Monica Cepero found herself staring down dozens of lobbyists, with no one on her side.
As a policy director for then-Gov. Jeb Bush, she was speaking in front of a committee to encourage the passage of an energy bill that utility companies opposed.
“That was probably the most challenging day that I had in that role, ... me against 20 lobbyists, ... and just trying to stand up and explain what was the right thing to do,” Cepero told Miami Beach commissioners at a recent interview. “Fortunately, it worked out in our favor, but it was tough.”
She’s looking for a new challenge now: to become city manager of Miami Beach. She is one of three finalists vying for the job, which came open in July after former City Manager Jorge Gonzalez was forced to resign.
“I think I have the skill set and the whole package,” Cepero told commissioners.
References who spoke to Miami Beach’s headhunter described Cepero as diligent and responsible.
A Florida State University grad, Cepero, 43, began her government career with an internship with the city of Tallahassee. There for about eight years, she worked her way to up to become a senior analyst in the Department of Management and Administration, according to her resume.
From there, Cepero went to work for Bush as a policy coordinator, dealing with environmental and budget issues. When the cities of Miami and Opa-locka found themselves under the state’s financial oversight, Cepero was a member of the board that was tasked with keeping an eye on the way the cities handled their budgets.
Cepero included Bush as a reference in her application for Miami Beach.
“Monica and I worked closely together,” Bush told the Beach’s headhunter. “She is a very talented lady, and she did a fine job.”
Cepero moved into the private sector for almost two years, working as a manager for a global design, project management and consulting company, before jumping back into the public sector. She has been an assistant to the county administrator in Broward since 2008, where she is assigned oversight of various departments and projects.
Under her purview at one time or another: the Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport’s runway expansion, and development and improvement analysis of the Miami Dolphins Sun Life Stadium and the Bank Atlantic Center.
In all her time in government work, Cepero rarely made headlines. A search of news articles from the Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee areas turned up no hits under her name.
Cepero has two kids with her partner, Victoria Brennan, who is a Miami-Dade Circuit judge. They live in Coconut Grove.
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