Each candidate responded to a questionnaire provided by Community Newspapers and prepared by John Edward Smith. Answers to the questions appear exactly as the candidates provided them, without editing of any kind.
Valerie Newman has lived in South Miami for 16 years. She has been Corporate Accounts Manager for Relax the Back for five years, and is certified as an Ergonomist by the Back School of Atlanta. She served as South Miami Vice Mayor for two years and as Commissioner for five years. She has served on numerous City of South Miami committees, including the Budget and Financing Committee, the Commission on Women, South Miami Homeowners Association Board (President, 200-2004), and the Manager Selection Committee. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of South Florida (1972).
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Number of years living in South Miami?
What is your educational background?
BA Fine Arts from USF 1972
What is your present job? And for how long? (If less than 3 months, please also indicate prior.)
Relax The Back, Corporate Accounts Manager 5 Years, Certified Ergonomist, Back School of Atlanta
Have you ever served/or now serve on a City Board or Committee? Which one(s)? and when? Also, please note any other civic and community involvement.
Served on the City Of South Miami for 5 Years, Two years as Vice Mayor, Three as Commissioner City of South Miami
Budget and Financing Committee 2002-2003
Commission on Women 2000-2002
South Miami Homeowners Association Board / President 2000 – 2004
Farmer’s Market Committee 2002-2004
Manager Selection Committee 2002
David Fairchild PTAPresident Homeroom Parent / 1998, 1999
South Miami Middle School / Dance Magnet Booster President 2000
South Miami Senior High / Drama Club Booster President 2004
South Texas College of Law, Law Wives President 1972
What interests you about running for office?
My family and I love the City of South Miami. We all need to be involved in making this the best city to live, work, and play in. We need a forward thinking, professional, adult, commission that is capable of putting aside past conflicts and moving the city forward. I am confident that I will contribute the positive energy, experience and leadership necessary to unify and better all areas of the city.
What are the top three things you will focus on if elected that would help improve the lives of South Miami residents?
The most important focus is on ensuring that we put together a comprehensive strategic plan that encompasses the majority of our community’s most pressing issues: Affordable Housing Inventory, Responsible Development, Traffic Calming Strategies, Infrastructure Plan, Downtown business plan , Parks and Recreation plan, and Crime Prevention Strategy.
Many communities have implemented these plans with input from the residents and business community. The hard work required to develop a strategic plan will lead to a more cohesive community, goals and way to measure our progress.
A strategic plan will include all of our community, neighborhood and businesses to be a partner developing the plan and focusing on it’s completion.
Re-write our fragmented Land development Code and Code of Ordinances. My goal will be for the City of South Miami to hire professionals to work with our planning director and include citizen and taxpayer involvement.
This goes hand in hand with developing a strategic plan. We will never be able to progress forward with responsible development without the fear of lawsuits until our ordinances and codes are clearly defined. The government efficiency this will provide will be noticed in the City’s budget bottom line.
Find ways to increase revenues and decrease costs to deliver the best possible services for the least amount of money.
I believe that fiscal responsibility is owed to our taxpayers. Too many find it very easy to spend someone else’s money. At the end of the day I will pledge that my vote will not be the one that adds to government waste.
How do you believe the city can help local business and job development in our retail/restaurant district, TODD and our commercial zones?
Image and Branding. South Miami must complete the projects that are already part of the 5 Year Capital Improvement Plan! The Code re-write will benefit the downtown – for example, including in the code a mandatory window cling in an empty storefront with a nice graphic and the words coming soon.
Insure that our Downtown gets the attention it deserves from our Public Works and Landscape departments. Simple things like making sure the streetlights are all working, dead trees are replaced, and sidewalks are kept clean.
In the TODD district, South Miami needs to identify and attract upscale developments that attract young professionals, increasing our tax base, and support the downtown retail and restaurants.
Promoting development that will provide a mix of income levels to maintain some affordability but that will create a truly sustainable environment that all will benefit from.
Finally, I would love to see a boutique hotel find a new home in South Miami.
What would you do to help improve the City’s image, promote South Miami and promote civic and community events that will benefit residents?
Branding and Image are most important. The Mayor has to be able to provide the leadership for the commission to set the example of decorum, professionalism and cooperation in order to attract interest in South Miami. Next the Manager , Attorney, Directors and Staff need to be high caliber professionals capable of executing a plan.
We need to focus on obtaining Grants that promote the arts and culture. When I first moved to South Miami there was a yearly Jazz Concert in the First National Bank parking lot.
This was a meeting place for many residents and visitors. This highlights the need for a ”Town Square” or a Downtown park. As a part of the strategic plan, emphasis could be placed on acquiring property for such a purpose.
We should consider the examples of our neighboring cities: Hollywood has a great band shell on the beach attracting events, Miami has Bayfront Park. A Downtown Park would open many possibilities for civic and community events.