With a few honks from his black Kia Optima, Michael Pizzi pulled up to the mayor’s parking spot in front of Miami Lakes Town Hall on Wednesday afternoon.
“It feels great, it feels fantastic,” he said, after getting out of his car.
A crowd of residents began to cheer the returning mayor’s name, some even gave him hugs, kisses and words of encouragement as he neared the building.
“He has a big heart,” said Wendy Armesto, one of the residents who hugged Pizzi. “He’s very charismatic, and very humble. He touches you as a human being.”
Pizzi himself was all smiles as he spoke at a press conference.
“This long and very hard journey has finally, after almost two years, come to a successful conclusion,” Pizzi said. “I’m back exonerated, I’m back with my sleeves rolled up, and I’m back to resume my duties, right this second, as the mayor of the great town of Miami Lakes.”
He later invited residents to come up with him as he entered the mayor’s office, the same place where he was arrested in August 2013 on federal bribery charges.
Pizzi was acquitted of those charges in August 2014 and has been fighting for reinstatement ever since.
On Friday, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal ruled that Pizzi could return to office, and on Monday the town and Wayne Slaton announced they wouldn’t fight the court’s decision.
“As of right this second, this chapter is closed,” Pizzi said. “And we move on to a chapter of unity, a chapter of happiness, and a chapter of 100 percent focus on parks, police, infrastructure and beautification and making Miami Lakes the best city in the United States of America.”
Up in his office, a group that included residents, supporters and Pizzi’s children gathered as Pizzi counted to three in English, and Spanish, before sitting down in the mayor’s seat.
“I made it back, I made it back,” Pizzi said, once he seated.
He then asked to be handed his copy of the Men’s Devotional Bible.
“I think, to tell you the truth, what got me through this was my faith in God and this Bible,” Pizzi said before pausing for a moment. “There were some times when it wasn’t always easy for my family and my children and my supporters.”
Pizzi thanked the residents of Miami Lakes, his supporters, his attorneys and others who stood by him.
“The people of Miami Lakes, my friends, you are the most loyal, fantastic, God-loving people in the world,” Pizzi said.
He then concluded by saying: “Now it’s time to focus on work.”
If you go
The next Miami Lakes council meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. May 5 at 6601 Main Street in the council chambers.