But Sosa survived, undergoing surgeries for five years. She still has the letters.
“When I die, they will get them,” she said of her children. Her daughter, a nurse, got married just a few weeks ago; her son, a teacher, is married and has an 11-year-old son, Alexander, with whom Sosa plays Nintendo DS. Her husband, a former construction developer and insurance salesman, is retired.
The couple lives in West Miami, the tiny city of about 6,000 that elected Sosa, a Republican, commissioner in 1990 and mayor in 1994. At one point, she shared the dais with a young commissioner named Marco Rubio. The two are still close.
As mayor, Sosa took over a city on the brink of bankruptcy and helped restore its financial health. She fought for state money to build a stormwater drainage system that eased West Miami’s flooding. Sosa likes to remember how she had then-Gov. Jeb Bush tour her waterlogged city — and wade in the floodwaters to experience their height.
“She put him in a Jeep, told him, ‘Take off your socks,’ ” recalled Aguilar, the city manager. “He literally took off his socks, rolled up his pants.”
Sosa jumped to the county commission in 2001, in a special election following the departure of Pedro Reboredo, who resigned after a corruption scandal. A clear favorite, Sosa ran like an incumbent, with the support of then-Mayor Alex Penelas, developers and other politically connected donors. She has since faced only minor opposition, if at all, to represent District 6, which includes West Miami and portions of Hialeah, Miami Springs, Coral Gables and Miami.
Among the highlights of her commission career has been leading a group that revamped the way the county procured bids for new contracts — an effort that won Miami-Dade a prestigious national award. But she opposed limiting or removing the commission’s power to award contracts, as proposed by then-Mayor Carlos Alvarez, arguing that doing so would hide hiring decisions from the public.
A task force she was involved with recommended ways to reduce elder abuse. She was on a committee studying how to modernize county jails to provide more rehabilitation and job training. And Sosa, an avid cruiser with family ties to Spain, has pushed to lure more cruise companies to PortMiami and to establish nonstop flights to Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, from Miami International Airport.
One of her most scrutinized votes was to approve a much-criticized deal to build a new Miami Marlins ballpark.
“I considered that the way the stadium deal was structured, where it didn’t use one cent of property-tax money from residents but sports taxes and hotel bed taxes, was another way to bring tourism and for residents to feel proud of something,” Sosa said.
But she conceded the deal could have been less lopsided in the Marlins’ favor if the county had been able to review the ballclub’s financial books. “If I had had the financial statements in hand, perhaps we would have thought of a more beneficial contract,” Sosa said.
Despite her stadium vote, Sosa has not drawn the wrath of well-heeled commission critic Norman Braman, the Miami auto magnate — perhaps because she did not support a subsequent, unpopular property-tax rate increase in the midst of a recession. She has also sponsored reform-minded legislation, such as imposing term limits on commissioners, which voters approved in November.