From the city of Miami’s founding in the late 1800s through steady growth in what is now Broward and Palm Beach counties, South Florida today is home to one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, boasting more than 6 million residents. That’s roughly a quarter of the entire state’s population. And with people comes power: the Sunshine State’s geographic southeast has produced governors, the current lieutenant governor (Jeanette Nuñez), top state lawmakers and members of Congress (Marco Rubio), the second-longest serving U.S. attorney general (Janet Reno), and a bevy of well-known (and sometimes infamous) local politicians.
Many of the current players in Florida policy and politics, as well as movers and shakers in business, law and beyond, have landed on City & State Florida’s first-ever South Florida Power 100. This list – researched, ranked and edited by City & State staff and written by journalists Hilary Jacquelynne Danaílova and South Florida-based David Volz – showcases the many people who make the Gold Coast a focus of not only the state’s power network, but nationally as well. Again, we’re pleased to now introduce the South Florida Power 100.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, an influential political figure in Florida for decades, enjoys strong statewide support, but his home base is in South Florida. With his double-digit victory over then-Rep. Val Demings to secure his third consecutive Senate term, it doesn’t seem like his star is going to dim anytime soon. While Democrats narrowly control the Senate, Rubio remains a key player on foreign policy, thanks to his position as vice chairman of the traditionally bipartisan Intelligence Committee and senior membership on the Foreign Relations Relations. The only question now is what the former presidential candidate wants to do to burnish his legacy.
Daniella Levine Cava, the first female mayor of Miami-Dade County, runs a government with a $10 billion budget and close to 30,000 employees that serve some 3 million residents. Elected mayor in 2020, she previously served on the county commission since 2014, advocating for environmental protections and support for small businesses. As mayor, she was a prominent public figure in the response to the deadly Surfside condo collapse, and has focused on improving coastal resiliency and tackling rising housing costs.
Having served as one of Florida’s U.S. representatives since 2003, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart coasted to his 11th term by over 40 points. A member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and recently appointed to the GOP steering committee in the U.S. House, Diaz-Balart was also one of three Florida Republicans in the chamber to reverse their previous support of the Respect for Marriage act, citing religious liberty concerns. The son of a former Cuban politician who fled the island in 1959, Diaz-Balart also continues to be a noted Cuba hawk.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is still a highly influential political player in South Florida, despite the failures with the MiamiCoin cryptocurrency and his longstanding support for FTX before its collapse. Once described by Donald Trump as the "hottest politician in America after him" (although it was unclear if he meant looks or influence), Suarez has said he is mulling a potential 2024 presidential run if the political climate is right. For now, he will likely continue courting tech billionaires like Elon Musk to bring their companies to Magic City.
After building sizable popularity as Miami-Dade County’s mayor for nine years, U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez went on to serve in Congress – and was reelected by a 27-point margin in November. He had garnered attention in his first term with his stances on immigration, backing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and supporting dreamers, but also coming out against sanctuary cities. Recently, Gimenez was one of 39 Republicans to support the recently passed Respect for Marriage Act, which grants protections to same-sex marriage.
Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez spent eight years in the state House, the last two as speaker pro tempore, all the while making sure her Miami-Dade constituency reaped rewards from the state budget every year. She has remained active in community groups and was named a “Hispanic Woman of Distinction.” As Gov. Ron DeSantis’ running mate, she delivered South Florida in a tight race in 2018, then helped flip Miami-Dade County red for the first time in two decades. At this rate, she could well wind up being the first female governor of Florida.
Manny Diaz Jr., whose entire professional career has centered on education, has served since last summer as Florida’s top education official. Diaz, who has been a Miami-Dade Public Schools social studies teacher and assistant principal, and chief operating officer at Doral College, also served in both houses of the state Legislature. As a state senator from Miami-Dade County, he chaired the Education Committee and garnered national attention as a champion of the state’s Stop WOKE Act, which bars the teaching of critical race theory in Florida’s public schools.
Dean Trantalis has had his hand in a number of major projects since he was elected mayor of Fort Lauderdale in 2018, from a soccer stadium for Inter Miami to major stormwater investments to a potential tunnel project built by Elon Musk’s Boring Company to reduce traffic congestion in the growing city. A longtime gay rights advocate, Trantalis is the first openly gay person to serve as the city’s mayor. He’s also an attorney at the law firm Trantalis & Associates.
These two representatives of the Seminole Tribe of Florida were instrumental in striking the compact with the state that would have granted it the right to be the only proprietor of sports betting in Florida for a $2.5 billion annual price tag. The deal is currently locked up in federal court, yet the tribe still sits as the third wealthiest one in the country with over $800 million a year in annual revenue. If the agreement goes back into effect, that figure could grow much higher.
These brothers started their first sugar company, Florida Crystals, in 1960. Now, they are owners of the Fanjul Corp., a sugar conglomerate in the United States and Dominican Republic that includes several sugar and real estate companies. In Florida, they are one of the most impactful political donors and influencers, contributing millions in donations to Florida’s state and federal politicians. Their company came under fire this year for concerns about the environmental impact in South Florida of its burning sugarcane practices.
In Florida, state attorneys enjoy wide leeway to decide which kinds of cases to pursue – although there’s always a risk of falling afoul of the governor. These three Democratic state attorneys have teamed up to push for salary increases for assistant state attorneys amid the rising cost of living in South Florida. Dave Aronberg, a former state senator, has had to deal with a Palm Beach office that is 15% understaffed, while the Miami-Dade office of Katherine Fernandez Rundle – a Democrat who’s the first Cuban American state attorney – is at only 75% of a full workforce. Harold Pryor of Broward County found that starting-level assistant state attorneys and public defenders were getting paid over $10,000 less than the national average in a market with skyrocketing rent.
A former journalist who benefited immensely from Florida’s red wave, U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar crushed Democratic opponent Annette Taddeo by almost 15 points in a seat she had won by just under 3% in 2020. Salazar is back for a second term in Congress and is now in the majority, albeit only a narrow one that is contending with a far-right contingent as well as a Democratic Senate and president. Yet she may make more progress on her policy priorities, like prohibiting the removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The Democrats representing South Florida districts in Congress all have plenty of clout in their home districts, but collectively their prospects have dimmed thanks to the narrow majority that the Republican Party won in November. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz gained a national profile during her stint chairing the Democratic National Committee. Another veteran of the group who previously served in the state Legislature is U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, whose attention-grabbing hats were featured in a Netflix series. U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a noted proponent of abortion rights, sponsored recently signed legislation that bars nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment or abuse cases. U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick became the first Haitian-American Democat in Congress in 2022. And U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, who just succeeded Ted Deutch in office, stands out as a former appointee of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom he served under as emergency management director.
This past election cycle was disappointing for Republicans nationwide – but Florida, and South Florida in particular, was an outlier. Much of the credit is due to the popularity of Gov. Ron DeSantis at the top of the ticket, but the efforts of officials like René Garcia also contributed to the local red wave. Garcia, who has served as a Miami-Dade commissioner following his time in the state Legislature, guided the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County to stunning election success in November. In December, Garcia handed the reins of the county party to state Rep. Alex Rizo.
Since 2015, President Julio Frenk has brought global perspective and fundraising prowess to the prestigious University of Miami, Miami-Dade County's second-largest employer. He recently unveiled UM’s Center for Global Black Studies and the Climate Resilience Academy, celebrated the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s top U.S. News & World Report ranking, and announced major grants for racial equity and cancer research. The fourth-generation physician previously served as founding director-general of Mexico's National Institute of Public Health and dean of Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Cuba-born financial executive Carlos A. Migoya took the helm of Jackson Health System in 2011 and quickly reversed its disastrous balance sheet, yielding surplus revenue every year since. Migoya also steered Jackson through COVID-19 revenue hiccups, the telehealth revolution and a successful vaccine equity campaign. Migoya previously served as Miami's city manager and, before that, was an executive at Wachovia, where he worked for 35 years. He currently chairs the United Way of Miami-Dade and is a member of the Florida Council of 100.
Ronald Book and his lobbying partners were ranked No. 4 in the state last year, having brought in somewhere in the ballpark of $10 million in revenue in 2021. Book, who works closely with colleagues Rana Brown and Kelly Mallette in Tallahassee, is also a major player in South Florida, with a number of clients in the area. He chairs both the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust and Lauren’s Kids, a nonprofit founded by his daughter, state Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, who represents a Broward County district.
State Sen. Lauren Book of Broward County notched an impressive win in the Democratic primary, as she beat back a challenge from Barbara Sharief. While Book went on to secure another term with no opposition in the general election, she saw her Republican opponents win a supermajority in the state Senate, making it even harder for her minority conference to slow Gov. Ron DeSantis’ agenda. She’s also the founder of Lauren’s Kids, which seeks to prevent sexual abuse prevention through trainings.
The law firm Greenberg Traurig has dozens of offices around the country and all across the globe, but it all began in South Florida over half a century ago. The firm today has no headquarters, but its Miami office – managed by Jaret L. Davis, who handles technology clients, and Yosbel A. Ibarra, a Latin American expert – retains special historical significance. Senior Chairman Matthew Gorson is also based in Miami, where he founded the Downtown Miami Charter School, serves as senior chairman of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami and has been on a number of other notable boards.
This South Florida native has served as the head of the Catholic Church in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties since 2010. The Archdiocese of Miami includes 1.3 million South Florida Catholics across 109 parishes. It also oversees a private education system that includes 35,000 primary school students across dozens of elementary, middle and high schools that receive $56 million annually in state school choice funding. The Archdiocese also oversees St. Thomas University, the only university sponsored by an Archdiocese in the state of Florida.
When Shane Strum made the jump from government to the private sector in 2021, one thing that didn’t change for him was that he continued to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. Strum, who had served as chief of staff to Gov. Ron DeSantis, returned to his home county and took the reins of Broward Health, one of the nation’s biggest safety net hospital systems. Strum, who remains an ally of DeSantis, was named to the governor’s transition team after winning a second term in office.
Nearly a year ago, Jose L. Dotres was appointed superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest school district in the country with some 40,000 employees and 330,000 students. For Dotres, it’s a homecoming of sorts, as the superintendent had spent years as a principal and in a number of administrative roles in the district over the years – including as chief of staff to Alberto Carvalho, his predecessor. Among his top priorities are addressing mental health and gaining ground that students lost during the pandemic.
Maria Teresa Rojas was elected by her colleagues to serve as chair of the Miami-Dade School Board in November, marking a rightward shift in the body as Gov. Ron DeSantis has sought to put his mark on educational policy at the most local level in Florida. Rojas is aligned with the governor’s efforts to emphasize parents’ rights and oppose progressive priorities. A member of the school board since 2016 and a former teacher, Rojas is also the sister-in-law of U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez.
In December 2022, Markenzy Lapointe became the first Haitian-American to serve in South Florida’s top federal law enforcement post. U.S. Attorney Lapointe now oversees a busy office of 250 prosecutors handling cases involving drug smuggling, fraud and other crimes across a region extending from St. Lucie County to Key West. Port-au-Prince-born Lapointe, who came to Miami in high school, is a former U.S. Marine and onetime Department of Justice prosecutor who has also been a high-stakes litigator at Pillsbury, a Miami firm.
Ballard Partners, which is perennially one of the top lobbying firms in Florida, isn’t just a political force in Tallahassee. The bipartisan operation also has plenty of sway in South Florida, with well-connected executives and offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Jose Felix Diaz, a former state lawmaker, is now a managing partner and executive vice president in the firm’s Miami office. Another rising star in the Miami office is Kathy San Pedro, an AT&T alum who became the firm’s youngest female Hispanic partner in 2017. Also in the Miami office is Partner Mike Abrams, a health care expert who spent over a decade in the Florida House. Justin Sayfie, a top adviser to then-Gov. Jeb Bush, works in the firm’s offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Washington, D.C.
Senate redistricting finds this New Jersey native, a lawyer and former assistant state attorney now representing Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Jason Pizzo now sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee, among others. He’s become one of the few influential Democrats in the state Legislature, reallocating his abundance of political committee dollars to Democratic candidates in need. That was after automatically winning reelection this past summer when no one else qualified to run. Recently, Pizzo sued the DeSantis administration over its migrant flights program, with a trial set for the end of January.
Although he is Broward’s only Republican state legislator, state Rep. Chip LaMarca coasted to a third term with a margin of over 14 points. His reelection was a priority for the GOP in South Florida, which chipped in over $700,000 to support his candidacy. During the upcoming state legislative session, LaMarca will serve as chair of the Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight, whip of the Ways and Means Committee and vice chair of the Commerce Committee.
This multi-billionaire real estate developer makes an impact on the gridiron and in politics. The majority owner of Related Companies, the 10th most asset-rich real estate company in the world, Ross gained ownership of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 2008. During the last election cycle, he plunged into local South Florida politics, spending over $1 million promoting a Miami Beach ballot referendum that would allow him to build a new hotel and condo on the beach. Voters shut down the proposed change.
Since she made history as the first Black person to become executive editor of the Miami Herald in 2021, Monica Richardson has faced the highs and lows of running a major big-city newspaper. She has opened up about receiving a racist email, rebuffed criticism of its coverage by the powerful Florida Power & Light utility and saw her staff win a Pulitzer Prize for its breaking news coverage of the deadly Champlain Towers South condominium collapse. Richardson also serves as executive editor of el Nuevo Herald, the Miami Herald’s Spanish-language sister publication.
In a state where Gov. Ron DeSantis has found success in waging partisan warfare, protecting the Everglades is one area where both major parties have found some room for compromise – and that makes Eric Eikenberg’s job that much easier. Eikenberg has for over a decade led The Everglade Foundation, whose mission is to protect the endangered three-million-acre habitat. The political and policy expert previously served under then-Gov. Charlie Crist, as a congressional staffer and at the law firm Holland & Knight.
Patrick Goddard has spent nearly six years driving Brightline’s multibillion-dollar intercity passenger rail development that aims to connect Central and South Florida – and that recently unveiled new stations in Boca Raton and Aventura. Brightline is an operating company of Fortress Investment Group and represents more than $5 billion in capital invested in Florida. Goddard started out in the hospitality industry, having worked in hotel development and operations for Hilton Hotels, Loews Hotels and Rosewood Hotels.
Oscar Braynon II, a fourth generation Miamian, is the consummate South Florida gentleman politician. His beginnings were as a Miami-Dade County Commission staffer, which led to his co-founding Miami Gardens and serving on its council and his years in the state Legislature, culminating as Senate Democratic leader. He stood up for two Black colleagues when former Sen. Frank Artiles infamously used a racial slur against them. Braynon’s also been a volunteer and mentor to many in and out of The Process. He’s now with The Southern Group’s Miami office.
In October, Bo Boulenger succeeded Brian Keeley as the head of Baptist Health South Florida, one of the largest health care systems in the region with 12 hospitals and around 25,000 employees. Boulenger, who has worked at Baptist since 1985, giving him plenty of experience with the health care system’s inner workings. He’ll also be relying on veteran executives at the biggest hospitals in the system, including Bill Ulbrich, the new CEO of the 950-bed Baptist Hospital of Miami, and Bill Duquette, CEO of the 453-bed South Miami Hospital.
Madeline Pumariega is the first woman and the first alumna to be named dean of Miami Dade College, one of the largest institutions of higher education in the country with over 100,000 students. In early January, she was among the dignitaries at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ inauguration ceremony. Pumeriega, who joined the board of the American Association of Community Colleges last fall, previously served as chancellor of the Florida College System, which covers some 800,000 students at 28 colleges.
Since taking the reins of Hollywood-based Memorial Healthcare System last year, Scott Wester has prioritized shorter emergency room wait times, greater diversity and equity and workforce investment to keep the $2.8 billion institution financially and medically sound. Wester came to Florida after 14 years heading Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, where he tripled revenue to $1.6 billion and raised $55 million for a new children's hospital. He is aiming for similar growth for Memorial, with expansion plans already in the works.
As the pandemic raged through Florida in 2021, UHealth CEO Joseph Echevarria guided the University of Miami’s health system through the challenges of COVID-19, yielding financial stability as well as research breakthroughs. Echevarria – a UM alumnus, onetime trustee and senior adviser to the president – was also appointed as the university’s first CEO last year, bringing his financial and operational savvy to the broader institution and its capital ambitions. An accountant by training, he previously served as CEO of Deloitte, the global accounting firm.
Kenneth Jessell was confirmed in November as president of Florida International University, where he has worked for 14 years as chief financial officer and over the past year as interim president. As CFO, Jessell helped the institution garner recognition in U.S. News & World Report as the fastest-rising university in terms of rankings, with major gains in research spending and investment returns. Jessell, who was ultimately the only finalist for the presidency, previously spent a quarter-century at nearby Florida Atlantic University, where he was senior vice president for financial affairs.
In November, longtime county commissioner Lamar Fisher took over as mayor of Broward County, pledging to reduce bureaucracy and find efficiencies. He succeeds Michael Udine in a role in which he’ll represent the county during major events and oversee outreach to its residents during emergencies such as storms and hurricanes. He had previously served as mayor-at-large of Pompano Beach, which an ancestor helped to establish decades ago.
A former computer executive from Southern California, Gregg K. Weiss was elected by his fellow commissioners as Palm Beach County mayor in November. In January, he emphasized the importance of addressing the cost of living in the county, investing in workforce development and affordable housing, ensuring public safety and addressing mental health. He was first elected to the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners in 2018, and previously was vice chair on the West Palm Beach Planning Board.
Micky Arison is at the helm of not one but two successful South Florida businesses – Carnival Cruise Lines, which was founded by his father, and the Miami Heat, which he became majority owner of in the 1990s and which has gone on to win three NBA championships. He also has been a prolific donor to political campaigns, shelling out over $1 million since 2015, according to one measure, with a history of contributing to members of both major parties.
An outsized presence in Miami politics, hospitality, business and recreation, Rodney Barreto is a partner in the top-tier firm Capital City Consulting as well as the head of Barreto Hospitality, which operates numerous South Florida venues. Barreto currently chairs the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, where he has served under three governors. He's also a member of the Florida Council of 100, a nonpartisan organization of business leaders, and has thrice chaired the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, raising more than $100 million.
A former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wifredo Ferrer is now the executive partner of the Miami office of the law firm Holland & Knight. The son of Cuban immigrants and a Hialeah native, Ferrer was appointed U.S. attorney by Barack Obama in 2010, and stepped down in 2017. Ferrer’s current work involves representing clients across wide ranges of criminal and civil law matters, including allegations about Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, securities law violations and more.
Last year, Luis Perez became the first Hispanic to serve as Miami co-office managing partner at Akerman, a top-100 law firm. Perez, a onetime Cuban refugee who chairs the firm's Latin America and Caribbean practice, specializes in commercial litigation and international arbitration for clients across a range of industries. Neisen Kasdin, a former mayor of Miami Beach, brings his experience leading South Beach's renaissance and his extensive government relationships to his practice in land use and urban zoning. He is known for his work on Brickell City Centre, a $1.5 billion downtown complex, as well as the Miami Design District development.
Worth an estimated $2.9 billion, Norman Braman is not only one of South Florida's wealthiest men; he's also one of its most influential. In addition to owning the Florida-based Braman Motorcars dealership, with $2 billion in annual revenue, Braman bankrolled Miami's Institute for Contemporary Art, helped lure Art Basel to Miami and once owned the Philadelphia Eagles. Braman has also used his fortune to shape Florida politics, supporting the 2011 recall of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Álvarez as well as campaigns for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
When South Florida businesses go bankrupt or seek to restructure, Steven Solomon is frequently the person they call. Solomon, the managing shareholder for GrayRobinson's Miami office, chairs the bankruptcy group for the Florida law and lobbying firm, where he has represented myriad stakeholders in complex business transitions. A former accountant for Arthur Andersen, where he later directed corporate recovery services, Solomon currently sits on the executive committee of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
At Bank of America Miami, President Gene Schaefer helps facilitate finances for the myriad entities relocating to South Florida. He also oversees BOA’s outreach initiatives across greater Miami – including a $100 million program that supports 1,300 nonprofits addressing issues from hunger to racial inequality and a $250 million fund aimed at bolstering small businesses in underserved neighborhoods. Schaefer currently represents BOA on the board of Enterprise Florida, the public-private partnership headed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Having served as either a City Council member or mayor of Boca Raton since 2014, Scott Singer went unchallenged in 2022 on his way to a third term as mayor of the Palm Beach County municipality with a population of nearly 100,000. One of Singer’s biggest projects during his time in office was advocating for his city to be the site of Brightline’s fifth station, a $56 million project that just concluded and is expected to bring $10 million in local spending to the city annually.
Investing in health care businesses that end up acquired by publicly traded companies is the life work of Mike Fernandez, a self-professed risk taker. In recent years he has also focused on fixing perceived flaws in Florida’s political system, backing the failed campaign to open up primary elections to all voters regardless of party. A vocal critic of former President Donald Trump, the steadfast political donor and Cuban-born board member for the American Business Immigration Coalition recently parted ways with the Republican Party over its stance against immigration reform.
With home prices at an all-time premium, Miami Jewish Health CEO and Village of Bal Harbour Mayor Jeffrey Freimark is spearheading development of affordable senior housing, including a $58 million Pembroke Pines community in partnership with McDowell Housing. Freimark, an attorney and accountant by training, has headed MJH’s nursing home care and other services for 15 years, providing for 100,000 seniors annually. He has also steered the ongoing development of the S. Donald Sussman Empathicare Village, a 438-bed nursing facility with 176 living units, memory care and a 32-bed acute care hospital.
As head of Miami airport operations for American Airlines, Juan Carlos Liscano manages the airline’s gateway hub to Latin American and Caribbean destinations. The native Colombian joined AA 29 years ago and has since managed the expansion of services for Latin America, Los Angeles and other heavily-Hispanic markets. Liscano is also the board chair-elect for the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the county's official economic development partnership, and serves on the United State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board.
Airport veteran Ralph Cutié runs the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, a position that entails overseeing operations at the bustling Miami International Airport and several other smaller airports in the area that collectively generate over $30 billion annually. Miami International alone sees some 50 million passengers each year. However, the airport has plenty of room for progress in terms of cutting down flight delays, although several other Florida airports have worse on-time performances.
Democratic operative Alexander Heckler founded LSN Partners, the bipartisan consulting firm where he is a partner; he’s also a managing partner at Miami Beach-based LSN Law. The acronym stands for local, state and national, reflecting Heckler's reach as a government law attorney and strategic consultant across South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington. In 2020, he served on the Biden-Harris campaign’s national finance committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and was the DNC’s deputy national finance chair. Among the key executives at the firm are Managing Partner George Platt, a former Broward County commissioner; Partner Michael Llorente, a former chief of staff to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez; and Partner Erin Hendrix, who heads the firm’s aviation practice.
The longtime Democratic consultant and founder of Edge Communications has helped numerous candidates get elected to local and state office. Christian Ulvert has at one time or other worked for former Sen. Annette Taddeo, including on her short-lived run for governor, as well as former Sen. Janet Cruz, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, to name a handful. That’s not to mention his work for Joe Biden as a Florida electoral strategy adviser. He’s also been in charge of a slew of political committees.
Few rainmakers in Miami-Dade County have been as successful as Brian Goldmeier. The founder of BYG Strategies, Goldmeier relentlessly worked his way through the ranks of campaign finance, working first with Alex Sink on her gubernatorial campaign in 2010, then Carlos Gimenez on his winning effort for Miami-Dade County mayor in 2012. But it was Goldmeier’s most recent work on Francis Suarez’s campaign as the city of Miami’s mayor that may have been his most noticeable, raising more than $6.5 million for the 2021 effort.
Personal injury attorney Gary Lesser grew up steeped in the legal profession, becoming the third generation to practice at his family’s West Palm Beach firm. Having observed the learning curve for novice lawyers, Lesser is using his yearlong term helming Florida’s bar association to launch a statewide attorney mentoring program. The University of Miami law graduate, a managing partner at Lesser Lesser Landy & Smith, is also working to enhance public education around legal services.
The Fourth Estate and free, creative expression have a champion in Alberto Ibargüen, a journalism legend who now heads the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Ibargüen oversees a $3 billion nonprofit with a democratic mission and $114 million in 2021 grantmaking supporting local journalism, community engagement, arts and education. Prior to joining the Knight Foundation, Ibargüen was the publisher of the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, which won three Pulitzers and Spain's Ortega y Gasset journalism prize during his tenure.
Becker & Poliakoff got started in 1973 focusing on condominium and community association law (and are still a major player there), but has grown into a firm which focuses on several areas, including lobbying. Gary Rosen played a major role in raising the firm’s lobbying profile after becoming CEO in 2012, helping bring in several key lobbyists to make Becker & Poliakoff among the go-to names in that field. Yolanda Cash Jackson is at the forefront of the lobbying effort, as her connections in Tallahassee are critical in helping her clients, including local municipalities, with state government appropriations. She also became the first Black chair of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the economic development partnership for the county. The firm also represented the condo association involved in 2021’s deadly Surfside collapse.
For nearly 40 years, Stuart Miller has helped shape the landscape in South Florida and beyond with Miami-based Lennar Corporation, which is now the nation's largest home builder, with $27 billion in annual revenue. Miller, a University of Miami law graduate, has previously overseen Lennar's home building, investment and commercial properties divisions. In his current role as executive chairman, Miller is guiding the spinoff of Lennar’s Quarterra Multifamily subsidiary and managing the company's sales strategy in a volatile and uncertain real estate market.
Hector J. Ponte has long been a key South Florida executive for Wells Fargo, which is one of the largest banks in the region. In 2021, the national bank headquartered in San Francisco restructured operations in South Florida and put Ponte in charge of a three-county region that encompasses Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Ponte now oversees 120 branches of the bank, which has also made headlines for contributing to hurricane relief efforts in the area.
From the Miami headquarters of Cole, Scott & Kissane, Richard Cole manages operations and strategy at the busy full-service law firm, which has 13 offices across Florida. Cole is a recognized leader in the fields of personal injury defense law and medical and legal malpractice, and is frequently called on to defend professionals in administrative licensure cases. In 2020, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Cole to the University of Florida’s Board of Trustees.
After her daughter Alyssa was among the 17 students killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland in 2018, Lori Alhadeff vowed to make public schools safer places for students. This past November, she was elected chair of the Broward County School Board, which oversees the state’s second largest school system with over a quarter million students. Alhadeff may soon have to deal with the fate of the system’s superintendent, Vickie Cartwrith, who is opposed by some board members but was recently kept on.
Anna Fusco heads the Broward Teachers Union, one of Florida’s largest labor unions with 11,500 teachers and other staffers. The elementary teacher, who was first elected to the post in 2016, has advocated for members throughout the deadly pandemic and mask mandate battles and is now in the crosshairs of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s looking to flip Broward’s school board after finding success elsewhere in South Florida. The union’s endorsement carries some weight in South Florida, where it backed eventual congressional victor Jared Moskowitz in a competitive Democratic primary.
Miami native Jorge Gonzalez leads City National Bank of Florida, which he has grown to $20 billion in tangible assets – a nearly sevenfold increase over 14 years. Gonzalez diversified City National's operations to make it one of the state’s largest financial institutions, with 32 locations across South and Central Florida and top ratings from financial rankings agencies. Under Gonzalez's leadership, City National has also expanded its social mission, establishing a $1 million relief fund for community hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As skyscrapers rise across the cityscape, Fernando Ruiz ensures that JPMorgan Chase's South Florida business ranks among the region's top banking operations by deposits and lending. Ruiz has steered the bank’s expansion of consumer banking and wealth management for Florida's Gold Coast, Naples and Sarasota metro areas, as well as its growing social commitments. Under his leadership, the bank increased direct equity investments for minority and community development to $100 million – including major financing for Miami-based Sunstate Bank’s investments in small business and affordable housing.
From his base in Miami, policy expert Alex Dominguez manages AT&T's public affairs across Florida. He oversees the telecom's relationships with local and Tallahassee lawmakers as the company seeks to broaden broadband access statewide and addresses local crises like service issues during recent hurricanes. Having previously directed AT&T’s external affairs for Miami-Dade County, Dominguez drew on his public policy experience as executive director of the Miami-Dade County legislative delegation, where he served as a liaison to the Miami-Dade County Commission.
Thank David Gitlin for helping keep indoor spaces comfortable: He leads Carrier, the Palm Beach Gardens-based multinational specializing in HVAC, refrigeration, fire safety and building systems. The former aerospace executive has steered Carrier through the pandemic’s economic and supply-chain vicissitudes, and he recently met with President Joe Biden to discuss the impact of inflation. The company, which recently reported $21 billion in annual revenue, also completed a $900 million acquisition of Toshiba Carrier Corporation, a Tokyo-based joint HVAC venture with $2 billion in annual sales.
Under the expert navigation of CEO Jason Liberty, the Royal Caribbean Group's 60 cruise ships serve 7.5 million passengers to ports on every continent. Liberty, an accountant by training who joined RCG in 2005 and became president and CEO last year, oversees three global brands – Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises – and two smaller lines. On Liberty’s watch, Royal Caribbean was recently named "the superior cruise operator" post-pandemic by Morgan Stanley, with upgraded menus and the world's largest vessel.
Nicknamed “the dean of the Florida banking Bar” by Chambers USA, Bowman Brown has expanded his firm’s international banking practice, attracting international financial institutions and businesses targeting Latin America and the Caribbean to South Florida. Much of that work has involved advocating with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, the Florida Legislature and the Securities and Exchange Commission to push for regulation and legislation to promote the growth of international banking and business in the Sunshine State.
Last fall, Miami Foundation chief Rebecca Fishman Lipsey and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced a STEM scholarship for local students, funded by an initial $1.25 million public-private partnership. It’s the latest in ambitious grantmaking undertaken by Fishman Lipsey, a former public school teacher who has prioritized expansion for the $400 million organization since taking the helm in 2020. Fishman Lipsey, once the youngest member of the Florida Board of Education, also founded Radical Partners, a Miami social impact accelerator.
When 36-year-old Matthew Caldwell assumed leadership of the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers in 2016, he became U.S. professional sports’ youngest chief executive. Under Caldwell’s leadership, the Panthers have set franchise records for ticket sales, television audiences and sponsorship revenue and were last season’s top point scorers, securing their first President's Trophy. Caldwell, a former Goldman Sachs executive, is overseeing the team’s $65 million transformation of Fort Lauderdale's War Memorial Auditorium into the Baptist Health Iceplex, a community ice rink and training facility.
Since assuming leadership of Goodwill South Florida in 2014, CEO David Landsberg has grown the $140 million human services nonprofit into the sixth-largest of North America's 159 Goodwill branches. The native Miamian oversees more than 3,000 employees and coordinates job programs aimed at the half-million working-age South Floridians with disabilities. A former executive with the Miami Herald Media Company, Landsberg has a long association with GSF, where he has cultivated partnerships and expanded revenue-generating services – including apparel manufacturing and laundry operations.
For a quarter century, Frank Del Rio has successfully charted cruise-industry waters – most recently for Norwegian, where he has expanded both the company’s fleet, to 29 ships, and its destinations, launching Harvest Caye in Belize. Del Rio, who emigrated from Cuba to the U.S. as a child, also founded upper-premium Oceania Cruises, growing that Norwegian operation from one ship to eight. Additionally, Del Rio has steered the financial turnaround of Norwegian's Regent Seven Seas Cruises and its repositioning as a luxury brand.
London-born Ed Raine heads up Food for the Poor, a 40-year-old, Coconut Creek-based nonprofit that reduces hunger in 17 countries throughout the Americas. Raine, a longtime human resources professional, joined the Christian organization in 2017, overseeing an expansion of programs around community health, education, essential supplies, economic development, religion and housing. Under his leadership, Food for the Poor disbursed $865 million in aid in 2021, funding programs from Haiti bee farming to Nicaragua bean production.
Some 1.4 million hungry South Floridians got square meals last year, thanks to Paco Vélez, who has headed Feeding South Florida for a decade. Under his leadership, the food bank delivers 9 meals for every $1 donation, adding up to 146 million meals in 2021 across Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. Vélez recently launched FSF’s free campus food pantry at Broward College as well as a grocery store on wheels, and spearheaded partnerships with local social service agencies to help food-insecure families.
Since becoming the first woman to lead the Health Foundation of South Florida in 2021, Loreen Chant has overseen $4 million in annual grantmaking. She recently announced partnerships with five South Florida collaboratives to reduce health inequities, along with a $1 million investment to address the region’s health labor shortage. She also hosted the foundation’s inaugural Black Health Summit. Chant previously headed Easterseals South Florida and spent two decades guiding expansion at Johnson & Wales University’s North Miami campus, where she left as president.
The longtime engine behind Miami Lakes-based BankUnited is Rajinder Singh, a veteran financial executive who was one of the institution's founders and now serves as CEO and board chair. Singh helped take BankUnited public in January 2011 and engineered its development into Florida's largest independent depository institution, with additional banking centers in New York and total assets of $37 billion. Building on this momentum, Singh recently opened an Atlanta office and indicated his ambitions for further expansion.
As South Florida experienced an influx of technology jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, TD Bank Florida executive Nick Miceli sought to capitalize on the economic momentum by spearheading a new Fort Lauderdale technology innovation hub. Miceli has guided the bank's Florida expansion since 2017, following 20 years of leadership with TD in New Jersey. He currently manages TD's regional banking business strategy and leads sales operations for 160-plus South Florida retail outlets, including the recent rollout of new community-centered stores.
Fort Lauderdale-based Tony Coley helped steer BB&T through its merger with SunTrust Banks to become Truist, where he served as South Florida regional president before taking over responsibility for the entire South last year. Coley, a one-time All-America linebacker for the University of Miami, now heads regional operations for a bank with $24 billion in annual revenue. He also spearheads outreach and partnerships, including a collaboration with the Miami Dolphins that brings financial literacy services to underserved communities.
After decades of involvement with the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Alfred Sanchez took over as CEO in 2016, guiding nearly a half-million member-company employees through a period of explosive regional growth. Under his leadership, the Chamber has bolstered Miami-Dade businesses through the pandemic through grants and loan initiatives, small business mentorships, and layoff prevention in collaboration with CareerSource Florida. Sanchez previously headed the American Red Cross of South Florida, the Miami YMCA and the American Red Cross of Greater Miami and the Keys.
A recent chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Charles Caulkins is among the Sunshine State's most influential figures and an authority on employment law. Over four decades at the national law firm of Fisher Phillips, where he is partner in the Fort Lauderdale office, Caulkins has established himself as a preeminent resource on labor relations, including management training and union matters. He also counsels clients on policy issues – like Florida’s proposed Local Business Protection Act – and litigates employment cases in state and federal courts.
As head of PNC Bank's Southeast Florida region, Cressman Bronson recently announced a $17 billion community benefits plan that supports economic opportunities for underserved communities. It's part of Bronson's mission to expand PNC's outreach in the Sunshine State, where he leads regional business strategy as well as community engagement initiatives like PNC Grow Up Great, a bilingual children’s program. He also chairs the local PNC Foundation committee and sits on the Florida Chamber of Commerce board, where he chairs the Palm Beach/Treasure Coast region.
Last year, JFK Regional Medical Center CEO Gina Melby guided the 527-bed institution's transition to becoming the rebranded HCA Florida JFK Hospital, now under the extensive HCA Florida Healthcare umbrella, which counts 49 hospitals and 350 care locations statewide. Under Melby's leadership, JFK recently debuted robotic technology for minimally invasive surgery and won plaudits from the American Heart Association for its stroke care and cardiovascular treatment. Melby also led the Atlantis hospital to a 2023 Healthgrades ranking among America’s 50 best hospitals for surgical care.
Communications guru Javier Correoso is a pro at getting the message across – a talent he now employs for Uber, where he helps Americans get around southern roads. Correoso is the regional policy and communications chief for the ride-hailing app, whose recent year-over-year bookings grew by more than 25%. Prior to joining Uber's public affairs team in 2016, he founded a Miami-based government affairs firm that advised U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential campaign and served as a Florida congressman’s Washington-based chief of staff.
Florida's largest private, not-for-profit university is in the capable hands of George Hanbury II, who has headed Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale and Davie since 2011. Hanbury has elevated the institution's profile through initiatives bolstering research, diversity and community engagement – including a new $56 million health research facility, the NSU Health Interprofessional Simulation Complex, due to open in 2024. Hanbury, who holds a Ph.D. in public administration, is a former city manager for Fort Lauderdale and Virginia Beach.
From early childhood education to health care and household finances, United Way Miami CEO Symeria Hudson strives to empower South Florida's most vulnerable families. Hudson, the group's first Black female leader, recently took over a nonprofit with $76 million in annual revenue and a mission to help the 60% of Miami households that are low-income. Previously CEO of Chapman Partnership, a Miami homeless organization, Hudson now collaborates with public and private stakeholders on projects including the United Way Center for Financial Stability.
Caraline Coats is in charge of growing the South Florida market for Humana, the Kentucky-based health insurer. Coats, a 15-year company veteran in various roles, now guides Humana's expansion of Medicare plans throughout an 11-county region that includes Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties as well as the Treasure Coast. She also has a long involvement with the Humana Foundation, the company's philanthropic arm dedicated to health equity, where she has recently served as interim CEO.
When Jerry Plush took over Amerant Bank in mid-2022, he brought nearly four decades of financial know-how to Florida's largest community bank. He oversees the chief subsidiary of Amerant Bancorp, with $8 billion in assets and 23 banking centers across South Florida and Houston. Under Plush's leadership, Amerant became the official bank of the Florida Panthers, announced a multi-year partnership with the Miami Heat, renewed a successful micro-grant program and was named a Top 100 Most-Loved Workplace by Newsweek Magazine.
With two moves in the last three years, neither of which happened on the field, the Miami Marlins made sports history. The Marlins are the first team in major American sports to have women in the roles of general manager and president. Kim Ng became Major League Baseball’s first female general manager and first East Asian in that role in 2020. Ng made Forbes’ 50 Over 50 list in 2021 and got a new contract with the Marlins in 2022. Caroline O’Connor was promoted to president of business operations in 2022. She also is serving on several Miami-Dade County boards, including Miami’s parks board and visitors bureau.
Attorney Steve Brodie is a frequent lead counsel on insurance-related litigation in states from Florida to California. Brodie is the Miami co-managing shareholder at Carlton Fields, where he is also co-chair of the property and casualty insurance practice as well as the insurance industry group. Brodie has represented American Holocaust survivors pro bono in a class action case against a Swiss bank, and now heads a legal team defending the largest U.S. provider of prepaid cell phone service against international phone traffickers.
Karla Hernández-Mats raised her profile over the past election cycle as the running mate of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist, but the outcome – Gov. Ron DeSantis won bigger than any candidate for governor in decades – wasn’t exactly what the ticket was hoping for. Unlike Crist, however, Hernández-Mats still has plenty on her plate, since she remains the leader of the 30,000-member United Teachers of Dade. She was a proponent of the campaign to pass a tax referendum which resulted in a major pay hike for teachers in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
After 40 years overseeing the Greater Miami Jewish Federation through a period of unprecedented community expansion, Jacob Solomon ensures the organization remains responsive to current challenges. Under Solomon’s leadership, the organization has engaged local officials in high-profile initiatives addressing growing antisemitism. Solomon, who recently served a term as president of the Jewish Community Service Association of North America, also spearheaded a new partnership with Community Security Service to expand protection for synagogues across Miami-Dade County.
The link to Tallahassee for one of the nation’s biggest private companies, Sonya Deen Hartley is also in her second term as one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ appointees to the board of Enterprise Florida. That group’s goal is to encourage businesses to relocate to Florida, and during 2022, 54 businesses were moved into the state. Deen Hartley also serves on the board of Space Florida, the state’s aerospace booster, along with several other groups ranging from the Florida and United States chambers of commerce to the State Legislative Leaders Foundation.
Jim DeFede has been a fixture in Miami print and television media for so long, it’s hard to believe he’s not a native. The Brooklyn-born DeFede broke out as a well-respected columnist for both the Miami New Times and the Miami Herald. DeFede has been CBS4 News’ Emmy-winning investigative reporter and host of the public affairs show "Facing South Florida" since 2006. He’s well known for his 1-on-1 interviews with heavyweights like Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and, recently, new Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.
Mitchell Burnstein is the managing director of Weiss Serota Helfman Cole + Bierman, a firm that specializes in several boutique areas of law for private and public sector clients. Burnstein, who practices eminent domain and condemnation law, has handled over 80 jury trials and appeals across the state. Prior to joining the firm over 20 years ago, he worked as assistant attorney general for Florida. One of his firm’s other partners, Alison Smith, became the first Black woman to helm the Broward County Bar Association this year.
Fort Lauderdale cheerleader-in-chief Dan Lindblade has debated letting scooters onto sidewalks, managed spring break crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic and welcomed a recent flurry of new hotel developments. As head of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, he also advocates on behalf of nearly 1,300 member companies and more than a half-million workers during a period of unprecedented economic growth and sea level-threatened coastal development. Lindblade, a certified association executive, also chairs the city's housing authority.
First-generation college graduate Gregory Adam Haile strives to provide similar opportunities for 55,000 students at Broward College, where he has championed equity and economic mobility since becoming president in 2019. Haile recently unveiled the new L.A. Lee YMCA/Mizell Community Center, the region's first such partnership, with a $1 million grant subsidizing workforce training. An attorney by training, Haile recently became the first public college president to serve as deputy chair of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank; he also chairs the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.
Greater Miami's burgeoning economy owes a debt to Rick Beasley, who since 2005 has headed the South Florida Workforce Investment Board. Working closely with state policymakers, Beasley administers a $75 million operating budget that funds employment programs throughout Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, including career education oriented toward the region's booming tech scene. With Beasley’s guidance, the SFWIB recently launched mobile workforce assistance centers and created an employed worker training program.
Previously the head of USA TODAY Network-Florida’s opinion team, Eve Samples has helmed the Friends of the Everglades since 2020. During her tenure, the organization has led the charge against the sugar industry’s sugarcane burning practices, producing media campaigns and taking videos documenting the effects of the practice. She is regularly quoted in news coverage on the controversy as a critic of the industry and a proponent for a move towards renewable practices.
After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Florida Atlantic University and serving as its chief operating officer, Stacy Volnick took over as interim president this month. Volnick, who is pursuing a doctorate in higher education leadership, currently oversees FAU administrative areas ranging from public safety and facilities to emergency management and the president's office. She now heads an institution with $71 million in annual research, an estimated $6 billion in annual economic impact and 30,000 students in nearly 200 degree programs.
Love it or hate it, ultra-low-cost flying is synonymous with Spirit Airlines – and under the Hollywood-based leadership of Ted Christie, that experience will vastly expand as Spirit pursues a merger with JetBlue as part of the New York company’s $3.8 billion acquisition. Christie, who joined Spirit a decade ago and assumed his post in 2019, led the airline to a record $4.6 billion in revenue last year. It’s a preview of the momentum that the merger could bring by challenging the dominance of America’s legacy airlines, providing it passes an antitrust review.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that state Sen. Jason Pizzo's lawsuit against the DeSantis administration over its migrant flights program was tossed out on technicalities. The case is moving forward. This post has also been updated with the correct titles for Brightline's Patrick Goddard, Wells Fargo's Hector Ponte and the Miami Marlins' Caroline O'Connor.
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