(Photo caption: Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, left, communications director Michael Hernández, center, and Gimenez chief of staff Alex Ferro, right, during a 2016 meeting with the Miami Herald Editorial Board.)
Michael Hernández, communications director to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and one of the most recognizable faces in county government, is leaving for a public affairs firm.
The 35-year-old former political consultant and Democratic Party activist joined the Republican mayor's administration in 2014 at a time when Gimenez was considering an exit from the GOP. But Gimenez stayed, and so did Hernández -- representing Gimenez through his 2016 reelection bid, the county's Zika crisis and Gimenez's decision in early 2017 to unilaterally end Miami-Dade's status as a "sanctuary" community and change the county's policy on immigration detainers to match the wishes of newly elected President Donald Trump.
Hernández called the public outcry from the left over Gimenez's move, praised by Trump himself and later endorsed by the county commission, "probably the most challenging period for me in this role."
Hernandez, a married father of two who earned $174,000 last year under the title of communications director and senior adviser to the mayor, is leaving for a post at the South Florida office of the Mercury public affairs firm. Ashley Walker, Barack Obama's 2012 Florida campaign director, heads up the firm's Fort Lauderdale office and former Democratic congressman Joe Garcia was hired last year to represent the firm in Miami.
"I had committed to a two-year stay. I'm on year four. The time is right," Hernández said Monday.
His planned departure at the end of February creates a void for the mayor as he heads into his final two years in office before a term limit rules require a 2020 exit. There was no word Monday from Gimenez's camp on a potential replacement.