Vowing to fight for society’s neediest, Jean Monestime was installed as chairman of the Miami-Dade commission on Friday, in an emotional ceremony in which he laid out an agenda built around lifting people out of poverty.
“Isn’t America great?” the commission’s first Haitian-American chairmantold a standing-room-only crowd at the commission chambers when he took the microphone after being sworn in.
Monestime recounted how he arrived as a teenager to South Florida on what he later called a “rickety” boat from the Bahamas with about 40 other people. His voice broke.
“To the families and individuals of this community who are struggling to make ends meet, I understand the challenges you face,” he said. “I have mopped floors, mowed lawns, washed dishes and drove a taxi to put food on my table. My family’s table as well.”
Along the way, Monestime, 51, who is married to Kettia and has two sons, earned a master’s in business administration and became a licensed real-estate broker. “My family now enjoys a modest prosperity,” he said.
But he added that many in Miami-Dade, the largest county in the southeastern U.S. do not. It went without saying that he was speaking in particular about the district he has represented since 2010, one of the county’s poorest, which includes Little Haiti and North Miami.