Serving the community was a tradition of his grandmother.
East Kendall Community Council chair Jorge L. Garciga remembers with special fondness the gold pin given him by Armanda Embade who passed away a little over a year ago.
“She wore that little pin proudly as councilwoman from the City of Santa Maria Del Rosario in La Habana,” recalled her American-born grandson who treasures the emblem of her office, worn in pre-Castro days.
“Her brother, Andres, was mayor of the same city at the time,” added Garciga who was elected to East Kendall’s Community Council in 2008, succeeding veteran member Robert Wilcosky. After two years of service, he was voted unanimously by his colleagues to succeed attorney Elliott Zack to chair the board this year.
His family’s devotion to public service “constantly reminds me of the need to serve the community,” he said.
Garciga is beginning his inaugural term as chair of Community Council 12 that covers unincorporated county areas generally located between S. Dixie Highway (US1) and Florida’s Turnpike.
While Garciga now presides over zoning or land use hearings, those were not the primary reasons he originally sought a council seat.
“The council’s non-zoning sessions first attracted my interest,” he explained. “To me, the ability to hear fellow-citizens discuss issues at a local level and be responsive is what I felt government is really all about.”
To achieve budget reductions the past two years, Miami-Dade commissioners canceled non-zoning meetings, but Garciga said, “They need to be restored. After all, it’s in the enabling statute that we hold those meetings.”
However, Garciga doesn’t believe the current charter reform movement needs to restore them.
“They’re already in the existing charter; it’s really just a matter of funding the operation,” he said.
To that end, he has met with newly elected District 8 Commissioner Lynda Bell to identify sufficient funding to hold “at least two town meetings annually in each council district, so people can have their say in local affairs…
“But it’s unlikely the amount for two meetings will be found in the coming fiscal year,” he continued. “It’s all a matter of not enough dollars, despite how little cost is involved.”
A graduate of Florida International University’s School of Architecture, Garciga is completing requirements for AIA certification. He currently is employed with MGE Architects of Coral Gables, a firm that specializes in healthcare and airport projects in Miami-Dade, including the design of the recently opened West Kendall Baptist Hospital.
A strong family background in the design business led to recognition in prestigious Art Basel venues for a contemporary chair he designed, built and then exhibited in several Miami galleries during 2009 and 2010. The chair won “Best of Show” at the 2009 Art by Design Exposition in Coral Gables.
As a strong proponent of LEED “green” projects, Garciga is proud of including requirements for national environmental accreditation in covenants of two recent rezoning applications for commercial developments.
Lessons learned from council service?
“It’s difficult to please everyone,” he laughed. “While voters think you should act for them, you have to view your action on a community-wide basis, and what is fair to all concerned. In the end, you rely on your own judgment to simply do what you believe is right.”
Garciga currently sits on Commissioner Bell’s committee to award “Mom and Pop” grants to deserving small businesses in District 8, a responsibility he considers “a great honor and experience, rewarding hardworking entrepreneurs throughout our county,” he said.
“The money goes to help business owners create more jobs and offer better services needed throughout the district.”
It’s just one more reason he is “considering” serving East Kendall once again when a second council term rolls around in 2012.