Miami-Dade County Attorney Robert Cuevas Jr. plans to retire this fall, with deputy Abigail Price-Williams in line to take his place.
Cuevas, 69, is expected to retire in September after eight years in the post, several sources said Wednesday, and County Commission Chairman Jean Monestime is asking fellow commissioners to name Price-Williams as the next county attorney.
Price-Williams, 56, joined the attorney's office in 1990, and headed the legal team dedicated to Miami International Airport and the Jackson hospital system before Cuevas named her as his first assistant county attorney when he got the top job in 2007. She would be both the first woman and the first African-American to serve as Miami-Dade’s county attorney, the top lawyer for Florida’s largest local government.
“There are a lot of firsts with her,” said County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson. “She’s doing a lot of the work now. She’s already proven herself to be able to do the job.”
Cuevas and Price-Williams declined interview requests.
Next week’s county commission agenda includes a resolution by Monestime to name Price-Williams as Cuevas’ successor. Commissioners appoint the county attorney, subject to a veto by the mayor.
A county agency with a budget of $22 million and a staff of 120, the attorney’s office is known for long tenures by senior lawyers and some of the highest salaries in Miami-Dade government.
Cuevas joined the county's legal staff during the Nixon administration, in 1970, then rose through the ranks to hold both the top spot in the office and the top paycheck in county government. His $352,000 yearly compensation was tops in Dade Data's 2014 pay ranking. Price-Williams, earning $306,000 at the start of 2014, held the No. 3 slot. Of the 20 top pay slots, 18 belonged to the County Attorney’s office.
As the county’s top lawyer, Cuevas managed the legal office through the tricky waters of the shift to a strong-mayor form of government in 2007 and the 2011 mayoral recall, as well as stadium negotiations with the Marlins, Dolphins and Heat, and, most recently, the land deal behind American Dream Miami's plans to bring the largest mall in America to Northwest Miami-Dade.
The county attorney post is one of the most powerful in Miami-Dade government, since it runs an office that represents both the executive and legislative branches of government.
County lawyers frequently have the last word on when commissioners can take a particular vote, revisit past decisions or how to interpret legislation or contracts. Cuevas is the only non-elected official to have an official portrait hanging outside the county commission chambers.
This will be Cuevas’s second retirement from the County Attorney’s office. In 2007, Cuevas was the first assistant under then-County Attorney Murray Greenberg when both were set to leave Miami-Dade under Florida’s deferred-retirement program. The program lets employees accumulate pension payments early while still on the government payroll, provided they agree to a mandatory retirement date within five years.
Commissioners still voted Cuevas as Greenberg’s successor, bringing him back on the payroll after a retirement that lasted one month in order to comply with state rules on the rehiring of retired employees.