González was 9 when his parents became naturalized U.S. citizens at a ceremony in Tampa.
He later attended the University of South Florida, graduating in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations. González also obtained a master’s degree in Latin American studies at Tulane University, another master’s degree in national security studies from the U.S. Naval War College, and a Ph.D. in international affairs at the University of Miami.
González studied while he served in the U.S. Army for 26 years, with postings around the world. Eventually, he made the rank of colonel, taught at West Point and served as military attaché at U.S. embassies in Mexico and El Salvador.
In 2000, he served as special assistant to Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, then commander-in-chief of the U.S. Southern Command, based in Doral.
Also in 2002, González joined President George W. Bush’s administration as the National Security Council’s director for Western Hemisphere affairs, handling the Cuba issue.
After that assignment, González returned to Miami to work at Tew Cárdenas, a law firm that lobbies in Washington. González helped the firm expand its global practice in Latin America.
González’s wife, Gloria Aristigueta, is a retired elementary and preschool teacher in Miami.
“She is now a full-time grandmother,” said González, referring to his grandson, 8-month-old Noah, the son of Gloria, one of his two daughters. The other is Victoria, who works for the Hawn Foundation, which helps teach children social and emotional skills.
After leaving U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2008, González returned to the private sector, becoming the Miami-based representative of Spanish technology multinational Indra.
“I helped establish them here in the U.S.,” he said. “I was their chief executive officer for North American operations.”
After 3 ½ years, González opened his own consulting firm: NPI Advisors.
But when Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez asked him to take the Aviation Department job, González found the offer intriguing enough to accept it. He replaced José Abreu, a former Florida Department of Transportation secretary, who retired in March.
“I was approached by the mayor to see if I would be interested in doing this, and I thought about it and I said this would be pretty cool,” said González. “It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to be the director of an airport this big and this complex.”
For González, MIA is almost like a city unto itself.
“We have about 110,000 to 115,000 passengers a day that come through here and then you add on another 35,000 or so employees, so you’re looking at a city of roughly 150,000 people,” said González.
While Abreu oversaw completion of much of the renovation of MIA, it will be González’s task to manage the final phase of the overhaul: reconstruction of the central terminal. This portion of the project also involves renovation of the airport hotel, which has begun.
In the end, says González, his goal is to make MIA not only an efficient airport but a pleasant one — one that travelers will enjoy even if their flight is delayed.
“The bigger the airports, the more complex they are, the more likelihood of a delay,” said González. “If I’m going to be delayed four hours in an airport, I want to make it a good experience. I want to turn a bad experience into a good experience.”