Abreu said he was seduced by engineering when, at 10, he accompanied his father, a truck driver, to a bank that was being remodeled. A man sat in the center of the project with blueprints answering questions from the construction crew.
“I said, ‘How can you answer the question by looking at that?’ And he smiled and said, ‘Engineering,’ ” Abreu said.
While telling the anecdote, he started to cry. His father died four years ago.
“My dad put his arm around me and said, ‘If you learn engineering, you will never have to worry about paying your mortgage.’ ”
Abreu is a father himself, of two adult children, José and Marisa. His wife, Miriam, is PortMiami’s chief financial officer.
A natty dresser, Abreu has collected some 50 suits, he said, favoring Italian designer Ermenegildo Zegna. To the Opa-locka event, he wore a bespoke blue mohair suit, a white monogrammed shirt and a pink-and-blue Hermès tie.
Starting next week, Abreu plans to stay out of the spotlight, leaving González, 56, to fend for himself. Like Abreu, González’s annual salary will be $253,000.
From the get-go, González will have to deal with an ongoing shortage of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at MIA, made more acute by federal budget cuts known as the sequester. There’s also an open investigation by the Miami-Dade inspector general and the state attorney’s office into alleged overbilling by the airport’s hotel operator, which has denied wrongdoing.
And at his first commission meeting Tuesday, González will have to wrestle with MIA’s controversial baggage-wrap concession. Commissioners will consider Gimenez’s vetoes of a contract the board awarded this month.
It will also fall to González to land the last project in Abreu’s legacy: Airport City, a $512 million private-public partnership to develop 33 acres around MIA. Politics have stalled the plans; several commissioners oppose hiring contractor Odebrecht USA because a subsidiary of its Brazilian parent company works in Cuba.
Abreu predicted González will also have to take on MIA’s taxi industry. Passengers often complain that customer service is “dismal,” Abreu said — taxis don’t accept credit cards, some drivers reject short trips — but the taxi drivers don’t work for the airport.
His advice to González: Resist the pressure from airlines and employee unions to borrow more money, hurting MIA’s credit rating. Partner with the private sector for future construction. And be very aware of the myriad federal regulations that govern aviation.
“We engineers have a saying: ‘Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was erected in the first place,’ ” Abreu said.
The last time he appeared before the board, on March 5, several commissioners told Abreu they were sorry it was his last meeting.
“I’m not,” he responded, with a grin.