Hardemon talks people, politics and plans for Dist. 5

Youngest commissioner since the switch to single-member districts

D. Kevin McNeir | 12/5/2013, 9 a.m.
Liberty City-born Keon Hardemon, 30, has 10 days until he officially settles into his new City Hall office as the ...

Liberty City-born Keon Hardemon, 30, has 10 days until he officially settles into his new City Hall office as the city commissioner for District 5. But he says he’s already had meetings with Miami’s top brass including the city manager, attorney and mayor. And he’s learned a lot since his first failed attempt for public official two years ago when he allowed his temper to get the best of him during a televised debate on Mike Putney’s Sunday show against then-opponent, County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson.

“I learned in that first run at public office to appreciate all opportunities to speak publicly and that one has to be clear and in control when dealing with the media, other public officials and the public in particular,” he said. “You earn votes because people believe that you’re a problem solver. That’s what you have to show about yourself. I’m used to working in the courtroom but political office is a different playing field. After the first election, I had the good fortune to attend a Congressional Black Caucus boot camp and was sponsored by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. It was six weeks that taught me a great deal about running a campaign and winning it. And I learned how to listen a lot more.”

Much has been said about Hardemon’s youth. Even Judge Orlando Prescott mentioned it during the swearing-in ceremony, saying that while seasoned men and women bring needed experience, younger folks bring energy and zeal to public office.

“I just turned 30 on October 20th but I don’t think age is all that important,” he said. “You can’t look at one’s age in a vacuum. I consider my collective experiences to be unusual for one as young as me. I have had the opportunity to be groomed by my coaches when I was a teen, my instructors in business and law school and even mentors like Judge Prescott after I passed the Florida Bar. So I have the perspective of someone much older. Even my grandmother has said that I always had an old soul. It will all serve me well in building bridges and filing in gaps within our District.”

No animosity with the old regime

Hardemon won the election garnering 72 percent of the vote over his opponent, the Rev. Richard Dunn, II. He admits that his victory was secured by the endorsement of his mentor, former City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. He set the record straight on their relationship.

“Michelle did an amazing job for this District and I really appreciated her help with the election,” he said. “But she’s moved on to go after other personal goals and will not be part of my administration. Her chief of staff, Cornelius Shiver, could figure prominently in my office personnel and he’s offered great advice to me so far. But what I want is the best people I can find — not friends, family or political allies — to be part of my team. I’ll be making announcements to that end in the coming days.”