When former mayor Julio Robaina Jr was a student at South Miami Senior High School his father got injured in an unsafe vehicle while working for the city. His dad’s post-accident treatment and the lack of courtesy Robaina observed when speaking before the commission in later years were enough to convince him he could do a better job. Citing similar challenges today of low staff morale and a divided community in decline, termed out State Representative and property management company owner Robaina will run for the mayoral seat opening in the February 14 election. “When I was mayor morale was so high employees voluntarily attended city events and would willingly stay at work after 5pm if necessary. It is hard to see how things have regressed since we became the All- America City. Once again civility is gone,” said Robaina.
A graduate of David Fairchild Elementary School, South Miami Middle School , and South Miami Senior High (and not to be confused with the former Hialeah mayor of the same name) Robaina got his start in local politics with the South Miami Homeowners Association (SMHA) after SMHA leaders Joyce Schecter and Joyce Hernden saw the potential in the young man who went to city commission meetings and spoke out.
“I was taken in by SMHA and invited everywhere. They taught me how to serve the residential and business community while protecting the quality of life. I first volunteered on Paul Young’s campaign and he became vice mayor. Mayor Tom Cunningham was a mentor and he encouraged me to run for office and that’s how I got started in local government. My roots run deep,” said Robaina.
In 1998 Robaina won his first commission campaign and received enough votes to enter city hall as vice mayor. He subsequently ran for mayor and won and served three consecutive terms from 1998 to 2002 before resigning during his third term in office to run for state representative.
“When you are born and raised in the community, this is about family. When I was in office, the commission had no agendas and mutual respect for everyone on the dais. The city saw the renaissance of downtown with outdoor dining and pedestrian friendly sidewalks. We worked in the community redevelopment agency area (CRA) and never forgot about our northern residents. We planted trees and acquired two parks (All America and Van Smith). Property values went up and taxes went down. We got to see our projects come into fruition,” said Robaina.
During his tenure Robaina said he brought 18 million dollars into city coffers by going to Tallahassee for Dade Days and through various other fundraising efforts and leaving office for Tallahassee was an effort to continue the revenue stream flow into South Miami. While serving as State Representative for District 117 he says he brought in another four million dollars before the monies dried up.
Of current issues Robaina supports the Murray Pool saying it is a critical project that must be seen to completion because the lives of kids who live near canals and may not know how to swim are at stake. He supports tempered annexation saying there are pockets of homes bordering South Miami that are benefitting from services due to inter-local agreements but not paying taxes on garbage pickup and 911 responses for example. “When I was mayor communities like Lakeridge and Bridgepoint approached us to be a part of the city. We can be a beacon once again.” Robaina supports the Madison Square development but is wary of another possible mega-mall.
“With the help of architect Victor Dover we started having charetttes (town hall style meetings on pertinent issues) back then and the residents developed the city documents to create a road map for development. We took a diamond and started polishing it. This is the kind of unity I want to bring back to the commission while not forgetting the business community,” said Robaina.
To contact Julio Robaina call 305-343-0776 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.