“She’s not controversial,” said Roly Marante, another Sosa former chief of staff. “She’s seen as the friendliest commissioner. When she has a disagreement with the mayor, they can do it in a very elegant way.”
Former Commissioner Natacha Seijas praised Sosa as a straight shooter.
“She was truthful, she was fair, she was honest,” said Seijas, who said she was “ecstatically proud” to see a Cuban-American woman at the commission helm.
But the challenge for any chairperson is to keep the administration, led by a strong mayor, in check, Seijas added. “The commission itself has a lot of power, and sometimes I don’t think they know how to use it,” she said. “That might be one of her weaknesses: how to work it through and demand the power of the commission.”
Sosa is considered an ally of Mayor Carlos Gimenez — in stark contrast to former Chairman Joe Martinez, who used the position as a bully pulpit to unsuccessfully challenge Gimenez in the August election.
In her new role, Sosa will have to wrangle a commission that voted 7-6 to make her chairwoman over Commissioner Barbara Jordan. (A subsequent motion made the vote unanimous.) She has announced plans to create eight commission committees, up from six, giving more of her colleagues committee chairmanships.
Some commissioners appear nervous that Sosa plans to trim staff in the commission auditor office and perhaps move oversight of the commission’s intergovernmental affairs office, which deals with state and federal lawmakers, to the mayor’s office. Her goal: to repurpose the captured dollars so commissioners can travel, or spend money at will on district services, including grass-cutting and small-business grants.
While Sosa says her goal is “to save some money,” how the move would generate savings is still unclear. Under her plan, personnel in those commission-support offices would be moved to other county departments that would presumably have to pay their salaries.
Moreover, bolstering commissioner’s individual spending accounts could raise eyebrows. Facing public backlash and a slow economy, individual commissioner office budgets have been slashed to $814,000 a year, from a peak of $1.2 million. Commissioners use that money to run their offices, fund events and hand out grants to community-based organizations that often helped propel the officials to election victories.
For now, Sosa is preparing for her new post by continuing the constituent services that have made her so popular. The week before Christmas, she organized a toy giveaway and brought mariachis to a holiday party for seniors — where Sosa, a self-described “shower singer” who relishes the spotlight, sang Si nos dejan and Solamente una vez, two standards.
Twice a year, Sosa said she hopes to hold commission meetings outside County Hall.
“There’s a very big disconnect,” she said. “Sometimes as a government, maybe we get a little bit arrogant. What I would love to see is more people getting familiarized with what we do.”