North Miami’s new city manager has spent most of his 18-year career with the city staying away from the spotlight.
With a background in engineering, Aleem Ghany has mostly focused on pipes and pumps, but now he is one of the city’s faces of leadership during a tumultuous time. He said transitioning to a larger and more visible leadership position has been an adjustment.
“Slowly I’m taking it in stride, I’m warming up to the position,” Ghany said. “I’m more of a face for the city than just being in the background.”
Ghany started his service career when he was 18, working on highways and drainage for Trinidad’s government. He came to America about six years later so he and his wife could further their education. They both received degrees from Florida International University, and Ghany began working in the in the storm-water utility division of North Miami’s public works department.
He moved up the ranks in the department, eventually becoming the assistant director and then director, a role he had for about four years. When former City Manager Stephen Johnson left the job in April, the City Council selected Ghany to replace him. He got the job officially at the May 27 council meeting. His salary is $209,000 a year.
Councilwoman Carol Keys has been one of Ghany’s most vocal supporters, and at the May 27 meeting, several residents spoke in support of giving Ghany the job permanently. Ghany, who can be seen cracking a wry smile at city meetings, was somewhat emotional after his appointment drew applause from the crowd. He said he was grateful for the support and saw it as an acknowledgment of his service.
“It meant that I have done something that has meant a lot for people,” Ghany said. “Whether it was big or small, it made a difference.”
Ghany hopes to differentiate himself from his predecessor by providing “better customer service” to residents and encouraging transparency, mainly with the City Council.
“Transparency will come in communicating to my mayor or council and making sure they’re aware of the finances,” Ghany said.
The father of three wants to encourage a “we” mentality in the city and avoid divisiveness, which he said is partially influenced by his Caribbean background living and working in Trinidad and in North Miami.
“You’re always challenged with different personalities and different characters throughout your life,” Ghany said. “We are doing it together as a community and as a city.”
When he’s not focusing on the situations currently facing the city, like the ongoing battle with the Museum of Contemporary Art’s board of trustees or the development of the Biscayne Landing site, Ghany spends his time playing and watching cricket and soccer.
“Cricket was my passion, I played it in the South Florida Cricket [Alliance],” Ghany said.
As he continues in this bigger role on North Miami’s “team” he hopes to unite the city, which has dealt with divisions over class and race in the past.
“There’s this whole perception of east versus west. We’re one community. We’re one North Miami,” Ghany said.