Coral Gables Voters Will Head to the Polls April 9 to Choose a Mayor and two City Commissioners
The Contests: The mayor is up for re-election to a two-year term. Two of the four commission seats are up for election to four-year terms.
The Salaries: The office of mayor pays an annual salary of $38,870. City commissioners are paid $31,585 a year.
Registration: The same way you normally register to vote for national or state elections, in person or online. The deadline for registering for this election is March 11.
Voting: At any one of your normal voting precinct locations (there are 21); locations available from the Miami- Dade County Elections Department.
GROUP 1 (Mayor)
The mayor’s race pits incumbent Raúl Valdes-Fauli against Jeannett Slesnick in a rematch of a hard-fought election battle he narrowly won two years ago. Slesnick, a former commissioner, lost the 2017 contest by a 51-49 percent margin, a difference of fewer than 200 votes.
“We’ve had a great two years and the city is better than ever,” says Valdés-Fauli, 75, an attorney who served as a city commissioner and vice mayor from 1985 to 1988, and as mayor from 1993 to 2001. Under his leadership, the city has earned top bond ratings (AAA), dramatically reduced crime, and encouraged innovation and growth.
“I think the city needs and deserves leadership that is courteous and accessible,” says Slesnick, 71, a real estate broker who waited until the last minute to join the race. She says she will address the need for downtown parking garages and provide a check on what she calls the “in your face” high-rise development currently underway along U.S. 1.
GROUP 4 (Commissioner)
Four candidates are vying for the Group 4 commission seat being vacated by incumbent Frank Quesada, who chose not to seek reelection. Former commissioner Ralph Cabrera faces opposition from two first-time office seekers, attorney Jorge L. Fors, Jr., and former Assistant City Manager Carmen Olazabal, and downtown property owner Jackson Rip Holmes, who has previously run for office.
Cabrera, 60, who sat on the city commission for three terms between 2001-2013, says he wants to return to office because “I understand the importance of maintaining quality of life” and “insuring we develop in the right way.” Cabrera, owner of a commercial insurance consulting firm, cites past efforts to lower property taxes, reduce insurance costs and protect historic homes.
Olazabal, 42, is a structural engineer who runs a consulting firm. She has served as city Building Department Director, Assistant City Manager and Interim City Manager. “I am running because I love the community and want to continue to enhance the quality of life,” she says. Olazabal lists police and fire safety, traffic calming and preserving public spaces among her top priorities.
Jorge L. Fors, Jr
Fors, 35, an attorney and past president of the Coral Gables Bar Association, says he is running “to ensure that my daughter gets to grow up in the same Coral Gables I grew up in, with that neighborhood community feel.” Fors says the city needs to make sure development is controlled and responsible. “The number one responsibility is to do what residents want us to do,” he says.
Jackson Rip Holmes
Holmes, 67, a Coral Gables native, says he would work to bring an anchor department store to Miracle Mile as a way to increase the city’s tax base while preserving the low-rise nature of downtown. Holmes also supports the expansion of mass transportation to reduce traffic congestion, and wants to install misting machines in some downtown areas.
GROUP 5 (Commissioner)
In Group 5, incumbent Michael Mena, 38, an attorney, is unopposed. He was elected in April 2017 to serve the remaining two years in the term that Slesnick vacated to run for mayor. Among his areas of emphasis, says Mena, are improvement of parks, traffic calming and public safety.