Alex Penelas

A spiritual stamp of approval was extended to Miami-Dade County mayoral candidate Alex Penelas on July 14 when a collective of 22 Black pastors from cities and communities throughout Miami-Dade County announced their personal endorsement. In a list as long as the 23rd Psalm, endorsements included leaders Bishop Victor T. Curry of the New Birth Baptist Church Cathedral of Faith International of North Miami, Pastor Arthur Jackson III of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Pastor Carl Johnson of the 93rd Street Community Baptist Church, and Pastor Johnny Barber of Mount Sinai Baptist Church, among others. 

Penelas is a 58-year-old entrepreneur who served the community as mayor of Miami-Dade County from 1996 to 2004, and previously as Miami-Dade commissioner and Hialeah councilman. The group of pastors cited Penelas’ experience and ability to lead in challenging times, his bold agenda and vision for addressing social injustice through an inclusive and equitable approach and for creating economic opportunity in the Black community. 

“I am proud to support Alex Penelas in his effort to be Miami-Dade County's next mayor,” said Bishop Curry who added that the local community is in need of an experienced leader with a bold vision and a public servant's heart to help us re-emerge from this crisis as a more inclusive and just community.

“Alex Penelas has a proven track record of delivering results for the people of Miami-Dade County, and I have the utmost confidence that he will make us proud as our next mayor and bring the values of our faith back to County Hall.”

 Pastor Johnny Barber of Mount Sinai Baptist Church shared similar sentiments that focused more on the community’s economic development needs and the prior achievements of former Mayor Penelas which included exemption from property taxes for the elderly, a 44 percent reduction in crime and the creation of the Homeless Trust to benefit the homeless.

“Penelas has a truly transformative vision for how to solve many of the issues burdening Black communities in the county,” said Pastor Barber. “I specifically point to his plans to increase our community’s economic equity by way of increased participation in the county’s economic development and his plans to tackle gentrification by strengthening community councils and prioritizing the development of true affordable housing on county-owned land. Our children deserve a better future, and I think former Mayor Penelas can get us there.”

During his 15-year absence from the public sector, Penelas has focused on building a successful business, while helping raise his family in Miami-Dade. If elected, Penelas will succeed Republican Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez who has reached term limits and is making a congressional bid. Gimenez seeks to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

“As a man of faith, having the support of such prominent pastors from across the county is not only an honor but a privilege,” Penelas stated in a release. “All of them are guiding their congregations through difficult times brought by a global pandemic and the raw emotions following the unjust death of George Floyd. They have been conscientious and thoughtful leaders at a time when so many are in search of hope and guidance."

Penelas’ passion for public service reflects improving people's lives through a bold agenda that delivers impactful results. While Miami-Dade County mayor, Penelas championed a number of initiatives to help communities of color that either resulted in immediate benefits or paved the way for more inclusion and representation over the past two decades.

Among those, were the creation of single-member county commission districts to assure Black and Hispanic representation at the board of County Commissioners, a fully funded and reinforced independent review panel, universal Pre-K for all four-year-old children in Florida and closing the gun-show loophole to help address gun violence. 

The issue that most motivated Penelas’ return to public service is the lack of meaningful progress on mass transportation. According to his campaign website, he will be laser focused on transit and mobility projects along several of our proposed corridors. The half-penny Sales Tax passed by voters in 2002 will be spent as it was intended – to build-out mass transit and rail throughout Miami-Dade.

THE Alex Penelas vision

The challenges we faced in the past in Miami-Dade required us to be innovative and unafraid. Today, we face a new set of challenges and unfortunately some that have lingered because of inaction. Penelas is committed to bringing the bold leadership needed to deliver concrete results. 

We will confront our climate change challenges and lead the world in confronting this threat with strategy, technology, and the best science. We will take advantage of all the County government’s resources and partner with the private sector to bring affordability to our housing market. 

We will take on the inequities that exist throughout our community by creating policies that level the playing field in terms of access and opportunity for those that have been shut out so far and safety for those who are bearing the brunt of gun violence. And we will address other important issues that are ignored, like mental health.

Penelas will work to earn your trust through the substance of his policy ideas. He will work to earn your support for his vision and leadership.

To date, Penelas has garnered the support of 87 diverse and bipartisan, elected- officials and community leaders in his bid to become the next mayor of Miami-Dade County including Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan and former Congressman Kendrick Meek. The endorsement of faith-based community leaders is as much of an endearment as a need for Penelas.

“I have always relied on their guidance and prayers and now more than ever, I need their support as I continue this journey,” Penelas stated.

Penelas will be joined at the polls August 18 by three mayoral candidates who include County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava who will be the first female mayor if elected, County Commissioner Steve Bovo who touts conservative values and an eye for misspending and County Commissioner Xavier Suarez whose son, Francis Suarez, is currently city of Miami mayor.

If no candidate wins a majority of the vote in the August primary, the two top finishers will face-off in the November election.

Managing Editor

Penny Dickerson is a journalist joining The Miami Times following an Africa sojourn and 10-year freelance career in newspaper and magazine. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and B.A. in Journalism from Temple University.

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