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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – When Carlos Gimenez became Miami-Dade’s mayor, he had a monumental task ahead of him.
His predecessor had been kicked out of office because of recall. The community didn’t trust their government. Miami-Dade was also deep in a recession and the county’s budget was shrinking fast.
Gimenez recently sat down with CBS4’s David Sutta to discuss his progress, his plan to grow jobs and the long list of people who want his job.
Gimenez shrugged his shoulders when asked about his reelection campaign.
“It’s a story and that’s the way it is. Who may run? Who may not? Who’s a threat? Who’s not a threat? The whole thing, I mean come-on, Alonzo Mourning. He said absolutely not, but he’s on there too,” Gimenez said with a laugh.
The list Gimenez is referring to is approximately 20 names long, with people who may challenge him in re-election, not next year but two years from now.
“My reelection is two years away and no I’m not focused on my reelection yet. I don’t think the people need to be focused on reelection either,” Gimenez said.
Yet it’s what the media has been talking about in recent weeks. Perhaps it’s because Gimenez has a knack for making headlines. It’s not every day the county’s top politician suggest he may leave his own party.
“You know it was a question that was asked. I was thinking about it and I was thinking about it. I don’t think I’m going to. It’s better, as I really thought about it. If I thought the Republican Party was going too far to the right it’s better for me to work it back from the inside than versus basically leaving it,” he said.
Three years ago Gimenez came into office during turbulent times. Property values were in a freefall. Voters had just ousted Carlos Alvarez over tax hikes and the public funding of the Marlins Ballpark. Gimenez pledged to restore trust.
“You restore trust by not over promising. Basically under promising and over-delivering. You restore trust by also having a competent government. And you also restore trust by having an honest government. I think in the first three years I have done that.”
The first changes he made started in his office. The mayor of the eighth largest community in the U.S. cut his salary in half. Today he still pays for his car and gas.
“I drive myself. I don’t have an entourage. I don’t have a security detail,” he said.
“Why?” Sutta asked him.
“I just don’t feel I need it,” he responded.
So far he’s personally saved the county nearly a million dollars.
Gimenez penny pinching politics has caused trouble though. Steep budgets proposals have pitted him against unions at times. The threat of closing down libraries this past fall had residents furious. He eventually backed off.
“Am I competitive? Yeah, absolutely I’m competitive. Do I like to win? Yeah, I like to win. I don’t like to lose. But can I say that might not have been the right way to do and shift mid-stride? Yeah I can do that too, but it’s very difficult for a politician to do that,” Gimenez admitted.
With the budget expected to improve in 2015, Gimenez now has his sights set on jobs.
“I want to make sure that our people, especially the ones that have been overlooked or passed in years past when these opportunities come around, that they are the ones who get these jobs.”
His plan calls for new jobs in construction, hospitality and of most interest to him technology.
Clutching his iPad and iPhone he explains, “I think technology will solve a lot of our problems and I think we are the brink of technological revolution that will solve a lot of our problems.”
It’s clear he’s very big on technology. He’s constantly on the iPad. He confirms it’s not angry birds.
“My iPad is a lot of e-mails. My iPad is also how I do speeches. My IPad is where I read the newspaper,” he said.
His favorite site is Realclearpolitics.com. And on the chance there is some downtime, he plays a little solitaire.
“Solitaire is actually good for the brain. And I try to do rapid-fire solitaire, so it’s like do I remember? Do I remember? Do I remember?”
He pulls up his latest game on the iPad. Gimenez proudly told Sutta his score was $68,785. His goal is $100,000.
Gimenez said if he had one thing he could pass without needing approval it would be fixing the taxi cab industry.
He wants ride-sharing companies here. He said he wants the ability to dial up a ride right from your smart phone and leave the old smelly cabs, behind.
Being mayor means Gimenez is always on. However, he has made an effort to keep something of a normal life.
He does the grocery shopping. Occasionally cooks for the family. And every Sunday morning, he sneaks in a round of golf.
“I wake up Sunday at 7 a.m. in the morning and I’m out there on the links. It’s great to hit a little ball and take out some of your frustrations.”
Gimenez prides himself in being “pretty good.”
He hopes that 2015 is a breakthrough year for South Florida.
“It’s taking off right before our eyes. We have to establish a firm foundation for greatness here, which means we have to live within our means. We have to have the right infrastructure. We have a competent government and an honest one. So that we can move forward and give our children and grandchildren better opportunities than we have,” Gimenez said.
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