- Faith & Family
Like the popular TV family the Jeffersons who “moved on up to the East Side,” Cuban-born Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa [District 6], 58, a 30-year veteran educator and former mayor of the City of West Miami, recently made history as the first Hispanic woman chosen as chairperson for the Board of County Commissioners.
Sosa, who has been on the Commission since 2001, was elected by a 7-6 decision to replace outgoing Chairman Joe Martinez in a vote that was ethnically and ideologically split. She was supported by the other four Hispanics, with her vote being the fifth, and by Commissioners Sally Herman and Lynda Bell who was elected as vice chairwoman. It’s also the first time that two women have served the top two leadership positions. Sosa beat out Barbara Jordan for the chairman’s seat who was supported by the other Blacks on the Board — Audrey Edmonson, Jean Monestime and Dennis Moss, along with Bruno Barreiro and Xavier Suarez. Some say the two sides also reflect political persuasions with Sosa and her supporters being more conservative vs. Jordan and her supporters who are viewed as more liberal.
But now that the vote has been taken, can Sosa bring unity to the Commission? She says yes.
“I did appoint those who supported with committee chairs and yes that’s what’s commonly done,” she said. “But I also appointed Commissioners Edmonson and Moss to two important committees [Health & Social Services, Transportation & Aviation, respectively]. There will be shared chair or vice chair posts for every member of the Commission. The chairman has been elected — now we have to move forward and work together.”
Sosa has been an ardent supporter of M-D County Mayor Carlos Gimenez when he was challenged by Martinez for mayor. But she says that while the voters opted for a strong mayor, “the Commission serves as the legislative feet for the County.”
“The best use of power is when we join forces, even when we disagree,” she said. “I think it actually benefits the voters when we have differences of opinion during our discussions. Whether one is referring to the Mayor or to the County Commission, we don’t represent ourselves — we represent those who voted for us.”
Commissioner Dennis Moss believes that Blacks in Miami-Dade County should be optimistic “in light of our particular and unique needs” and says that while he believed that Jordan had the greater experience and background, it’s time to “get behind the new chair and move the County in a positive direction.”
In what is a change of opinion, Moss now supports city hood and incorporation.
“You have to wonder why areas like Liberty City and some communities in the south remain more disadvantaged than others — why they don’t look as nice, aren’t as clean and don’t have the same kinds of businesses,” he said. “I’ve tried to address the issue of more equitable sustainability through the County Commission but what happens is as resources become limited, those areas that were hardest hit are hit hard again. As a city, they might have a better chance at generating revenues to ensure essential services.”
Sosa did not comment on incorporation but said she will support commissioners whose citizens have greater needs.
“I think we have to pay attention to and target areas in greater need of development and allocate funds to help them,” she said. “We have to put the infrastructure in place so that new businesses want to locate in all parts of Miami-Dade County. We will go where there is the most need — like District 2 [Monestime] and several cities in the south [Moss].”
Edmonson says Sosa will bring more unity and cohesiveness to the Commission and is eager to work with her. And Jordan believes that “Sosa will rise to the occasion.”
“I think it’s good that the new chairwoman has established eight committees instead of the six we had previously,” Jordan said. “That allowed for some who didn’t support her on the vote to get committee chair seats. Even though I was defeated in my bid for the chair, I don’t see the split vote as a dividing line on the Commission. You vote for who you favor but that doesn’t mean you can’t work together.”
By D. Kevin McNeir