Sounding as much a 2017 mayoral candidate as a reelected city commissioner, Francis Suarez laid out his vision Tuesday for a "New Miami" after being sworn in for his second and final four-year term representing the neighborhoods of Flagami, Coral Way and Shenandoah.
Suarez, first elected as Miami's District 4 commissioner in 2009, was re-elected without opposition in 2011 and again this fall. His wife, Gloria, administered the oath of office Tuesday during a noon ceremony at City Hall, and then Suarez spoke about what he sees as a changing city.
"I'm entering my last term as commissioner with a tremendous amount of energy, enthusiasm and some well-earned grey hairs," he said to an audience that included Congressman Carlos Curbelo, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Suarez's father, County Commissioner Xavier Suarez. "One of the unique provisions of this office is being able to see into the future. What I see is a new Miami."
Reading a prepared speech from a teleprompter, Suarez spoke about stemming Miami's brain-drain, addressing a widening income gap, creating more affordable housing and reducing crime. He said he wants to do more to spur the tech industry, and continue to push for greater mass transit options. He name-dropped Senator Marco Rubio -- while drinking from a glass of water -- and filmmaker Billy Corben, whom Suarez credits for his recent use of the city nickname Ourami.
Many expect Suarez, 38, will campaign soon for the office of mayor, with Tomás Regalado forced to leave office in 2017 due to term limits. Suarez made no mention of those expectations, but said he will continue to push to make that office a "strong," executive mayor, "so that the mayor's position is accountable to the people of the city of Miami."
Suarez believes that Miami voters are looking to a new vision embodied by younger, new-minded candidates, and plans to meet expectations.
"I will continue to be creative and forward-thinking on policies and projects," he said. "In order to create this new Miami, we must be united and we must be bold."