In Miami Beach’s search to find a new city manager, officials didn’t have to go far to find Jimmy Morales.
The former county commissioner, current city attorney of Doral and Harvard grad was born and raised on the Beach. He was the 1980 class salutatorian and student council president at Miami Beach Senior High.
Now, he’s one of three finalists being considered to fill the city’s top administrative post, which came open in June when former City Manager Jorge Gonzalez was forced to step down.
“I haven’t been this excited about something like this in a long, long time,” Morales told Beach commissioners at a recent meeting.
References interviewed by the city’s headhunter describe Morales as amiable, honest and competent.
“He understands the push and pull of local politics and the importance of being accessible, transparent and not playing favorites,” Merrett Stierheim, a veteran Miami-Dade County bureaucrat, told the Beach’s headhunter.
As a special master for Miami Beach from 2005 to 2007, Morales heard cases of code violations. He also was a registered lobbyist with the city from 2006 - 2011. Among his clients: hotels such as the Lowes, Ritz Carlton and Fontainebleau; the Smith and Wollensky restaurant; and others.
Morales, who told Miami Beach commissioners that his greatest weakness is being “too nice,” jumped into Miami-Dade’s no-holds-barred political scene in 1996. A political newcomer, he ran for — and won — a spot on the county commission. He served two terms, until 2004
As a county commissioner, at a time when several elected officials and county employees were carted to jail for bribery and corruption, Morales quickly made a name for himself as a reformer. He proposed more than 700 items of legislation while on the dais.
Among his accomplishments: the creation of the Commission on Ethics and the Public Trust and discrimination protection for gays.
He also helped pass regulations on campaign finance — legislation that he would later be accused of violating when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for county mayor in 2004. The ethics commission tossed out a complaint that a political committee, Hispanics for Better Government, possibly skirted reforms Morales helped to enact by spending almost all of the tens of thousands of dollars it raised on Morales’ campaign.
Morales, 50, has been out of elected office since his failed mayoral bid — though his name was floated as a possible gubernatorial candidate. Morales said he’s not interested in political office anymore, joking at a public interview with Miami Beach commissioners that his mother won’t let him run again.
Morales, who went to Harvard on scholarship, is a shareholder in the law firm Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson. He’s currently city attorney of Doral.
Morales is married to Dori Foster-Morales, and they have two children.
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