Nearly six months after the indictment and suspension of former mayor Lucie Tondreau, North Miami voters have chosen a new mayor.
Dr. Smith Joseph, 53, a physician, defeated former mayor Kevin Burns in a runoff election and will lead the city for at least six more months as he completes Tondreau’s term.
Joseph, who has never held public office, said that working with city staff and unifying North Miami will be some of his main priorities as mayor.
“My vision is to see North Miami as a place where east and west can live in perfect harmony,” Joseph said.
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The new mayor also wants to prioritize small business development and improve blighted areas.
“When you see the conditions that people are living in, sure you cannot turn people’s life around 180 degrees, but we can do a lot better,” Joseph said.
To reach out to those people, Joseph plans to develop a community task force with residents from across the city and reach out to younger residents by sharing his story.
“I came to this country with less than a dollar in my pocket when I was 18 years old,” Joseph said. “We have to motivate the children and the youth and tell them you may have been born poor, but you don’t have to die that way.”
Joseph went on to complete his medical degree at Nova Southeastern University in Broward County, and now practices family medicine in North Miami.
Council members hope that the past few months, with Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime leading as acting mayor, will be an example for how the council can work productively.
“I’m really hopeful that Smith with follow Philippe’s lead,” Councilman Scott Galvin said. “The City Council meetings have been cordial, we got things done and the infighting has not been there.”
Bien-Aime agreed and said that despite Joseph’s lack of political experience he thinks he will be able to adjust.
“I think there’s a big difference between a candidate and an elected official and I’m pretty much sure that Dr. Joseph will understand that,” Bien-Aime said.
Joseph said he has already met with the city manager and hopes to get to work quickly as the city works out the details of the recent Biscayne Landing residential parcel sale and the ongoing situation with the Museum of Contemporary Art.
“I’m going to be sworn in on Wednesday, and on Thursday it’s going to be back to business,” Joseph said.
Joseph’s swearing-in ceremony will be held during a special City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 776 NE 125th St.