Five people are vying for the Miami Lakes mayor’s seat after former mayor Michael Pizzi was arrested in August. The winner of the Oct. 1 election will take over for the remaining three years of the four year term.
The special election is a result of Gov. Rick Scott’s suspension of Mayor Michael Pizzi following his Aug. 6 arrest on federal charges of conspiring to commit extortion. The Miami Lakes charter mandates that an election take place within 90 days of an official leaving office, when a seat becomes vacant with six months or more remaining in a term.
There are also three people running for an empty council seat. Councilman Nelson Hernandez resigned from the town council in order to run for mayor.
David Bennett, 55, says he wants to get Miami Lakes back to the small-town feel he says was the original plan when it incorporated.
“I want to go back to what the town of Miami Lakes was set up to do 13 years ago,” Bennett said.
Bennett has been active in town affairs for several years, running public-records requests and challenging council decisions. He said he believes this kind transparency is important for the office of the mayor. He was upset with how little there was before.
“It’s very frustrating for me,” Bennett said. “Miami Lakes is a great little town. We shouldn’t have to be dealing with all of this.”
This is not Bennett’s first time running for election. He has previously run for a commission seat in the last two elections.
Luis Espinosa, 51, is a newcomer who said he felt like the town government needed new blood.
“I just wanted to see a new face,” Espinosa said.
Espinosa said he felt like he was seeing the same people run for office over and over again at all levels of government.
He is a teacher at Miami Edison Senior High School and a former firefighter. He does not want to make major changes, but rather ensure that the city remains on a focused path.
“I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, and I don’t want to fix anything that’s not broken,” Espinosa said. “I think that we’re headed in a good direction.”
Nelson Hernandez, 27, said he is intent on preserving the small-town feel of Miami Lakes.
Hernandez, who resigned from town council to run for mayor, said he does not want to annex any of the surrounding areas. There was discussion of doing so when former Pizzi was serving.
“I think it’s important to preserve the small-town brand,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez wants to work on beautification and build up Main Street, potentially as an outdoor cafe area.
“Main Street as so much potential, “ Hernandez said. “That’s one of the biggest things I want to do as mayor.”
Hernandez, who is set to graduate from the University of Miami with a master’s in business in December, also wants to focus on bringing in more grant-funding for town improvement projects in order to lower tax rates and focus tax dollars elsewhere.
Edwin Romero, 37, wants to focus on reducing crime and focusing on education.
“Miami Lakes needs a new leader, and they need someone who really knows about Miami Lakes,” Romero said.
The real-estate broker said he wants to focus on safety in the town and aim for a 100 percent graduation rate for schools. Romero said he also wants to ensure that pending improvement projects are not stalled.