Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade paying $350,000 to send top administrators to FIU leadership course

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is touting a new leadership program for top administrators as a way to develop future talent in the county.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is touting a new leadership program for top administrators as a way to develop future talent in the county. El Nuevo Herald File 2014

Miami-Dade County plans to spend $350,000 on a 12-day leadership program for about 30 top administrators, with lessons on self-awareness, body language and a psychologist addressing the impact of family backgrounds.

Modesto “Mitch” Maidique, the former Florida International University president, designed the training program scheduled to launch this month on FIU’s main campus. Mayor Carlos Gimenez endorsed the plan as an efficient way to boost the performance of senior leaders in one of the country’s largest local governments.

“We have some of the greatest teachers and minds on leadership and organization coming to teach the 30 top people in Miami-Dade County. And next year, another 100, the next tier of leadership,” he said. “You need to develop your leaders. You need to develop your directors. You need to develop the successors to those folks.”

The price represents a tiny drip in the county’s $7 billion budget. Maidique said part of the initial fee helped pay for designing what will ultimately be a much broader program for managers throughout the 27,000-person county government. [How do much Miami-Dade’s top employees make? Check out the Miami Herald’s compensation database.]

You’re going to attract people who otherwise would not have come to Miami-Dade County. And you’re going to keep people.

Modesto “Mitch” Maidique, founder of new FIU leadership program for county managers

With a per-head tab topping $10,000 for the first phase, the training bill also comes amid budget angst in county government over the millions spent on Zika during last summer’s outbreak. In September, Gimenez cited emergency measures against the mosquito-borne virus in saying the county lacked extra dollars for last-minute requests from county commissioners for the 2017 budget.

Commissioners had hoped to pledge an extra $10 million this year toward affordable housing subsidies, but Gimenez’s budget office said only $387,000 was available from leftover 2016 funds. That prompted Commissioner Xavier Suarez to issue a press release back in January slamming the administration’s mid-year budget as “sorely deficient.”

This week, Suarez declined to begrudge Gimenez for launching the leadership effort, pointing to Maidique’s credentials. “I do respect Mitch,” Suarez said. He compared the program to Harvard University’s training sessions for local officials. “It sounds a little bit like what they do at the Kennedy School when they send up people for a couple of weeks. Everybody thinks that’s useful.”

Management schools across the country offer similar programs at high prices. A two-day leadership seminar at Northwestern University’s Kellogg school costs $7,300 (but includes lodging and meals). Last summer, Miami-Dade paid Harvard $12,400 for Commissioner Jean Monestime to attend the two-week “Senior Executives in State and Local Government” program at the Kennedy School (also including lodging and meals). It was the most recent example of Miami-Dade funding leadership training for senior officials; Gimenez said he attended the Harvard program on a scholarship while Miami’s fire chief.

The issue can get contentious. Juan C. Zapata, then a fellow commissioner, pointed to Monestime’s session after Zapata came under fire in 2015 for seeking county reimbursement for $31,000 of tuition fees as he pursued a master’s at the Kennedy School. Zapata withdrew the reimbursement request after a Univision story drew public attention to it.

Maidique secured $600,000 to launch the program, according to an FIU summary, with the Miami Foundation and Knight Foundation paying some of the costs. The former FIU president, who retired in 2009 after 23 years running the state school, said he designed the program to become more efficient as a few of the first wave of graduates help train other county managers farther down the bureaucracy.

You need to develop your leaders.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez

“This program is designed to reproduce itself,” said Maidique, who remains a management professor at FIU and serves as executive director of its leadership program in the business school. The agreement signed in January between FIU and Miami-Dade specifies future programs aren’t covered in the $350,000 start-up cost, and Maidique said the fee would likely remain the same even as classes grow.

A Jan. 9 memo from Gimenez instructs his top deputies and two dozen department chiefs to clear their calendars for six Thursday mornings (8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) and six Fridays (8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.) at FIU’s Maidique campus in western Miami-Dade — named after the former president in 2009.

Maidique said the program’s inspiration comes from General Electric’s leadership school, Crotonville. The corporate center takes its name from the New York city it calls home. Maidique named FIU’s program “Chapmanville,” after former Miami Herald publisher Alvah Chapman Jr., who also led the paper’s former parent company, Knight Ridder, and was an influential leader in Miami-Dade civic causes before dying in 2008.

Maidique will teach some of the courses, joined by other FIU professors as well as outside academics, including Hitendra Wadhwa, a Columbia Business School professor and founder of the Institute for Personal Leadership, and the founder of a Harvard program on negotiation, Daniel Shapiro.

A summary of the program provided to Miami-Dade includes modules on Self-awareness (including a psychologist to “address how life journey and family origin impact an individual”); Communication (including exercises to refine nonverbal communication); and Vision (with a focus on the data “revolution” under way in local governments and how to create a strategy for Miami-Dade to “better engage with its constituency and serve the public good more effectively”).

Maidique said he’s confident the county will reap rewards from the investment in training, including through improved recruitment. “You’re going to attract people who otherwise would not have come to Miami-Dade County,” he said. “And you’re going to keep people.”