Gerald Schwartz, a force behind Miami Beach politics for nearly five decades, died on Monday.
The Aventura resident was 90 years old.
For years, Schwartz had a hand in who was elected a judge in Miami-Dade. And he was involved in Jewish causes across South Florida.
“Gerald was a great husband, father and grandfather,” said his son Gregg, an attorney. “He was a positive human and praised his family and friends.”
Widely known as “The Kingmaker,” Schwartz cemented his career as a political consultant when he ran Harold Shapiro’s mayoral campaign in 1953 — with the help of a brave stunt.
The University of Miami graduate notoriously placed three rowboats filled with signs for the Beach candidate in Biscayne Bay. A few days before the election, he paid the boats’ owner to sink them, then complained to the press that somebody sunk “Shapiro’s Navy.”
Shapiro won — and Schwartz’s Rolodex started to fill.
Over his long and storied career, the political consultant assisted dozens of mayors and commissioners, including Alex Daoud, Malcolm Fromberg, Ben Grenald, Abe Resnick and Sidney Weisburd. He helped the campaigns of more than 50 Miami-Dade judges.
His fee during his prime was hefty: $13,000 for a commission race, $22,000 to run a mayoral bid. But he got the job done.
The New York City native handled the campaigns of dozens of Miami-Dade judges and state lawmakers.
Schwartz, a lifelong University of Miami Hurricanes fan, also had non-political clients, including South Shore Hospital, the Muss Organization and Capital Bank.
In 1988, Schwartz came up with another infamously ingenious idea: He snagged the city’s public relations post by offering to take a $1 a year salary. He later complained he needed a raise, which he received, to $36,000 a year.
But three months later, the Florida Commission on Ethics ruled that Daoud, Grenald, Resnick and Weisburd created conflicts of interest by hiring Schwartz for their campaigns after they voted to give him the job. Schwartz resigned the day before the ruling.
Among Schwartz’s many other accomplishments: He was the longtime chairman of the Prime Ministers Club Of State Of Israel Bonds of Greater Miami; the founding editor of The Jewish Star-Times, a subsidiary of the Miami Herald; and was honored as a 50-year member of Public Relations Society Of America.
Schwartz is survived by his wife of 67 years, Felice, sons Gary and Gregg, daughter Wendy, and numerous grandchildren.
Services are set for 2 p.m. Thursday at Levitt-Weinstein, 18840 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami Beach. Burial will follow at Mount Nebo Miami, 5505 NW Third St., Miami.