Former Vice Mayor Armando Oliveros returned from an eight year prison sentence for money laundering to the city he built a life in. After the prodigal son humbly and contritely came back, the former lawyer decided to boldly throw his hat in the ring and campaign for commissioner this past February. Although he lost the election, Oliveros says he gained new courage, a better relationship with his kids, and a renewed sense of integrity. He sat down with South Miami News to share post-election reflections six months after a brutal campaign trail.
POST-ELECTION CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
“It was bittersweet. I was humbled by the support I got from many people, obviously knowing the background of what had happened to me. I received a great response by most citizens, what can I say, we gave it a shot and it didn’t work.
It was bittersweet because in many ways I was disappointed with this community. We still have so much apathy in one place and racism in another. I thought after all these years it would go away. I was very hurt on the day of the election when I had not one but two people in different situations come up to me and say ‘we believe you are the most qualified person in this race but we’re going to vote for Bob because he is a true American.’ I almost turned around and cried. What does it take to be considered an American? I was born in New York, that’s not enough? I love this country, that’s not enough? And these were not illiterate or ignorant people, these were intelligent people that I had looked up to, good business people. When they said that I realized I didn’t have a shot at winning this election if that was the sentiment. Also if there wasn’t so much apathy I would still have had a chance of winning. The nonanglo citizens, whether black or Hispanic are very apathetic. Most Hispanics didn’t vote. If they come now and complain it’s their own fault. If you don’t vote, don’t complain.
But what hurt me most about the election campaign were some of the comments made, I’m very sentimental, and comments about not being a true American hit me hard. I didn’t know if I was going to beat them up or cry coming from an intelligent person, that and the apathy in the Black and Hispanic community.”
“My son got to participate when I first ran (for office) although he was very young so it was great to get to campaign with my son and daughter now that they are older and we had great conversations about it and enjoyed being together on the campaign trail. They were proud of me for putting myself out there and that was incredible.
While we were going door to door to visit residents (I was scared sh__less at first to knock on doors) there was this older Cuban gentleman who has lived here for about 30 years and he said to me, ‘When you went away I prayed for you every single day’ he made me cry. Even though I lost the election comments like that made it not seem so bad. There was an older Anglo lady who read the article about my past as a convicted felon. The first thing she said to me was ‘tell me about it.’ It would take forever to knock on doors because I would stay and talk to people. So she said ‘oh so you had to bite the bullet huh, sh__ happens.’ And there were moments like that that made it worthwhile for me as an individual and for my daughter who was with me at the time. It hurt at times but overall it was a great humbling experience.”
ELECTION WINNERS AND CURRENT COMMISSION
“Kudos to them, they played their politics right and won the election but I think they are hurting the city. The way they run their campaign, they were very condescending to certain people after the election. The mayor’s group and Bob’s group, Harris’ group…they came up to me and said ‘hey maybe you can run again because you need more experience’ and I just walked away. They asked me ‘why don’t you serve on boards?’ I was on boards before you even moved to the city. (“I told the lady don’t be a hypocrite,” said Iliette Oliveros). Don’t try to make it up to me now after you say these things and criticize me so that bothered me. I didn’t attack any of them. I could have gone after Bob but the issue is to get the most qualified people to serve the city, the city we live in and pay taxes in and what is important for the community.
People don’t realize many of the groups that supported those elected have their own agenda and lifestyle to promote. They don’t like night life, they want their little farm land country. But this is not farm land, it is not the country. We are in the city and we have to move with the times. We can keep the small town ambiance but also promote the prosperity and the future because in the long run it is going to hurt the citizens if we don’t. It is the commercial areas and businesses that pay taxes and contribute to the quality of life, that’s what they don’t understand. When I look back at the old records when I was in office we had 60 something percent of the taxes paid by the businesses and now it’s only 51 or 52 percent…”
DIRECTION OF CURRENT COMMISSION
“We have a history of being antagonistic towards business and new development, a city is like a person and if you don’t present yourself as being open to another person they won’t talk to you. If the city doesn’t do something, like marketing or going out and lobbying, promoting the area, we have stagnation. Winn Dixie is falling apart, it’s been falling apart for years. Bacardi bought that property, now a third party tells me they’re not even going to do anything with it right now, they are going to let that lease run out because they’re not going to deal with this commission. When you have that attitude from people who can help a city it creates a stagnation in the development of the city and causes a domino effect.
You read articles about Bob Welsh did this, and the mayor is just worried about FPL and nothing else. Developers say we don’t want to deal with them, Brandon Lurie has been around a long time and he spoke very candidly about the situation. When you have a commission that tries to micromanage every department head there is a problem. These are city officials that are here just to legislate and have checks and balances. The department heads run the city, this is not a strong mayor city, it is a city manager city so you need to stay out of their business. You can’t tell the police chief what to do, you can’t tell the city manager what to do, you can’t tell the planning and zoning department what to do. You can offer advice, and say ‘please educate me’ so when you vote you know what you are doing but you can’t get involved. Once you have a commission that gets involved micromanaging departments people get scared.”
FUTURE INVOLVEMENT IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT?
“I have the energy but am not willing to ram my head against a brick wall if that’s a good example. With the commissioners we have now — not all of them — I don’t see myself working well with them. I could see the moment I walked in I would have to defend myself. I don’t like the hypocricy and I believe certain people are very hypocritical and I can’t work with people like that. I don’t have to agree with you, I may not agree with what Valerie says all the time or what Josh says all the time but at least they’re honest and they speak their mind. They speak what they really believe, they don’t cater to anybody. But then I listen to the other commissioners — not naming any individuals — and it is like they’re swimming back and forth in a stagnant water pool. They have their own agenda and forget about what is important to the community. Maybe it’s because I’m still hurt and feel like a bride jilted at the altar, I’m human. But right now I don’t want to confront them because I know it is going to be antagonistic and I don’t think that serves a purpose for anybody. As a private person I would be more than happy to do whatever I can to help. But I am old enough now to understand human behavior and don’t intend to beat my head up against a brick wall.”