Penelas plans to open private law office in Miami Lakes
By Samantha Joseph
Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas plans to open a private law practice in Miami Lakes when he leaves public office Nov. 16.
He will become a general practitioner in a one-man firm that will share space with Baxter & Elias LLP at 15500 New Barn Road, he said, after a failed bid for the US Senate.
At 43, Mr. Penelas is winding down his second term as mayor to resume what was a brief career in law before a 17-year hiatus in politics.
He once worked with Shutts & Bowen LLP but became a councilman for the City of Hialeah when still in his mid-twenties. In 1990, Mr. Penelas became the youngest person to ever sit on Miami-Dade's county commission.
Eight years later, he became the county's first executive mayor.
"I've been a high-energy person," he said Monday. "In a job like this, that's probably a good thing."
The job included directing a county budget of $5.6 billion, a staff of 30,000 and leading 2.3 million residents.
"I think that high-energy-style benefited the office," he said.
He is credited with fighting corruption in the public sector as a county commissioner, when he sponsored a charter amendment to create Miami-Dade's Ethics Commission.
Mr. Penelas also endorsed ethics training for county employees, according to his Senate campaign website, and has worked to strengthen the police department's public corruption unit and the Office of Inspector General.
"We've done a lot in the last seven to eight years to clean up County Hall," he said. "We need to do a lot to finish up that process."
That's perhaps the most important task facing his predecessor, he said, along with addressing the county's growing number of uninsured workers.
High on the list of tasks awaiting the new mayor is implementation of multi-billion-dollar plan to improve the county's mass transit.
During Mr. Penelas' service as mayor, the county created the People's Transportation Plan, a $17 billion fund financed by a half-cent sales tax that voters approved in 2002 to invest in the county's transportation system during the next 20 years.
It will be left to the new major to continue implementing the long-term plan, he said, as well as continuing public efforts to diversify the county's economy by developing healthcare, international trade, film and television production and construction.
"We've been very successful with our bread and butter industries..." Mr. Penelas said. "The sleepy days of sun and fun have transformed us to a community that now competes in the global environment."
On Monday, the outgoing official declined to comment on the highs and lows of his tenure as the county's first mayor.
Mr. Penelas said, "I'll leave it up to others to grade me."