Coral Gables has officially seated its three newly elected city leaders: Mayor Jim Cason and Commissioner Frank Quesada, both reelected on Tuesday, and new Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick.
The commission also said goodbye to longtime Vice Mayor Bill Kerdyk Jr., who served 20 years on the dais. His absence ends a 70-year family lineage of service to Coral Gables. Quesada became vice mayor.
“Before stepping off the dais for the very last time, I want to encourage others in our community to step forward and dedicate themselves to public service,” Kerdyk said. “My years on the Coral Gables Commission have been humbling and spiritually enriching.”
Cason, Quesada and Slesnick were sworn in and assigned their seats on the dais.
▪ Cason: “It has been a privilege and an honor to have been your mayor for the last four years and to have received the voters’ support once again. ... For the record, crime is down, and we have plans to get it down even further. We will work to ensure that future development is in character with Coral Gables’ personality codes, and zoning regulations. Brickell will never come to Coral Gables.”
▪ Quesada: “I am so honored to have been elected. I believe that this current commission has done a lot good things; always finding a way of reaching an agreement and moving forward. Doesn't mean it’s smooth sailing ahead. We still have a lot of difficult decisions to make and difficult initiatives to tackle.”
▪ Slesnick: “I am thrilled to have been elected to serve the citizens of Coral Gables, an awesome responsibility that I will tackle with great vigor and humility. I look forward to working productively with my colleagues on the commission.”
Cason also took a shot at mayoral opponent Ralph Cabrera’s campaign platform, which accused Cason’s administration of ignoring some residents’ chief complaint: crime. All the while Cason has maintained that burglaries are going down.
The two also took different positions on the Mediterranean Village, a $500 million project that includes a 184-room luxury hotel, more than 300,000 square foot of office space, restaurants, stores, a gym and two condo towers that the developer, Ponce Agave, had to scale back to meet the city’s height limits.
Cason has said the complex off Ponce Circle will bring new residents, new revenue and new life to the Ponce and Miracle Mile corridors. Cabrera was concerned about increased traffic, density and the project’s impact on surrounding residential neighborhoods.
“I don’t want it to look like Brickell,” Cabrera said at a recent debate.
Cason won 57 percent of the vote to Cabrera’s 43 percent.
Cason, 70, a retired diplomat, sought his third two-year term as mayor, running against Cabrera, 56, an insurance executive who sat on the commission for 12 years before terming out in 2013. He ran against Cason in 2013, with Cason then winning about 71 percent of the vote.
Quesada, 35, an attorney seeking a second four-year term, won with a commanding lead over Enrique Lopez, 62, an IT consultant and lobbyist: 73 percent to 27 percent.
And in the highly contested Group V seat, where six candidates vied for the seat once held by Kerdyk: Slesnick garnered 32 percent of the vote in the crowded field. Her closest opponent was Tony Newell with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Sandra Murado with 19 percent, Ariel Fernandez with 16 percent, P.J. Mitchell with 6 percent and Jackson Rip Holmes with 1 percent.
Murado, Fernandez and Mitchell attended the swearing-in ceremony. Cabrera, Newell, Holmes and Lopez did not.