Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has chosen his pick to head the county-owned Miami International Airport.
Emilio T. González, former director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under President George W. Bush, will replace retiring aviation director José Abreu, who is retiring at the end of the month.
In a memo to county commissioners announcing the appointment Friday afternoon, Gimenez highlighted González’s experience running a federal agency with a $2.5 billion budget and 19,000 employees.
“I want to thank José Abreu for his service and commend him for his many accomplishments during his time at the Aviation Department,” Gimenez said in a statement announcing the appointment. “I am confident that Emilio González — with his knowledge of domestic and foreign business, government and policy practices — is the ideal person to lead our airports forward.”
González’s appointment will be effective as of April 1, though he will begin working a week earlier to transition into the job. Abreu retires on March 31. The aviation department comprises more than 1,200 employees and has a nearly $429 million annual operating budget. The department oversees MIA as well as smaller airports, including Kendall-Tamiami and Opa-locka executive airports.
A 56-year-old Cuban exile, the accomplished González has a doctorate in international relations from the University of Miami. He spent 25 years in the Army, at one point teaching at the U.S. military academy at West Point.
González most recently worked as a president and CEO of NPI Advisors, a consulting firm that among other things assisted businesses looking for entrepreneurial visas to immigrate to the United States. He had said earlier this year that he was considering running for mayor of the city of Miami.
González spent several years working in Washington, first as director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Agency and then at the Department of Homeland Security. He left his immigration director job in 2008 after two years, in which he sought to decentralize the bureaucracy and adopt new technology to speed up delays.
“Emilio put in place common sense policies that modernized the agency and cut in half the extensive backlogs for which the agency was known,” said one of his longtime fans, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who praised González’s appointment. “I'm sure that Emilio will be an outstanding aviation director.”
González is perhaps best remembered in Miami for shutting down the antiquated immigration offices on Biscayne Boulevard and 79th Street.