Carollo to enter private sector after long run in Miami politics
When Joe Carollo steps down Sunday as Miami's mayor, he will be out of a job and said he plans to start a business.
After being immersed in Miami's politics since 1979, Mr. Carollo said, he's not planning to run again for a city post - at least, for now. He said he wants to start his own enterprise in international trade, a field he said he knows well.
Mr. Carollo said he oversaw the export of disposable medical materials from 1987, when he lost a commission seat, to 1995, when he came back as a commissioner for a short time before becoming mayor in 1996 following the death of the late Steve Clark.
Monday he publicly endorsed Manny Diaz for this week's mayoral run-off but said he would be willing to assist his opponent, Maurice Ferre, as well should he win.
"If they ask me," he said, "I will help him in any way I can."
After his Nov. 6 primary election defeat, finishing third in a 10-candidate field, Mr. Carollo, also asked Miami residents to welcome his successor, whoever he might be.
Saturday, unwinding from the race, he would not say if he would consider becoming a political consultant or lobbyist. For now, he said, all he wants to do is rest.
"I need to take some time off," Mr. Carollo said with a relaxed expression while seated on a couch in the living room of a rented two-bedroom house in Coconut Grove where he resides with his 21-year-old son Joe. "I am tired. The level of stress I have been under in the last years is inhumane. I got to be mayor during the most difficult years of the City of Miami. On top of that, I had to deal with my separation and now my divorce."
Early this year a domestic dispute at a Coconut Grove home he shared with his wife and two daughters landed him in jail for a night. Domestic violence charges against him were later dismissed.
Mr. Carollo took the reins of the city in 1996 amid a financial crisis that had Miami in a $68 million deficit. After he called on the governor for help, the state placed Miami in a state of fiscal emergency and created an oversight board to supervise the city's finances. Things got better. Today the city has reserves of more than $70 million. The oversight board is set to be dissolved in February.
Days before a scheduled court appearance to initiate the divorce, Mr. Carollo seemed to evade specifics about his business plans. He said some family members in Sicily have asked him to become a partner in business between the US and Latin America.
"I met many people from all over the world all these years," he said. "I am evaluating different options."
Mr. Carollo said he had been seriously considering joining the private sector even before his defeat. A deal he had in mind linked to trade and tourism was shattered by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said. Since then, the plunge in tourism has created a void in South Florida. Although Mr. Carollo had announced he would run for mayor, he didn't file his paperwork until Sept. 22, the last day. By then, eight candidates were already running their campaigns.
"I thought about it a lot," Mr. Carollo said. "I did not have the burning desire, the energy, the eye of the tiger, like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky 3," he said with a smile while leaning back on the leather couch.
He said the growing global recession made him rethink his plans and decide to stick to politics, but his campaign signs didn't begin going up until mid-October - which many thought was late.
Mr. Carollo said he doesn't regret anything he's done as mayor, even if actions such as siding with Cuban-Americans rather than the law during the Elian saga and firing city manager Donald Warshaw drew him closer to Cuban-American voters and put off others.
"I did not fire him for the Elian raid," he said. "I fired him for being corrupt." Mr. Warshaw was later found guilty of using money from a children's charity to pay for personal trips and game tickets.
Mr. Carollo said Miami's future lies in facilitating development and promoting tourism. Miami, with a constant influx of immigrants, was ranked the fourth poorest city in the US in the 1990 census.
"To promote economic development," he said, "the next mayor could use many of the contacts we developed throughout Latin America, Europe and Asia and bring investment to Miami and, of course, tourism. The task of the mayor is to sell the city, to be a good salesman."