer. She was executive producer of TV Mujer, a show that earned that network an Emmy. Between 1992 and 1994, she worked for Telemundo as the vice president of programming and production. There she produced “the first in-house telenovela production called Tres Destinos.
Somewhere along the way, Hudson-Fernandez got into the network-launching business. “In 1996 she created Casa Club TV (now a Sony Network); in 1997 she was hired by Hearst Entertainment to create the Cosmopolitan TV Network, now the #1 ranked cable network among women viewers in Spain and a top-rated network in Latin America,” according to an SBS press release. Hudson-Fernandez created Cosmo TVs in Spain, Portugal and Latin America over the next eight years for Hearst. Still she found the time to launch the first English-language syndicated telenovela, Miami Sands, now distributed by Promark Entertainment.
So SBS just had to snag Hudson-Fernandez, who, besides being completely in charge of Channel 22, will upgrade and “re-brand” the New Media Unit and will “oversee the development, execution and distribution of all SBS proprietary content.” Not bad for someone with a master’s degree in mass communications from the University of Miami.
XXXXXXX Wendy Kallergis
When Bruce Singer resigned his post as president and CEO of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce in 2005 to run an inn in Massachusetts, he left a big pair of shoes to fill. Luckily the chamber invited Wendy Kallergis to take his place. Kallergis is MBCC’s first female head. The nonprofit organization is the city’s oldest and largest, with approximately 2,500 members. It was founded in 1921 not only to help the community’s business climate flourish, but also to improve the quality of life for city residents — successful businesses need happy customers. They also host the Visitor’s Center, which is a boon to the city’s tourism industry. Part of her mission will be to encourage members to make better use of the services that are already available to them.
Coral Gables resident Kallergis is also the president of the Angels of Mercy, one of the groups that supports Mercy Hospital through fundraising events, seek out contributing members or obtain corporate sponsorships that ensure that the underprivileged from Miami’s poorer neighborhoods have access to needed healthcare. She is also on the Board of Directors at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami
A background in the restaurant industry brought Kallergis to the attention of the Chamber. When she first arrived in Miami in the 1980s, Kallergis was a French-trained chef. She began with a stint at Pavillion (forerunner of the InterContinental) before moving on to catering management positions at MayFair House, Grand Bay, the Biltmore and Delano Hotels. Immediately prior to joining the Chamber, this married mother of two was employed as a general manager at the Miami City Club, a membership-only dining club atop the Wachovia Center. She was also a wedding consultant. Her experience in the industry and her access to some of the county’s top players made her a natural for the Chamber position. In her firs year she has already brought in some seriously high-octane women to speak to MBCC members, including Tracy Mourning and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
XXXXXXX Cristie Kerr
In the world of sports there are few power women left in South Florida. Anna Kournikova has powerful beauty but no game and the Williams sisters are in the market for a powerful comeback, but don’t expect that in the near future. But then there is Cristie Kerr, a 28-year-old star on the LPGA tour who simply knows how to win. This year the Miami resident took home three tour wins and finished second at the British Open to be ranked fifth overall in the Women’s World Golf Rankings. At the Franklin American Mortgage Championship she posted a tournament-record score of 19 under par kicking off what was a phenomenal year. But it didn’t all come so easy for Kerr, who back in 1999 weighed 175 pounds. Severe back spasms and a family history of diabetes forced Kerr to shape up, and in 2002 she dropped 50 pounds and won her first LPGA tournament. Since then, Kerr has been dominant on the tour and has finished in the top 5 in putts/greens hit in each of the last two seasons and she was 5th in greens-in-regulation in 2005. Last year Kerr finished in the Top 10 in half of the tournaments she entered, and ranked second in the LPGA in scoring average, trailing only Annika Sorenstam. With more than $1.3 million in earnings, she tied for third on the LPGA Money List. Her overall career earnings total almost $5.8 million. Kerr is also pretty powerful off the course. She is actively involved in fundraising for breast cancer — a disease her mother was diagnosed with in 2004 — with her Birdies for Breast Cancer organization, which raised $41,000 last year. In her spare time, Kerr hangs out with Donald Trump. Being pals with The Donald, who is an avid golf fan, comes with its perks. In 2005, Kerr made an appearance on an episode of The Apprentice. But don’t expect Kerr to quit her day job just yet. As she wraps up what has been one of her best seasons so far, she continues to climb the rankings and her future looks awfully bright.
XXXXXXX Edie Laquer
To characterize Edie Laquer as among the most influential women in South Florida real estate would be inaccurate. Edie Laquer is one of the most influential brokers of either gender in South Florida — a position she arguably has held since she arrived here in the 1970s. She has since brokered multimillion- dollar deals (and a couple of billion-dollar ones as well) that have garnered major media attention. One Miami, Everglades on the Bay, the sale of Hank Sopher’s real estate holdings to Africa-Israel, Sopher’s subsequent land conquest of Miami Gardens, One Miami, Midtown Miami — they’re all hers.
And the Miami Arena? Well, seems Laquer is still involved there as well. A couple of years after Laquer’s client, Sopher, failed to close on the Miami Arena deal, she and real estate investor Scott Silver entered into a contract to purchase the old facility and surrounding land from Glenn Straub for $50 million. Only Straubb kinda changed his mind, prompting Silver to sue Straub. Straub, a Palm Beach businessman who isn’t afraid of litigating, responded with a lawsuit of his own, claiming Silver and Laquer misled him on what they intended to do with the property — which, evidently, is to sell it to Major League Baseball to construct a Florida Marlins stadium. Laquer is sticking to her guns. “We were buying it,” she exasperated to the Miami Herald. “You wouldn’t make a promise to a seller that it would only be put to one use, because life changes.”
Besides transacting deals, Laquer is also making her presence known in South Florida society by helping celebrate the anticipated grand opening of Miami’s monument to real estate revitalization — also known as the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. Laquer is the grand patron sponsor of the opening gala concert.
XXXXXXX Judge Cindy Lederman
For some, Judge Cindy Lederman’s name is inextricably and unfortunately linked to that of Rilya Wilson’s — the girl who vanished while in the care of the Department of Children and Families about five years ago. “It is absolutely despicable what happened in this case,” Cindy Lederman said during a 2002 hearing. That tragedy, while a low point for the respected judge who said she had been “misled” for more than a year by Wilson’s caseworker, underscores the pressing need for a child advocate like Lederman to constantly battle the bureaucracies that negatively affect children in state custody.
In the past, Miami-Dade County Juvenile Court’s presiding judge launched the Dependency Court Intervention Program for Family Violence, which studied the mistreatment of children in relation to other domestic violence. The program developed new ways the courts could help battered women retain custody of their children and seek other services to enhance their lives. She has also been instrumental in pushing for the rights of toddlers and young children to have their say in court and founded the Miami Safe Start Initiative as a way to help parents with very young children in the system to better care for them emotionally.
Lately, the judge embroiled herself in the Sisyphean challenge of battling the state of Florida on the rights of handicapped children in foster care, including those who are about to “age out” of (get too old to be in) the system, but who are incapable of caring for themselves. She’s taken to task the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, which was created to help disabled foster kids, but has instead allowed many children to languish without services (even though the state receives millions from Medicare for this). She has recently also spoken out for the rights of incarcerated youths.
She recently won a six-year battle to get help for one teenager, the Miami Herald reported in July: “The Florida Supreme Court declared unanimously last week that Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman, who heads Miami’s juvenile court, was within her rights to order three officials of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to appear before her and produce agency records.”
Lederman serves on the Board of Children, Youth and Families and the Juvenile Crime Panel at the National Research Council and Institute on Medicine, and she has also been a member of NRC/IOM’s Committee on Family Violence Interventions. She also serves in the House of Delegates of the ABA and is on the faculty of the National Judicial College. Lederman is a trustee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and a former president of the National Association of Women Lawyers. In 1997, then-Governor Lawton Chiles awarded her the Governor’s Peace at Home Award for her work in the field of domestic violence. The local chapter of the National Association of Jewish Women has also honored her as a woman of “valor.”
XXXXXXX Daniella Levine
Fighting for the rights of the poor in Miami-Dade County has become the cause du jour for many activists here. Not surprising considering that the cost of living is making it difficult for working-class families and individuals to exist locally.
Yet while some individuals are famous for taking a confrontational stance against the powers that be, Daniella Levine has sought to work within the system. This enabled her to count as partners influential figures such as Eduardo Padron of Miami-Dade College and Peter Roulhac of Wachovia National Bank in 2004, when she founded Imagine Miami, a “strategic planning and visioning project” with a mission to “move Miami from number one in poverty to number one in community prosperity by 2105.” As executive director of the Human Services Coalition, which she formed in 1996, Levine began initiatives to improve children’s access to health care, eliminate hunger, increase citizenship drives and give assistance to immigrants who are losing benefits. The Human Services Coalition has even sought to improve wages earned by workers by campaigning for local governments to pay “living wages,” not minimum wages, to unskilled laborers. “The federal poverty level for a family of four is about $16,000 per year. Twenty dollars per hour is about $40,000,” Levine recently told the Collins Center for Public Policy. “The so-called living wage pays about $10 per hour, or about half of what it would take to get by.”
A 25-year resident of Miami-Dade who now resides in Coral Gables, Levine, 51, has had a long history of activism in the county. In 1982 she directed the Educational Advocacy Project for Legal Services of Greater Miami, where she “advocated for low-income Miami-Dade residents …,” according to her bio posted on www.imaginemiami.com. Between 1986 and 1996, Levine was associate and acting director of the Florida Guardian Ad Litem Program for the 11th Circuit Court as well as the associate director of the League of Women Voters’ Dependent Children Project. In 1990, Levine became president of Voices for Children of Miami-Dade County, an arm of the Guardian Ad Litem Program, increasing the annual funds it received from $10,000 to $250,000.
Over the decades, Levine not only fought for the weak, she was an able administrator. Being a familiar voice to public officials and the media has helped Levine gather allies and garnish broad support for causes ranging from affordable housing and paying livable wages to campaigns informing working people on accessing their Earned Income Tax Credits. This past August Levine responded in a letter to a Miami Herald article on the “exodus of the middle class from Miami-Dade and Broward counties…
She wrote, “We call on officials — local, regional and state — to work with us to express their vision and use their leadership to make South Florida the icon of the 21st century, and to actively involve residents of all ages and backgrounds to share with them the family and community impacts of the policies or programs they are considering. …
“And we call on all who want to stay here to get involved — with us and other neighborhood, volunteer or civic efforts — to become ‘social entrepreneurs’ who harness their concerns, insights and energies into positive changes in our communities.”
XXXXXXX Diane Lieberman
Coldwell Banker. EWM. Majestic. Carson.
Their signs are seen everywhere. And while women are the backbone of these powerhouse real estate companies, the presidents and CEOs are men.
And then there is one of the fastest growing real estate companies in South Florida — South Beach Investment Realty, better known as SBI Realty — founded and still led by Diane Lieberman.
Lieberman, along with her developer husband Alan, was already a real estate powerhouse in Philadelphia and New York when she relocated to Miami 18 years ago. In 1999 Lieberman opened South Beach Investment Realty. In her first year here she focused on condo hotel projects and personally sold 250 condo hotel units, while her company sold out projects such as Royal South Beach and The Brooklyn. In later years SBI Realty expanded to condominiums, created a marketing wing, and also develops and sells luxury waterfront homes. Lieberman’s company also grew beyond the boundaries of South Beach. In 2004 she opened a branch office in the Biscayne Boulevard corridor. Lieberman opened a third location in the Ritz-Carlton South Beach in February 2005. A fourth office is scheduled to open this fall at 1680 Meridian Ave. near Lincoln Road.
Lieberman is also active at the Aventura-Turnberry Jewish Center, the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. Since 1995, Lieberman has sponsored the Children’s Cultural Series. Lieberman is also a supporter of the Museum of Contemporary Art and is the founder of “Art of Biscayne,” a monthly series of artist showcases at the Biscayne Boulevard SBI Realty office that features the work of local, up-and-coming artists.
XXXXXXX Nancy Liebman
A leader in the areas of historic preservation, reasoned development, and arts and culture, Nancy Liebman has for many years been one of the most influential women in Miami-Dade County.
Liebman served as a Miami Beach City Commissioner 1993-2001. She currently serves as president of the Urban Environment League, vice chair of the Miami Beach Arts Trust, trustee of Dade Heritage Trust, advisor emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and chair of the city of Miami Beach Historic Collins Park Oversight Committee. Recently she was appointed to the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel for CANDO (Cultural Arts Neighborhood District Overlay).
Liebman has been the executive director of the Miami Design Preservation League and a member of the board of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. She has given talks throughout the United States on the preservation of Miami Beach’s Art Deco District. Her awards include the Bob Graham Honorary Award from the Florida Association of the AIA, Outstanding Historic Preservation Award from the Miami Chapter of the AIA, the Dade Cultural Alliance’s Special Recognition Ambie Award and the New World School of the Arts Maxi Award in Recognition for Contributions to the Cultural Arts.
Liebman’s ongoing civic activity since her service on the Miami Beach Commission has only accentuated her commitment to this community and the best interests of its residents.
XXXXXXX Miriam Lopez
Think it’s easy being a banker? Ha! Think again. Not only is the residential real estate market slowing down (as in fewer loans for those wishing to build giant high-rises) but now federal regulators are trying to “hit the brakes on commercial real-estate lending,” according to a Sept. 12 Wall Street Journal article. Last year commercial real estate loans went up by 16 percent to a total of $1.3 trillion. That scares federal bank regulating types. Worried that the feds will screw with the “last safe profitable niche” community banks can depend on, as one banker told the Wall Street Journal, banker associations and banks wrote letters in protest to the proposed regulations that would offer “guidance.”
Anticipating the clamp down, TransAtlantic Bank of Miami “has cut back real estate loans in reaction to the regulators’ proposals, while expanding unsecured loans to doctors, lawyers and other business customers,” the Wall Street Journal reported. And recognizing that these loans are riskier, TransAtlantic chair and CEO Miriam Lopez “more than doubled its credit department to handle the change in strategy.”
This is just the latest challenge for Lopez, who has been in the rough and tumble world of banking for the last 20 years. According to a recent Hispanic Magazine article, Lopez arrived in the United States with her parents when she was 9 in 1960. “Like many immigrants, Lopez’s family arrived in Miami penniless and it is these hard times that she credits with teaching her about the importance of building human relationships and trust, which [she now] uses in the banking world,” described the article.
After earning a bachelor of arts degree from Barry University in 1972, Lopez taught high school for about a year. But numbers and figures “fascinated” her, so she earned a business administration degree from the University of Miami in 1977. Soon after graduation she landed a job as a commercial loan officer for Southeast First National Bank of Miami. By 1983 Lopez was vice president and manager of Republic National Bank of Miami in Coral Way. Two years later, TransAtlantic Bank hired her as its president and CEO. By 1995 she was elected chairperson of the board of TransAtlantic.
In the last decade, Lopez has been pretty involved with the American Bankers Association — the very organization that sent angry letters to the Federal Reserve for even thinking about “guiding” commercial loans. Lopez is also director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Besides banking, Lopez is a trustee at Florida International University, a member of the Doctors Hospital Board of Directors and a finance council member for the Archdiocese of Miami. Lopez also gives seminars to adults on topics like asset and liability management as well as to public school children “regarding the value of education, savings, honesty, etc,” according to her résumé. Lopez also serves as a mentor in the school system, offering guidance — kind of like the federal government is trying to do with banks.
This past May, Lopez was honored by Miami Dade College, which placed her in its Alumni Hall of Fame.
XXXXXXX Arva Moore Parks
Anyone who is interested in Miami’s past, knows that historian Arva Moore Parks is finishing a long-awaited new book — the first definitive, scholarly biography of George Merrick. He’s the visionary dreamer and planner who single-handedly founded, designed, advertised, promoted and sold the land that became Coral Gables, “where your ‘Castles in Spain’ are made real.”
Parks, 66, who’s lived in Miami all her life, is eminently qualified for this task, having dedicated her life to preserving the Magic City’s architecture and history. In fact, thanks to Parks’ research, writing and historic preservation efforts, including the book Miami: The Magic City, Miami’s landmarks and 100-year history have survived instead of disappearing into oblivion.
One of her best-known accomplishments was spearheading the effort to preserve the Biltmore Hotel — built in 1926 and one of Coral Gables’ crown jewels.
Parks also serves as a trustee at the University of Miami, where she earned her master’s degree in history. UM was founded by Merrick, who donated 160 acres of land and $5 million to start it, and considered it his greatest achievement.
As a warm-up to her scholarly tome, which should be completed in a year, Parks has just published a pictorial appetizer: “George Merrick’s Coral Gables.” It is a colorful book of photographs and illustrations, many previously undiscovered, that graphically tell the story of the city founder’s life and how he planned and created Coral Gables in the early 1920s.
“He is unique in combining the creative, practical and charismatic,” says Parks. The same could be said of her. She served as the historic guide in the development of the Old Spanish Village, just approved by Coral Gables City Commission, overlooking Ponce Circle Park. The condominium, retail and restaurant space has been designed to fulfill George Merrick’s architectural dreams, complete with coral rock finishes, archways, fountains and gardens.
XXXXXXX Yaxeni Oriquen
If muscles equate to power, then Yaxeni Oriquen has plenty of power. A personal trainer who works out regularly at SoBe Sports Club, Oriquen (full name Yaxeni Milagros Oriquen Perez) admits to aspirations of being the female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger (“let’s say a ‘Yaxeneger,’” she writes on her Web site, www.yaxeni.com). And (eat your heart out, Xena) she just might be on her way. She won the 2005 Ms. Olympia competition. “Many are calling her the largest, most symmetrical female bodybuilder of all time and as her recent performances suggest, she has every chance of continuing her winning streak,” David Robson wrote in a recent article published in BodyBuilding.com. How big is big? Oriquen, 40, stands at 5 foot 7 inches and weighs 185 pounds off-season and 160 pounds contest weight, according to the Web site. And, according to many an expert (and anyone who sees her) Oriquen has really, really massive arms.
Born in Venezuela, she is the youngest of nine children. According to her bio, she swept the Venezuelan, South American and Central American female bodybuilding contests in 1993. That same year “I took my Procard IFBB and won overall championships in Puerto Rico,” Oriquen wrote in her bio. “Then I moved to the U.S.”
It was in the U.S. that she competed for the last 12 years to win the Ms. Olympia title. “Finally I won the Ms. Olympia and I think I deserved it for all the hard work I have put in over the years, I’m very happy,” she told BodyBuilding.com. The victory has only made her more determined. “I’m sorry ladies! Watch out, I am not going to play for second or third.”
In addition to her physical endeavors, Yaxeni also runs an online store selling DVDs, “never-before-seen photographs” and “Team Yaxeni” T-shirts. Oriquen also has an adolescent son who is 6-feet, 4-inches tall (“I would like to see my son become a professional basketball or football player,” she told BodyBuilding.com), dabbles in real estate investment, has aspirations of becoming an actress, and describes herself as being an evangelist (“I spend a lot of time doing services for my lord,” she states).
“I would really love to somehow change the way women’s bodybuilding is perceived and treated,” she told BodyBuilding.com. “To see women bodybuilders on the cover of top magazines and win the same amount of money and prizes men do — after all we all work hard.”
XXXXXXX Lorna Owens
Lorna Owens is a woman with a mission: She’s a motivational speaker who wants to do more than simply “motivate”; she wants to change women’s lives. Through her speaking engagements, CDs and book, she wants women to learn how to be successful by using the one force that is present throughout all their lives: change.
Change has certainly been a constant in Owens’ life. In her native, Jamaica, her first career choice was law, but Owens instead decided to be a nurse because her mother warned her that lawyers don’t go to heaven. She was also a licensed midwife. Her life’s journey soon brought her to the United States where she found work in a hospital and a chance to fulfill her original dream. While determinedly working the weekend shifts at a Jacksonville hospital, she earned a law degree from the University of Florida in Gainesville. She went to work as an assistant district attorney under Janet Reno before starting her own practice.
But it was a return trip to Jamaica for her father’s funeral that caused Owens to change course again. By anyone’s standards she had already done well, but all the accolades her father received for the positive ways he had touched friends during his life, made her feel that she wasn’t doing enough for others. Upon her return, Owens quit the legal racket full-time and started her company Positive Vibe on Miami Beach.
At Positive Vibe, Owens was now a professional speaker, executive coach, entertainment lawyer, radio commentator, and CEO of a women’s empowerment program called “…And the Women Gather.” The latter is a big Oprah-style afternoon book event that draws noted female authors from a diverse spectrum to join about 100 local attendees for a leisurely lunch and literary discussion. She also took her savings and founded Positive Vibe Records as well as a production company she named Zion Films. Owens’ clients aren’t limited to women who seek her out for advice on how to be more successful. She also helps those who may think failure is their only choice. She rallies incarcerated women during her “Women Behind Bars” charity as well as helping underprivileged women the world over through her other charity work. Who says lawyers don’t go to heaven?
XXXXXXX Myrna Palley and Lisa Palley
Myrna and Sheldon Palley have been married for 50 years. Independently and together, they have changed the face and the cultural landscape of Miami. They have raised three children — Lisa Palley, Donna Kass and Kevin Palley — and are the proud grandparents of Jordan, Alyssa and Brenna Kass and Nathan Palley. Lisa Palley, founder of Palley Promotes, has also been integral to the cultural development of Miami-Dade County through her public relations and nonprofit work.
Together the Palleys have collected studio art glass since the ‘70s, and in 2000 exhibited at the Lowe Art Museum: “Taking Form in Glass: The Collection of Myrna and Sheldon B. Palley.” Myrna and Sheldon have since donated their collection of more than 300 pieces to the Lowe Art Museum on the University of Miami campus, to be housed in The Palley Pavilion for Glass and Design. In addition, they founded “Miami Hot” workshops and serve on the advisory committee of the school’s Art Glass program. At UM’s Ring Theatre, they support the work of the musical theater students by sharing the productions with friends, raising money on their behalf, providing scholarships and serving on the board of directors.
Myrna and Sheldon are also founding members of the New World School of the Arts and the National Foundation of the Arts, both of which they continue to serve as directors on their boards. In addition, the Palleys helped found the Miami International Film Festival, which Sheldon chaired for several years.
Myrna is involved at the ground level of several organizations, giving money and working tirelessly throughout the community and beyond to raise money on their behalf, including New World School of the Arts, the University of Miami, Lowe Art Museum, the Ring Theatre and The Education Fund, to name a few. She has been honored by New World School of the Arts, the Leave a Legacy Foundation and is the recipient of the Lalique Award “Builder of Arts” presented by the Coconut Grove Arts Festival. Lisa, who has a rich background in the arts and social services industries, with a specialty in the nonprofit sector, is a one-woman shop. She opened her business in February 1995.
Over the years, Lisa has worked with the following organizations: SAVE Dade/Human Rights Ordinance Campaign, South Beach Food & Wine Festival, Florida Dance Festival, Save Our Center/Key Biscayne, Miami Book Fair International, Miami International Film Festival, Music Fest Miami, First Night/Miami Beach, Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the Fairchild Challenge at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, ArtCenter/South Florida, Wolfsonian-FIU, Design + Architecture Day and the Miami Beach Cultural Arts Council, among others.
She has conducted public relations, advertising, publicity and promotions campaigns for a variety of special events produced for GLSEN, DIFFA, National Osteoporosis Foundation, Food for Life Network, Shelbourne House, Community Research Initiative of South Florida (CRI) and Florida AIDS Action Council (FLAAC), Friends of Art at the Lowe Art Museum, Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center, Hot Pursuit Chili Cook-Off and Planned Parenthood of Greater Miami.
Together, mother and daughter Myrna and Lisa Palley make up a powerful, progressive, dynamic duo.
XXXXXXX Heddy Peña
Safeguarding American Values for Everyone is more than simply the source of the organizational acronym SAVE (often referred to as SAVE DADE); it also sums up the group’s aims and objectives.
It’s also the passion of Heddy Peña, SAVE’s executive director and one of the most successful grassroots- effort leaders in Miami-Dade County. She has served as the organization’s executive director since September 2002. During that time, she has helped lead SAVE into the public spotlight and to the forefront of community efforts to defend the Miami-Dade County Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) and other initiatives that contribute to building a community welcoming to all residents.
Peña started her career at AT&T, where she spent 19 years. Her last position there was regional director of international public affairs for Central America and the Caribbean. After leaving AT&T in 1998, she went on to establish a recruiting firm: Peña, Torres and Associates. She has served as chairperson of ASPIRA of Florida and the National Association of Women Business Owners, and as national president of the Hispanic Association of AT&T Employees (HISPA).
Peña joined the SAVE board in 1998 and went on to co-chair the successful 2002 “No to Discrimination” campaign to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and finance.
Since the “No to Discrimination” campaign, Peña and SAVE have fought successfully to help pass a domestic partner registry in Miami Beach, helped put protections in place for the transgender community and worked to see that the city of Miami Beach passed an Equal Benefits Ordinance demanding that vendors who want to do business with the city offer domestic partner benefits to their employees.
In terms of civil rights, Heddy Peña is both a powerhouse and the rare leader with a proven record of legitimately bringing people together.
XXXXXXX Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk
Love her or hate her, architect and urban planning impresario Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk has Miami by the proverbial cojones. As the founding principal of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, she has established herself internationally as the creator of what The New York Times calls “the most important phenomenon to emerge in American architecture in the post-Cold War era.” Combining downtown urban density with old-school Americana design values, Plater-Zyberk’s New Urbanism is all the rage and Miami’s political machine has caught the fever. As the brains and face behind form-based zoning initiative Miami 21, she’s charged with taking the city’s free-for-all zoning and transforming it into a system that is so patently simple and absolute that the days of dirty bills passed discreetly under the tables of La Carreta become a distant memory. No easy feat, to say the least.
And while there are those who applaud Plater-Zyberk’s attempt at reining in Miami’s convoluted zoning code, there are also those who contend that Miami is a far cry from Plater-Zyberk’s Seaside, a New Urbanism’s panhandle jewel and the setting for The Truman Show. But naysayers who think Miami’s design darling can be taken down by a few snide remarks have another thing coming. A professor since 1979 and the current dean of the University of Miami’s architecture school, this Ivy League grad knows how to handle criticism and get down to business. After all, with Plater-Zyberk at the helm, it looks like the city should soon be saying sayonara to suburban sprawl and hello to smarter growth.
XXXXXXX Norma Quintero
Norma Quintero has two roles. On the one hand Quintero, the president of international fragrance and cosmetic distributing firm Genesis International Marketing Corp., is quite the socialite. According to socialmiami.com, Quintero participates on the boards of The Vizcayans, Best Buddies International, Amigos Together for Kids and the Cushman School. Plus she has played host for charitable events for the Women’s International Zionist Organization and the Miami City Ballet and donated funds to various charitable organizations. As such her face often graces photo pages of social publications all over South Florida.
On the other hand, Quintero is the publisher of the glossy magazine Social Affairs. The main subject: high society and the men and women who make up the philanthropist class. — basically her peers, a fact that is not lost on Quintero. “With the responsibility of publishing a magazine comes the realization that you control what does or does not go to print in your publication,” Quintero wrote in her Letter from the Publisher for the August/September 2006 issue. Translation: Don’t bother sucking up to my editor, Jennifer White. Come see me. She goes on to write: “I will not take lightly the people who, day in and day out, are out there making a difference in our community, and I will not forget the purpose with which this magazine was created.” And then, within the letter, Quintero decides to quote from her inaugural publisher’s letter: “…It is my eternal devotion to the organization and individuals that enrich our community that has inspired my latest endeavor, Social Affairs. We will spotlight organizations and individuals that are making a difference is some way whether through charity or sheer innovation.” Among those spotlighted in this August’s issue: Mission International Rescue Charities, a piece on New York socialite Plum Sykes and her novel The Debutante Divorcee, an article on Coral Gables socialite/designer Ann Fontaine, and a brief story about jewelry designer Marlene Stowe. Plus: lots and lots of picture pages of various galas and social shindigs.
Will South Florida’s socialites fight for such attention? Yep. And thus Quintero is a power player among those who give money to the community while attending galas and charity balls.
XXXXXXX M. Athalie Range
M. Athalie Range should be proud of her private-sector accomplishments. The widowed mother of four has run the Range Funeral Homes since founding them with her husband Oscar in 1953. Following his death a few years later, the Key West native earned her degree from New England Institute of Anatomy and Embalming and turned the company into one of the most successful and longest-operating, black-owned businesses in South Florida. As laudable as that is, it’s the 90-year-old Range’s accomplishments as a public servant that earn her “power woman” status.
Range’s public service career began in the 1940s when she joined the Parent Teacher’s Association (PTA). After being elected president of her children’s school’s chapter, Range began her first crusade. That ended successfully with the Dade County School Board devoting money for new schoolhouses in predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Her work with the PTA continued for 16 years. In 1965, Range was appointed to the Miami City Commission. She was the first African-American and only the second woman to hold a commission seat, which she successfully defended in the next election. In 1970, then-Governor Reubin Askew appointed Range Secretary of the Department of Community Affairs, making her the first African-American to head a Florida state agency in modern times. Her continued leadership earned such accolades as a place in the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, a post office named after her, and well over a hundred other honors.
Range’s current project is the restoration of Virginia Key Beach. About the time Range attended her first PTA meeting, Virginia Key Beach had become the county’s only oceanfront available to blacks. Soon it was the top recreation area for African-Americans, who enjoyed such amenities as a dance floor, mini train, carousel and concession stand. As Miami integrated, so did Virginia Key Beach, but the city closed it in 1982 to save maintenance costs. In 1999, a task force formed to protest the sale of the property to private interests. The city listened and created the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust and asked Range to chair it. The park itself is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Its natural flora has been replanted, sections of the park will soon be opened, and plans to finish a museum and cultural center by 2008 are in the works.
XXXXXXX Lida Rodriguez-Taseff
Through her regular appearances on CNN, guest editorials in the Miami Herald, and as national Spanish media spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union, Lida Rodriguez-Taseff has become an influential public figure, specifically in the area of civil rights. However, as a partner at Duane Morris LLP, the multi-talented attorney has also made her mark in commercial and intellectual property litigation.
Rodriguez-Taseff entered the legal arena after graduating in 1992 from the New York University School of Law. She was a Root-Tilden-Kern scholar and received the school’s highest honor, the Vanderbilt Medal. She also has a degree from the University of Miami. She is admitted to practice in both Florida and New York.
As a civil rights attorney, she has taken on some of the area’s most controversial issues, such as opposition to the gay rights ordinance and the right of Cubans to protest the Grammy Awards. She was also very vocal in her criticism of police procedures during the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) talks a few years ago and helped with legal cases where she represented those alleging there were several instances of civil rights violations by Miami Police. Following the FTAA talks, she helped establish Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel. Not only is Rodriguez-Taseff willing to help humble individuals secure their rights, she also has Fortune 500 companies in her roster of clients.
Thanks to her work, Rodriguez-Taseff has received several honors including the Gandhi/ King/Ikeda Award from Morehouse College. She has also served as chairman of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, is on the board of the Miami Light Project, was former president of the ACLU’s local chapter, and was a legal commentator on CNN’s “Legal Briefs” segment.
And in a spare moment, once in a while Rodriguez-Taseff fires off an expansive letter to the local media. A recent screed to self-described “alternative” weekly Miami New Times displays Rodriguez-Taseff’s characteristic zest for a good verbal smackdown of principles from the get-go. It begins, “The moralizing trash-fest, ‘Blind Date,’ (September 14) demonstrates once more that those who complain New Times is a sophomoric rag aimed at the prurient rather than the journalistic or, heaven forbid, the intellectually curious might just be correct.” Fun stuff. You can read the rest at www.miaminewtimes.com/Issues/2006-09-21/news/letters.html.
XXXXXXX Sushma Sheth
As the media, research, and policy director of the Miami Worker’s Center, Sushma Sheth has a difficult role to play in Miami’s social justice movement. Her work has been to increase the visibility of social justice organizations and those they serve, so that the underprivileged can get their share of resources. With many residents considering the looming affordable housing scandal “business as usual” this is an entirely uphill battle for Sheth. She considers Miami to be “off the social justice map” but at the same time is hopeful that “non-traditional” methods may work in a town that has always been far from traditional.
After graduating from Brown University in 2001, Sheth, 27, returned to Miami to help marginalized groups in the chronically poor region. Although Miami seems, on the surface, to be filled with wealthy jetsetters and rich real estate agents, the wealth disparity between the richest and poorest is considered by many to be the most dramatic in the nation. Miami also lacks an entrenched “social justice” network like those found in other large urban centers. While at Brown, Sheth interned at the Fund for Community Progress, which is a grassroots organization that operates in underserved neighborhoods throughout Rhode Island. She also spent three years on the board of a youth-run HIV/AIDS organization called Visions Worldwide, in particular working with Indian youth and disease education.
Her accomplishments at the Worker’s Center include improving on one of their significant achievements — she assisted in developing and implementing the Low Income Families Fighting Together (LIFFT) organization. The group is composed of some of the poorest members of society. There they learn how to organize themselves and successfully compete for state resources. Her reporting on the Scott Carver Hope VI Project helped residents win better living conditions, and she is also active in efforts to help hurricane survivors.
XXXXXXX Michelle Spence-Jones
For years the predominantly black and low-income neighborhoods of Overtown and Liberty City have been neglected by the powers that be in Miami and Miami-Dade County. The latest real estate boom changed all that as land investors and developers saw Miami’s poor neighborhoods as the final frontier. Even with the cooling of this market, the desire to bring urban renewal to the Magic City’s poorest areas is as strong as ever. Also as strong as ever — the wish of current residents to share in that prosperity or, at the very least, to continue living in the neighborhoods they have called home for years, in some cases generations.
Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, 38, just so happens to represent District 2, which encompasses this new frontier. As such, Spence-Jones now holds the gavel for the Community Redevelopment Agency, which is basically the Miami City Commission in another form. The CRA has millions of dollars in its budget from property taxes collected in areas that mostly fall within District 5. An able commissioner from that district can carry a lot of influence.
For better or worse, Arthur Teele exuded that influence as the CRA’s longtime chair. That is until he was forced from power when the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office opted to prosecute him for ramming his car into the vehicle driven by an undercover Miami-Dade officer shadowing his wife as part of a corruption investigation of Teele, who ended up committing suicide in the Miami Herald lobby. Following Teele’s ouster, the commission decided to appoint Jeffery Allen to the District 5 seat. Perhaps owing to persistent rumors that he didn’t live in the district, Allen didn’t even make the run-off in a crowded election last November. Emerging victorious was Spence-Jones, who used to advocate gang-prevention programs for the Isaac Hayes Foundation and the Urban League in Tallahassee. For the last four years, Spence-Jones worked for Mayor Manny Diaz as a senior advisor on urban affairs.
Spence-Jones’ connection with Mayor Diaz has been both a boon and a curse. Yes, she has the ear of the most powerful man in the Magic City — one who can hire and fire the manager and counts at least three commissioners as allies. Yet Diaz has been cursed by critics as having one main goal in mind: appeasing his developer and business friends. Her former opponent in the race, Richard Dunn II, points out that a law firm affiliated with Diaz represented her when he filed a law suit and complaints with the Florida Elections Commission regarding her actions in the election.
Spence-Jones, though, sees her relationship with the mayor as an asset — and she has asserted that she is no one’s puppet. “If he [Diaz] has some great things he wants to do for the community, I support him all the way. I have no beef with him. Quite frankly, my district’s in trouble,” she told the SunPost recently.
So far her tight-rope act is working. Spence-Jones not only talks about the ills of her community, she regularly sponsors programs and initiatives in an attempt to cure them. And Spence-Jones status as District 5’s representative holds a lot of weight when it comes to zoning applications developers regularly put forward for the neighborhoods she represents.
XXXXXXX Kat Von D
A couple of years ago, South Beach residents noticed a new tattoo shop opening on Washington Avenue. Well, they were forced to notice thanks to the nearly constant presence of a film crew taking up space on the sidewalk. What made this business a little different from any of the others in the parade of constantly changing storefronts, is that the shop is the subject of a Learning Channel reality series called Miami Ink. Needless to say, if there’s a popular TV show located on South Beach, it’s got to have a pretty girl on it, right? But the “eye candy” on this program also happens to be a very talented artist named Kat Von D.
Kat Von D(rachenberg) was born in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, 24 years ago to Argentine parents. At the age of 4, she moved to Southern California’s “Inland Empire,” which is part of the Greater Los Angeles area. There the young Kat was introduced to the colorful world of tattoo ink. She received her first tat at 14, but shortly thereafter learned that her natural artistic abilities lent themselves well to being at the other end of the needle. By 16, she had her first professional job at a local shop. Eventually, she moved her operations to a Hollywood, Calif., shop called True Tattoo, where she worked with Chris Garver, who is also on Miami Ink.
What’s unusual about this seemingly natural process is that the tattoo world still has a bit of the machismo of old attached to it — think bikers and rock stars. It’s still difficult for women to be accepted as peers, but Kat’s jaw-dropping abilities to render realistic portraits onto skin made it impossible to ignore her as an artist. Her strong personality helps as well — not only to dish back what she gets from the guys, but also to serve her customers. Many tattoo artists act as quasi-psychologists for clients who are getting tattoos to mark the milestones, happy and sad, in their lives. The easy manner in which she moves through this boy’s club has allowed her to build a huge fan base not only through the television show, but also on tour at tattoo conventions and at three different shops (Miami, LA and Dallas) where she applies her trade.
XXXXXXX Sonja Zuckerman
Since the early 1970s, The Diabetes Research Institute (DRI), located in the University of Miami’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, has been searching for a cure for diabetes using scientific programs ranging from pancreatic stem cell development to transplant immunology to genetic engineering. But finding a cure takes money.
Fortunately DRI has a friend who has been with them from the beginning — for the last three decades to be more specific. Her name is Sonja Zuckerman.
Born in Egypt, raised in Israel and educated in France, Zuckerman knew seven languages by the time she came to the United States. She would soon become a generous fundraiser and philanthropist, becoming active in charities in New York, Chicago and Detroit. In fact it was in Detroit where she helped launch the Angel Ball as a fund raiser for the National Council for Jewish Women.
A mainstay of the South Florida community for a few decades now, Zuckerman has volunteered to sit on boards of the University of Miami/Lowe Art Museum, Children’s Resource Fund and Project: New Born. She has also supported and donated funds to the National Parkinson’s Foundation, the Miami City Ballet, Vizcaya, the Alzheimer’s Foundation, the Limb Bank, Miami Metrozoo, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Salon Group and the Greater Miami Opera.
However, it’s at the DRI where Zuckerman has poured much of her fund-raising efforts. She founded the Love and Hope Ball, a society ball that has raised millions from private contributors — mainly from South Florida’s society. As such she has been named life chairman of the DRI. In recognition of years of service to the DRI, the institute’s conference room bears the name of Harry Zuckerman, Sonja’s late husband.
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