New Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera was sworn into office Tuesday in a County Hall ceremony packed with a who's who of local politicians.
Amid the schmoozing mayors, commissioners, lawmakers, lobbyists and political operatives were Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Sen. Marco Rubio, whom Lopez-Cantera -- a former GOP majority leader in the Florida House of Representatives -- thanked for his support and advice. Lopez-Cantera was introduced by state Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, and by auto magnate Norman Braman.
Braman, an early financial backer of Lopez-Cantera's property appraiser campaign, lauded Lopez-Cantera for working behind-the-scenes last year to ensure the city of Miami wouldn't have to pay property taxes on its four parking garages at the Miami Marlins' new ballpark.
Pledging to focus on customer service, Lopez-Cantera unveiled a new sign for his office that reads, "Welcome. How can we help YOU?" He said he intends to hold monthly meetings to hear from residents and touted a new online form that allows people to submit suggestions directly to him.
"I'm bringing fresh new ideas and a new energy," he said.
Lopez-Cantera defeated Pedro J. Garcia, the county's first elected property appraiser who served only one term. The relationship between the two men has been frosty; Garcia declined Lopez-Cantera's request to "transition" him into the new job, and Lopez-Cantera first toured his new office three days before being sworn in.
Garcia sent property owners a letter with their tax bills last month outlining his administration's achievements, ranging from "more accurate" property assessments to a reduction in the number of appealed assessments.
"The four years I have served as your property appraiser have been both challenging and rewarding," he wrote. "I thank you for allowing me to serve you."