MIAMI (CBS4) – Carlos Gimenez is 59. He’s still married to his high school sweetheart. He set out on a career of public service 36 years ago, and believes his experience makes him best qualified to be Mayor of Miami-Dade County.
Oh, and he’s scandal-free, too.
“I have a record of honesty and integrity and my managerial experience makes me the best candidate,” Gimenez told CBS4′s Gary Nelson.
Gimenez has a record of, literally, putting out fires as both a Miami firefighter and later as the city’s fire chief.
He also served as Miami’s city manager, coming in during a period when the town had fallen into technical bankruptcy and was being overseen by a board appointed by the governor. He got high marks for shepherding the city out of the crisis and back to financial stability.
“I was able to manage the city through some really tough times and came out – left the city – in its best financial condition ever,” Gimenez said.
If Gimenez wins the election as mayor, it could be for the same reasons that Carlos Alvarez was thrown out.
Alvarez was recalled in a landslide of voter distrust and dissatisfaction with government. The deposed mayor supported the controversial Marlins baseball stadium deal. He gave county employees raises, and raised property taxes to pay for them.
As a county commissioner, Gimenez opposed the stadium that is being built mostly with tax dollars.
“I was the loudest voice of opposition against the Marlins stadium. Not only was the deal bad, the financing was even worse,” Gimenez said.
Gimenez was the only commissioner to vote against every one of the union agreements that bestowed pay increases on county workers.
“I told the Mayor, I told the commission, I told the unions, it just didn’t make sense to be increasing spending when we knew we were going to have fewer dollars to work with.”
Gimenez said he held fast when the economic realities came home to roost, and voted against the tax hike that funded the pay raises.
Gimenez gets a pension of about $120,000 a year from the city of Miami, and has caught heat from labor for opposing the salary hikes for county employees. He got his, some have said, and now has abandoned them.
“You know, when people look at me and say that, I say that allowed me to do what I did as a commissioner,” Gimenez said.
He said his pension allowed him to be a full-time county commissioner, and that he could have easily earned much more by taking a management position outside of government, but chose public service instead.
“My family sometimes looks at me and says ‘you’re crazy,’” he said.
Gimenez says he has the political stamina to make what will be unpopular, tough decisions and cuts necessary to restore the county to fiscal stability.
“This county is going to come out better. That’s my goal, to make it come out better – lean, mean, and also a government that really serves the people.”