Manolo Reyes was apparently the ultimate Miami City Hall insider. It just took him 28 years to find out.
Reyes, an economist and Westland Hialeah Senior High teacher, tried six times to win an election to the city commission before breaking through this month at age 73. He was sworn in as Miami’s District 4 commissioner two weeks ago, finally ticking off one of the items on his personal bucket list.
But now that Reyes has won his way to public office, he’ll have to wait until he can actually occupy his public office.
Since Nov. 16, Reyes’ office has been undergoing renovations that according to Miami’s city manager have been planned for months in order to gut and clean the mold-ridden space, which was also damaged by Hurricane Irma. It’s not clear how much the work will cost, but City Manager Daniel Alfonso wrote a memo to Reyes noting that the city had budgeted $50,000 for standard renovations before finding unexpected water damage.
The construction has been a major inconvenience for Reyes and his staff, who represent Flagami and several other neighborhoods. But Reyes says it also revealed something unexpected: a June 1989 copy of Spanish-language periodico Combate that featured a picture of Satanic graffiti on the cover.
That was alarming, to be sure. Even more jarring, the journal also carried a photo inside of Reyes’ campaign kickoff that year.
“The workers found this old newspaper behind the Sheetrock,” said Reyes. “It was crazy.”
Reyes would finish fourth in 1989 in an election ultimately won by Miriam Alonso. He’d run several more campaigns before winning a commission seat on Nov. 7 in an election scheduled to replace former District 4 commissioner and new Mayor Francis Suarez and fill out the remainder of Suarez’s commission term through 2019.
Reyes has already opened a reelection campaign account. But his staff, which includes former campaign consultant Steven Ferreiro as chief of staff and the son of former mayor Tomás Regalado, Jose Regalado, as legislative aide, have yet to move into their office.
For now, they’re working and taking meetings anywhere they can. Ferreiro said they hope to move back in Thursday or Friday, partly with furniture they purchased out-of-pocket from Ikea. Still, Reyes thinks maybe the old copy of Combate is a sign that the wait — all 30 years — has been worth it.
“Maybe the Lord had plans that I was going to be in that office,” he said.